SINGAPORE: Presidential candidate Ng Kok Song expressed that if the President’s relationship with the Prime Minister becomes “too close,” it could pose significant challenges in carrying out presidential duties objectively.
The 75-year-old, formerly the Chief Investment Officer at GIC, highlighted the potential risks, stating, “There is a danger in that because the President’s responsibility is to safeguard the reserves, safeguard the integrity of appointments to certain public service positions. ”
“And the President must act in the best interests of the people of Singapore. So I think it will be very difficult for the President to discharge his responsibilities in an objective way, if he has too close a relationship with the Prime Minister.”
Ng made these observations in response to a media inquiry on the morning of Thursday (24 Aug). His remarks were prompted by comments made the previous day by fellow candidate Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Tharman, a former senior minister of the People’s Action Party (PAP), on Wednesday suggested that a President-Prime Minister relationship built on mutual respect would enhance the President’s ability to offer independent advice that holds weight.
Tharman’s comment was a reaction to another candidate, Tan Kin Lian’s strategy of utilizing the President’s “soft power” to influence policymaking through confidential discussions with government officials.
Tharman stated, “Well, it depends entirely on the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister.”
“These are conversations in private. If they have respect for each other. Then of course, the President will have a greater ability to be able to provide independent advice and will know that it’s taken seriously, but it depends entirely on whether there’s a respect between the Prime Minister and the President, ” said Mr Tharman.
Mr Ng said deciding the investment policy for Singapore’s reserves is “not the responsibility of the President”
In addition, Mr Ng addressed Mr Tan’s proposition to empower the President with the authority to determine the investment policy for Singapore’s reserves.
Mr Tan acknowledged that this falls outside the scope of the President’s role. This point was emphasized by Mr Ng during his statements on Thursday.
“That is not the responsibility of the President,” Mr Ng said.
“The President’s responsibility in regard to safeguarding the reserves is to act as a check on the spending of past reserves. ”
“How that money is invested is not the area of responsibility of the President,” Mr Ng believed.
Mr Ng says he funded his campaign utilizing his personal savings
Furthermore, Mr Ng shared his decision to fund his campaign utilizing his personal savings, refraining from accepting any financial donations or contributions.
“Because I do not want to be beholden to anyone in standing for the presidency,” he added.
Mr Ng acknowledged that he had received offers of financial support from various individuals who wanted to assist in financing his campaign.
In response, he respectfully turned down these offers and suggested an alternative.
“I have respectfully declined their offers and suggested that if you wish to do so, you could make a donation to some charitable causes.”
Earlier, Mr Ng announced that he would eschew the use of posters and banners in his campaign, citing environmental concerns.
However, he has spent at least S$60k advertising his posts on Instagram and Facebook since creating his accounts on 17 July, just days before announcing his bid for the presidency on 19 July.
On Thursday, Mr Ng and his team were actively distributing pamphlets to members of the public at Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre, engaging with the community to share their campaign messages.