SINGAPORE: “A vote for Kin Lian signifies a bold call for change. It is a vote for moral courage, grassroots advocacy, transparency, and fairness at the heart of Singapore’s governance,” affirmed Tan Suee Chieh, former Group CEO of NTUC Enterprise.
As Singapore gears up for the upcoming presidential election, voters find themselves at a crossroads, evaluating the candidates through various lenses of significance.
Tan Suee Chieh, currently the Immediate Past President of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), has contributed his insights to the discourse surrounding the 2023 Presidential Election.
He offered his perspective on the trio of Presidential contenders: the former GIC investment chief, Mr Ng Kok Song (75); former People’s Action Party senior minister, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam (66); and the former NTUC Income chief, Mr Tan Kin Lian (75).
In a statement issued on Saturday (26 Aug), Mr Tan reflected on his acquaintance with Tan Kin Lian, harking back to their encounters in the 1990s when Kin Lian held the position of NTUC Income Chief and was a fellow competitor during Mr Tan’s tenure as CEO of Prudential.
Hailing from the same professional sphere, he lauded Mr Tan Kin Lian’s unwavering independence of thought, dedication to workers and customers, and the value he infused into NTUC Income’s offerings.
“Kin Lian is an independent person by nature and in spirit. He speaks what is on his mind all the time. ”
“He speaks candidly, sometimes clumsily, but his sincerity, integrity and heartfelt concern for ordinary Singaporeans are beyond doubt. His moral compass has always been consistently for the interests of Singapore’s ordinary men and women since he became NTUC Income’s CEO in 1977.”
Later, Mr Tan joined NTUC Income’s Board in 2003. Mr Tan recounted occasions when Tan Kin Lian openly disagree with the NTUC Income Board and the NTUC Establishment on tactical and strategic matters.
“He was sometimes wrong, other times right, but I respected his refusal to be a yes-man, his lack of fear in voicing his convictions, and his readiness to stand as a lone dissenter.”
“Kin Lian’s willingness to challenge the establishment and orthodoxy, despite being unpopular, consistently impressed me. For me, this is moral courage. ”
Mr Tan further underscored the importance of fostering an environment that encourages the expression of opinions without constraints, especially in a society that can at times suppress dissent.
“Speaking up is crucial for our growth as an affluent, democratic, and progressive nation.”
“Although Kin Lian’s demeanour and image might not exude an air of international sophistication, it is important to remember that these are secondary issues, if your concerns are transparency, accountability, and fairness in Singapore.”
He restated that lending support to Tan Kin Lian reflects a call for change within the establishment’s thinking, symbolizing the acknowledgement that Singaporeans’ apprehensions warrant consideration, and hopes for a more inclusive approach to decision-making.
It’s worth noting that Tan Suee Chieh succeeded Mr Tan Kin Lian and led NTUC Income from 2007 to 2013. He assumed the role of Group CEO of NTUC Enterprise from 2013 to 2017. Prior to joining NTUC Income, Mr Tan also served as the CEO of Prudential Singapore from 1994 to 1999.
“Vote for Tharman is an endorsement of the establishment’s wishes”
When considering the option to cast a vote in favour of Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Mr Tan elucidated the dynamics at play.
He underlined that the prospect of Deputy Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, from the People’s Action Party (PAP), assuming the role of Prime Minister coupled with Tharman’s presidency could yield a potent and efficacious partnership.
Nevertheless, Mr Tan cautioned that “a vote for Tharman is an endorsement of the establishment’s wishes.”
Having known Tharman for four decades, tracing back to their shared time at the London School of Economics (LSE) from 1979 to 1982, Mr Tan articulated that “few people can match Tharman’s combination of emotional intelligence, track record in public service, intellectual range, ability to navigate complexity, and global standing.”
“His conceptual clarity and intellectual coherence shone through consistently in his actions and speeches over the last four decades. He has a certain charismatic magic that draws people, young and old, of all races and different ethnic groups to him.”
He attested that Tharman’s global standing is second only to our Prime Minister and will continue to grow if he becomes President.
He harboured the belief that the presidency could potentially provide Tharman the latitude to re-invent the Presidency, and his stature, capability, and strategic understanding will make a difference on the world stage.
“His presence will enhance the security, credibility and sustainability of Singapore and the Asian region amidst rising geopolitical tensions and other challenges. He will also be a unifying President and will make Singaporeans proud. ”
“Vote for Ng Kok Song is a vote for the establishment”
In considering a vote for Mr Ng Kok Song, Mr Tan’s perspective sheds light on the alignment with established norms and values.
Mr Tan opined that Ng’s extensive tenure as a loyal and trusted technocrat within the civil service epitomizes his commitment and service to the nation over the span of his career.
“He will not re-invent the Presidency, neither will he rock the boat. He will be a safe pair of hands. ”
A vote for Kok Song is a vote for continuity and sound governance along the previous trajectory of our past presidents, Mr Tan said.
“He may not be a ruling party member, but he is very much part of the establishment. A vote for him is a vote for the establishment.”
“Like many Singaporeans, I am puzzled why he chose to be in this arena at this age and at this time. ”
“Voting for Tan Kin Lian may express protest against the establishment more clearly”
Mr Tan also acknowledged the prevailing sentiment that encourages voters to spoil their ballots as a symbolic protest against the establishment.
However, he put forth the perspective that “voting for Tan Kin Lian may express this more clearly.”
Mr Tan elaborated on the underlying rationale, emphasizing that these disenchanted voters harbour grievances stemming from alterations in regulations, including their interpretations, which hindered worthy contenders like Messrs. Tan Cheng Bock and George Goh from attaining the Presidential Eligibility Certificate.
Additionally, he pointed to growing concerns surrounding escalating expenses, recent controversies within the ruling party, and the authoritative approach taken toward opposition Members of Parliament.
“If you are thinking along this path, voting for Tan Kin Lian may be more effective than spoiling your vote.”