Tharman Shanmugaratnam urges respectful presidential contest amidst a stalwart field of hopefuls

SINGAPORE: Presidential aspirant Tharman Shanmugaratnam has emphasized the importance of a respectful and honourable race for the presidency.

Speaking on Friday, the former People’s Action Party (PAP) veteran said, “Try not to cast simple aspersions on any candidate, and have a fair contest in keeping with the dignity of the presidency.”

Mr. Tharman, 66, underscored the unique contributions each candidate brings, stating, “Each of the candidates… bring their own track records, convictions and perspectives… we should each be judged on what we bring to Singapore.”

He made these remarks on the sidelines of the centenary celebrations honouring Brother Joseph McNally, the founder of Lasalle College of the Arts.

During the celebration at Lasalle’s McNally Street campus, Tharman paid tribute to Brother McNally, labelling him “an educator in the broadest sense” and highlighting the latter’s significant contributions to art and education in Singapore.

The week has been significant for Tharman. Having submitted his application for a certificate of eligibility on Monday, he stands as the first candidate to declare intentions for the upcoming presidential election on 1 September, before Madam Halimah Yacob’s six-year tenure concludes.

Previously in June, Tharman announced his resignation from the PAP to run for president, stepping down from his prominent roles as Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies the following month.

With Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issuing the writ of election on Friday, the presidential race is set to be a hot contest.

The field includes other notable figures such as businessman George Goh, former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song, and ex-NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lian.

During a press conference for Tan Kin Lian’s bid on Friday (11 Aug), his election agent, Mr Prabu Ramachandran, described Tharman’s supporters as representing “elites, the establishment, and big institutions.”

Responding to the claim, Tharman said his supporting team is diverse, including environmentalists and those dedicated to humanitarian causes.

A sports enthusiast in his younger days, Tharman is an advocate of a competitive contest, believing it grants the winner a more substantial mandate. “Singaporeans are fair-minded,” he reflected, indicating confidence in the electorate’s judgment.

Other than being the first candidate to declare intentions to contest, Tharman is the only candidate to qualify as a candidate outright as a public sector candidate while the other three presidential aspirants are still waiting for the Certificate of Eligibility to be issued by the Presidential Election Committee (PEC) to confirm their participation in the upcoming presidential election.

Goh’s media team commented earlier that they hope PEC’s decision to inform applicants of their approval or rejection will be made well before 22 August, Nomination Day. This would help eligible candidates prepare adequately for the campaign.

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