Controversy surrounds Presidential Candidate Tan Kin Lian following viral TikTok video on “pretty” girls

SINGAPORE: A TikTok video showcasing former NTUC Income CEO, Mr Tan Kin Lian’s three Facebook posts about “pretty” girls has amassed over 270,000 views, thrusting him into the spotlight just as he gears up for the Presidential Election.

The video, uploaded by TikTok user on Sunday, has sparked diverse reactions from netizens.

One TikTok user questioned the Elections Department’s decision to approve Mr Tan’s eligibility, pointing out that he frequently posts such content.

someone call d POLICE PLEASE #tiktoksg🇸🇬 #fypsg♥️ #sgpolitics #politicians #tankinlian #sgpresidentialelection2023

♬ Dirty Thoughts – Chloe Adams

Despite the controversy, Mr Tan downplayed the significance of his posts in response to queries from Channel News Asia, describing them as “light” and “enjoyable”.

During a recent walkabout at Clementi West’s hawker centre, Mr Tan remarked, “Most of the people say it is quite light, it’s quite enjoyable. That’s how I build my people to be interested.”

He went on to note that only a “small minority” of people are uncomfortable with his posts, adding that he occasionally receives negative comments even for his simple posts about food.

In a Facebook Live on Monday, Mr Tan in response to a comment which questioned the controversy over his Facebook posts, remarked how he doesn’t understand why people are so sensitive. and if they are sensitive, they should just step aside and let the majority opinion prevail.

“If you do something that is lighthearted and most people don’t mind, and a few people objected because they are sensitive, I never cater to these people who want to impose their values on other people.” said Mr Tan.

Nevertheless, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has voiced strong objections to Mr Tan’s participation in the upcoming election.

In a statement on Monday, it highlights his “history of objectifying women” and emphasizes the importance of a more holistic assessment process for potential candidates.

In a forceful statement, AWARE noted, “Consistently posting about ‘pretty girls’, recording videos of women in public without their consent, or commenting about their appearance isn’t merely a matter of personal preference or light ‘amusement’. It’s an act of objectifying women.”

However, Jolene Tan, who represented AWARE in 2016 during the Constitutional Commission public hearing, raised concerns over AWARE’s standpoint in a comment under the initial post.

She cautioned against granting the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) excessive control and discretion in candidate approvals. Tan argued that values should be the domain of the electorate rather than an unaccountable committee.

AWARE’s 2016 stance opposed measures ensuring the election of a minority president, advocating for more inclusive eligibility criteria.

Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE, who was also present at the hearing, proposed adjusting the criteria to consider leaders of organisations with a net asset value of S$50 million to widen the candidate pool.

PEC: Tan Kin Lian, “a man of integrity, good character, and reputation”

Mr Tan, alongside former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song, received a certificate of eligibility (COE) on Friday for the Presidential Election.

Mr Tan is scheduled to submit his nomination papers on Tuesday.

In their recent press release, the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) expressed satisfaction with Mr Tan’s character, stating he is “a man of integrity, good character, and reputation”.

In a letter addressed to Mr Tan, PEC secretary Cindy Khoo communicated the committee’s sentiments. They expressed satisfaction after evaluating various facets of Mr. Tan’s professional journey. This included the nature of his tenure at NTUC Income and the company’s overall size and complexity.

Furthermore, they weighed his performance during his time in office. Based on their assessment, they found that Mr Tan’s track record was commendable.

The PEC concluded that his experience and capabilities are equivalent to those of someone who has served as the chief executive of a company with at least S$500 million in shareholder’s equity.

Additionally, such a person should meet the stipulations laid out in Article 19(4)(a) of the Constitution.

It added, “The Committee is also satisfied that you have the experience and ability to effectively carry out the functions and duties of the office of President.”

Mr George Goh, founder of Harvey Norman Ossia, who also announced his intention to contest, however, did not receive his COE.

He applied under section 19(4)(b)(2) of the Constitution, citing his leadership of five companies with a cumulative shareholders’ equity of an impressive S$1.521 billion.

However, the PEC believes that managing multiple smaller enterprises doesn’t equate to the experience garnered from directing a single prominent private-sector company.

Therefore, they concluded that Mr Goh’s five companies did not meet this criterion.

In a statement late Monday, PEC said that the issuance of the COE does not amount to an endorsement of his social media posts.

It noted that it does not go through every applicant’s past social media posts before issuing or declining a certificate of eligibility.

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