Okay, we know that many Singaporeans (online, at least) are sore at the way recent “selected presidency” that was PE2017.
Their main gripe is with the process, namely the government’s amendment of the Constitution, barring of independent candidates, and starting the count for our first elected president from an earlier appointed president.
The Prime Minister’s Office yesterday released an edited transcript of candid remarks PM Lee Hsien Loong made to about 500 grassroots leaders at a People’s Association Kopi Talk dialogue on Saturday (23 Sept) defending the need for a reserved presidency.
This was published by state media and, hilariously, candid remarks from netizens came streaming in calling for the PM Lee to step aside come the next General Election for a minority-race prime minister.
President Halimah won PE2017 earlier this month by means of a walkover.
PM Lee said in his remarks that implementing the reserved election system (which reserves a presidential election for candidates of one racial group if no one from that racial group has been president for 5 consecutive terms) was necessary.
He cited the 2011 Presidential Election, saying all 4 candidates were Chinese, and that it’s a “reality” that non-Chinese candidates didn’t join the fray because they knew they had “no chance”:
“Where were the Farid Khans and the Salleh Maricans? Why didn’t they come?… Because they knew that in an open election – all things being equal – a non-Chinese candidate would have no chance.”
PM Lee also said that Singapore’s multiculturalism is the result of “very hard work”, citing policies such as the Group Representation Constituencies and the Government’s strong stance against extremists.
He said that having multi-racial presidents in Singapore is an important symbol of what Singapore stands for.
“There is nothing natural about where we are – multiracial, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive. We made it happen, and we have got to protect it, nurture it, preserve it, and never break it.”
PM Lee also described the reserved election as a “guardrail” to move Singapore to an “ideal state” where people of all races are “naturally and regularly” elected as President.
He said the move wasn’t a regression towards “racial politics” but a necessary change to strengthen Singapore’s multiracial system.