Last Friday (18 Aug), the Elections Department (ELD) announced that former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song, and former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian have qualified as candidates for Singapore’s Presidential Election.
George Goh, however, was disqualified. The next step for Mr Tharman, Mr Ng and Mr Tan is to be nominated as candidates.
The candidates must deliver their nomination papers on Nomination Day on Tuesday (Aug 22). If more than one candidate is nominated, Singaporeans will go to the polls on 1 September which will be declared a public holiday.
PM Lee endorses Tharman
Even long before Mr Tharman submitted his application to obtain his certificate of eligibility to contest in the Presidential Election, PM Lee had already endorsed Mr Tharman’s candidacy.
Two months ago, on 8 June, PM Lee wrote in his letter to Mr Tharman, “Your international stature and your experience in government and politics will also stand you in good stead as you represent the nation domestically and internationally.”
PM Lee said that Mr Tharman’s experience in his various finance roles has equipped him with “deep knowledge of the system and how the reserves are safeguarded”.
“Should you be elected as our next President, I fully appreciate that you will now be in a different role with different responsibilities,” said PM Lee.
Reminiscing about his time working with Mr Tharman in the Cabinet, PM Lee noted, “You worked hard to build a more inclusive society, and to improve wages and create better jobs for Singaporeans.”
“You made significant contributions to strengthen our social mobility escalator, as well as what you called our social safety ‘trampoline’.”
Internationally, Mr Tharman “flew the Singapore flag high and gained respect as a thought leader, especially in the social and economic domains”, added PM Lee.
PM Lee said he is confident that Mr Tharman will carry out the duties of Elected President “scrupulously and with the independence of mind” if Mr Tharman is elected.
Ho Ching puts in good words for Ng Kok Song
Meanwhile, last Sunday (13 Aug), PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching, also joined in to put in good words for former GIC CIO Ng Kok Song. She took to Facebook to offer words of praise and gratitude to Mr Ng.
With a career in public service spanning 45 years, Mr Ng has held influential positions at both GIC and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), working closely with Tharman when he was the Finance Minister.
Recalling an interaction from two decades ago, Mdm Ho highlighted Mr Ng’s vision for Singapore’s potential as a leading wealth management hub in Asia. “He thought then that Singapore could be a wealth management hub for Asia and that our people can earn a good living as wealth managers with the right training,” she wrote.
Temasek took the initiative and started the Wealth Management Institute (WMI). “I set only one condition: that Kok Song agreed to chair WMI. He agreed and did so with distinction,” Mdm Ho recalled.
“Today, WMI plays host to some 20,000 students including online classes, and short certificate courses. All because of one man’s dream of a better future for Singapore and Singaporeans. A big vote of thanks to Kok Song.”
Even though Mdm Ho did not outright endorse Mr Ng’s candidacy, she did put in very favourable words for Mr Ng after his announcement to enter the presidential race.
Mr Ng has repeatedly underlined the need for a president who stands independent of political affiliations.
However, given his close ties with PAP politicians during his 27-year tenure in GIC and the substantial assets contributed by Temasek and GIC to help launch Avanda Investment Management, Ng’s claims of political independence have been met with scepticism by online netizens.
Mr Ng is currently the Executive Chairman at Avanda, and his fund management company received a whopping US$3 billion from Temasek in 2016 when Mdm Ho was running the show.
So, in essence, Mr Tharman has worked closely with PM Lee for decades and likewise, Mr Ng with PM Lee’s wife. In any case, the couple, PM Lee and wife, have yet to say anything good for Mr Tan Kin Lian.