SINGAPORE: Former NTUC Income chief Mr Tan Kin Lian, who has successfully been nominated as Singapore Presidential Candidate on Tuesday (22 Aug), had earlier entangled in a heated online debate related to his past social media posts.
The spark for this recent controversy was a TikTok video, which spotlighted Mr Tan’s Facebook posts commenting on “pretty” girls.
The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), responding to the widespread attention, made a statement on its Facebook page condemning Mr Tan’s consistent online behaviour.
Their statement pointed out the dangers of objectifying women through casual posts and comments.
Mr Tan on late Monday took to Facebook to defend his actions and reputation.
“I have been happily married to my loving wife for nearly 50 years… I made those social media posts openly and I invite the public to judge for themselves,” Mr Tan expressed in his detailed response.
On Tuesday, in a statement published on his campaign website, Mr Tan claimed that he has been a target of a smear campaign over the past few days.
Ho Ching: not PEC’s role for scouring internet for candidates’ online activity
Even Mdm Ho Ching, the former CEO of Temasek Holdings and wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has joined the social media discourse.
On Tuesday (22 Aug), Ho Ching took to social media with a comprehensive 2199-word Facebook post, addressing various aspects of the recent Presidential Election, including AWARE’s critique of Presidential Candidate Tan Kin Lian, the selection of a ‘minority candidate,’ and reflections on the late President Ong Teng Cheong, among other topics.
Addressing recent AWARE’s statement, Ho Ching reminded that the eligibility of candidates should be scrutinized by writing to the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) before their applications are reviewed.
She emphasized that the PEC’s role is distinct from internet searches for candidate posts, and whether the PEC treats certain factors as veto-worthy relies on circumstances and the PEC’s prerogative.
“It is not the PEC’s job to go search the internet for this or that posts that the candidates may have done. ”
Notably, she agreed that character references are essential for potential candidates, supporting their character and integrity, along with evidence to back their eligibility claims.
“For their eligibility submission, they don’t just submit docs for their claims on eligibility under various routes like public service or private sector experience or track record. ”
“They must also have character references, whose names would need to be submitted to the PEC. These character references would vouch for the character of the potential candidates. ”
She emphasized that when nominations are open and a potential flaw is identified, that’s the time to communicate with the PEC, rather than complaining after the review is complete.
She provided a hypothetical scenario where a candidate commits a serious crime after the review, suggesting that the PEC might reconsider.
“But otherwise, the job of the PEC is done, and the choice is then up to the voters. ”
Ho Ching clarified that the PEC’s endorsement doesn’t proclaim a person’s honesty or goodness. Its role is to evaluate clear evidence of misconduct within legal boundaries, not from moral or religious perspectives.
Mdm Ho Ching also underscores that in the case of a “womanizer candidate,” the decision on the candidate’s suitability ultimately rests with the voters through the act of voting.
Hence, she emphasizes the importance of motivating all eligible, credible candidates to seriously consider candidacy. Otherwise, Singaporeans might “end up having to choose from among the inadequate and the insufferable, or from among the immoral and shady, as has happened in other countries.”
The success of such commendable, politically unaffiliated candidates can inspire more high-quality individuals to step forward, sacrificing their privacy to serve the nation and offer genuine choices.
A victory for a minority candidate would also encourage other qualified minority candidates to come forward, irrespective of the majority’s candidates, Ho Ching added.
Choosing a ‘minority candidate’ signals Singapore’s advancement toward a truly inclusive society, says Ho Ching
Regarding the concept of electing the Singaporean President, Ho Ching underscores that the Presidential Election isn’t a battle for the next government of Singapore, but rather about selecting individuals who can best embody the aspirations and dreams of Singaporeans, and a President who can effectively safeguard our reserves and uphold the integrity of our public service.
Ho Ching’s insight extends to the selection of a ‘minority candidate,’ noting that such a choice signals Singapore’s progress towards becoming a truly multiracial society, transcending the confines of racial divisions.
While Ho Ching did not explicitly name the ‘minority candidate,’ readers might naturally associate this with the nomination of 66-year-old former People’s Action Party senior minister, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was put forward as one of the three Presidential candidates on Tuesday (22 Aug).
Ho Ching further elaborates that choosing a candidate with no prior political affiliations indicates a broader perspective on the presidential role beyond mere political allegiances.
Without mentioning any names, Ho Ching then said If Singaporeans voted for “a candidate who enjoys ogling at girls, we also say something about ourselves to ourselves and to the world too.”
Ho Ching acknowledges that AWARE can voice their opinions in the same channels where they encountered offensive posts, advising against complaints about the PEC’s moral standards.
Ho Ching says Ong Teng Cheong’s suggestion insufficient for Singapore’s needs amid inflation and GDP growth
Ho Ching’s extensive post further emphasizes the emergence of open campaigning for or against specific candidates. She urges maintaining a respectful and considerate approach during this Presidential Election, drawing an analogy to a “beauty contest” where each contestant holds equal merit.
Speaking about the late President Ong Teng Cheong, who is fondly remembered as the ‘People’s President’, Ho Ching appreciates his query regarding spending returns or saving for the future.
However, she asserts that saving only half isn’t sufficient to address Singapore’s needs due to inflation and GDP growth.
“As it turned out, it wasn’t an excessively prudent move to use up to half and save the other half. ”
“This barely enables our reserves to keep pace with inflation and the growth of our GDP. “
Ho Ching’s post also underscores the distinct and evolving nature of the elected President (EP) role in Singapore, and advocates for profound contemplation on systems that ensure sustainable and equitable politics.
She perceives the EP institution as a collective venture to uplift Singapore’s future and acknowledges the challenges tied to the EP role, cautioning against potential pitfalls such as inflated egos arising from ceremonial aspects.
Wrapping up her lengthy post, Ho Ching reiterates that the Presidential Election transcends mere selection of the next government; rather, it’s an opportunity for citizens to shape the institution.