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Tharman’s past PAP Stance on non-Chinese PM Draws netizens’ scrutiny over his new positive outlook

Netizens question Tharman’s shift in stance on a non-Chinese PM after his resignation from People’s Action Party to stand in the Presidential Election 2023.

While previously hinting Singapore wasn’t ready, he now suggests the nation is prepared amid his presidential campaign . This change in perspective, following his PAP departure and Presidential bid, has sparked online debate.



SINGAPORE: Last Friday (25 Aug), Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a former senior minister of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and a current contestant in Singapore’s Presidential Election, addressed the topic of Singapore’s readiness for a non-Chinese prime minister.

He affirmed: “Singapore is ready any time for a non-Chinese prime minister.”

Mr Tharman shared his thoughts during an election meeting held at Pasir Panjang Power Station, where approximately 650 registered guests from the public were present to hear his vision for the presidency, the Straits Times reported.

In response to a question from the audience about when Singapore would be prepared for a non-Chinese prime minister, Mr Tharman highlighted the significance of race in politics, drawing attention to former United States president Barack Obama’s discussions on the matter.

“They look at people in totality… Singapore’s ready any time. If someone comes up who’s a superior candidate for prime minister, the person can be made the prime minister. I believe they can,” he said.

He added that Singaporeans today, compared with 40 or 50 years ago, look at all factors, not just race.

The 66-year-old noted that this shift in perspective is indicative of Singapore’s societal advancement over the past few decades.

Speaking at SG50+ Conference on what lies ahead for Singapore, organised by the Institute of Policy Studies and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in 2015, Mr Tharman then said it is a matter of time before Singapore gets a non-Chinese prime minister.

“It seems to me inevitable that at some point, a minority prime minister – Indian, Malay, Eurasian, or some mixture – is going to be a feature of the political landscape.

“We’ve got a meritocracy, it is an open system,” he said yesterday, noting that people share experiences like national service and are educated largely in English, and that the common space is expanding.

But he does not see himself taking on the job, he said when replying to Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria, who had asked whether Singapore could see an Indian prime minister.

Netizens express bewilderment over Mr Tharman’s change in position

The alteration in Mr Tharman’s stance, subsequent to his departure from the PAP and entry into the Presidential race, has elicited a diverse range of responses from netizens.

When commenting on mainstream media platforms such as The Straits Times, Mothership, and CNA’s Facebook posts, numerous netizens have highlighted that the readiness of ordinary Singaporeans has been apparent for quite some time, despite assertions to the contrary by leaders of the ruling party.

Some have raised the question of why Mr Tharman did not engage in these arguments with his former colleagues while he was still a member of the PAP.

A netizen underscored that, in reality, Singaporeans were prepared for Mr Tharman to assume the role of Prime Minister years ago.

Echoing the same sentiment, another netizen asserted that Singaporeans have consistently supported the “most capable person”, “regardless of race or gender, who has the best interest of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart”.

A comment expressed his confusion by pointing out that when Singaporeans previously urged Mr Tharman to assume the role of PM, he declined and pursued the Presidency instead.

The comment then highlighted Mr Tharman’s recent statement about people being prepared for a non-Chinese Prime Minister, which led them to question the consistency of Mr Tharman’s position.

Netizens want Tharman to “return to cabinet”

Expressing their strong belief in Mr. Tharman’s leadership prowess, certain netizens have called for his reentry into the cabinet.

These individuals view his capabilities as highly valuable in formulating policies that directly address the needs of Singaporeans and enabling him to sustain his impactful contributions.

Netizens question why did Mr Tharman not address non-Chinese PM issue with PAP colleagues earlier?

Concurrently, several comments have raised questions about Mr Tharman’s approach regarding his PAP colleagues’ sentiments regarding Singapore’s readiness for a non-Chinese Prime Minister.

In parallel discussions, certain comments have recollected instances where Mr. Tharman’s previous colleagues, including Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, have expressed the viewpoint that a segment of Singaporeans might still be unprepared for a Prime Minister from a minority racial background.

Certain netizens have engaged in contemplation regarding whether the ruling party, PAP, might be hesitant about a non-Chinese PM.

This has prompted them to question why, during that period, Mr Tharman did not voice his perspective in opposition to his PAP colleagues.

Prominent Singaporean activist and independent journalist Kirsten Han has drawn attention to the alteration in the narrative.

She has raised the question of Mr Tharman’s stance when his PAP colleagues were asserting that Singapore wasn’t prepared for a non-Chinese Prime Minister.

“Where was he when they amended the Constitution the last time to create a reserved presidential election because supposedly Singaporeans don’t vote for minority candidates otherwise?”

“Suddenly we are all perfectly capable of voting for a minority candidate, we’re ready for a non-Chinese PM, and Tharman has always been independent-minded.”

Singaporeans prefer Tharman as the next PM

It’s noteworthy that a considerable number of Singaporeans hold the view that Mr Tharman’s outstanding qualifications and extensive experience not only qualify him, but even potentially position him as “overqualified” for the role of President.

They see him as a superior and preferred choice to become the next Prime Minister of Singapore, who can effectively guide the country through the current period of uncertainty and challenges it is facing.

A survey by market research consultancy Blackbox in 2016 showed that 69 per cent of respondents would support Mr Tharman as a candidate to be prime minister.

Regrettably, Mr Tharman has ruled out the possibility of assuming the role of PM at that time.

In a recent exclusive interview with CNA, Mr Tharman once again refuted the perspective that he is “overqualified” for the position of President.

“All the experience that I’ve built up in government, in politics on the ground and internationally is going to be absolutely useful,” he said.

“This is not just going to be a ceremonial responsibility, it’s going to be an active responsibility, domestically, supporting initiatives on the ground.”

The ruling party’s stance on non-Chinese PM

The leaders at PAP have always taken the position that Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese PM.

In 2008, Mr Lee Hsien Loong was asked at a grassroots event, in the light of Mr Barack Obama’s electoral win as US President, if Singapore was ready for a PM of a minority race, and specifically from the Malay-Muslim community.

Mr Lee said in reply: ‘It’s possible. It depends on how people vote, on who has the confidence of the population.’

“Will it happen soon? I don’t think so, because you have to win votes. And these sentiments – who votes for whom, and what makes him identify with that person – these are sentiments which will not disappear completely for a long time, even if people do not talk about it, even if people wish they did not feel it.”

Speaking at a ministerial forum organised by the Nanyang Technological University Students’ Union in 2019, Mr Heng Swee Keat in response to a question about the poll, said that while many among the 700 students who attended the forum were happy to have a prime minister who is not Chinese, this was not the case for all of Singapore.

“My own experience in walking the ground, in working with different people from all walks of life, is that the views — if you go by age and by life experience — would be very different,” Mr Heng said.

Nevertheless, Mr Heng said: “I do think that at the right time, when enough people think that we may have a minority leader, a minority who becomes the leader of the country, that is something that we can all hope for.”

Mr Heng at the age of 57, was appointed Deputy Secretary General of PAP in November 2018 and was touted to be the successor to Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

Soon after the pandemic general election in 2020 where PAP saw its votes plummet to 61.24% — down from 69.86% in the last election in 2015, Mr Heng threw in the towel as the would-be PM as he claims that he has too short a runway to take over from Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

As Mr Tharman, who was then 64, had been omitted from consideration by the PAP leaders and the press, the choice was limited to the fourth-generation ministers with top choices being Mr Lawrence Wong, Mr Ong Ye Kung and Mr Chan Chun Sing.

A point to take note of is Mr Tharman’s constituency scored 74.16 per cent during GE2020 — higher than any other PAP constituency. Mr Wong’s constituency scored 63.18 per cent.

Mr Wong was later revealed a year later, at a press conference as the leader of the fourth-generation team and successor to Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

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Oh per lease, it has nothing to do with race. It’s all to do with their cronies. Riddle me this: I was born an Indian and I was made a Malay, who am I?

Opposition MPs, please ensure CPIB disclose everything!As numbers are very important,they should double check all ministers salary, whether the account departments’ correctly did the salary,which bank giro to?If is DBS ,then verify with CEO Gupta.If not DBS,then show which bank and the amount.In this way Iswaran will be given a fair trial.All numbers got to be checked thoroughly ,no loop holes. I’m posting this same message in different threads,my intention is not to get Likes or downvotes,I feel it could be the 3rd killer blow after Ridout & ho Ching’s salary (may it be for security or avoid manipulation).Hope the… Read more »

This TS guy tongue can flip flop like a prata. After losing the PE, he could start his own brand of prata chain call TarMan Prata @ TarMan Jurong. Comes with a twist of Japanese fusion, maybe with Wasabi dip.

Since now he is of the opinion that Singapore is ready for a non Chinese PM, why he step down for PE which is a ceremonial post instead of going for the PM which is an executive post? Isn’t it very telling on his character and independence?


I think it is time for Singaporeans to move on from TS and the PAP. The PAP clearly have no leader. TS talks of meritocracy but he contradicts himself, as he, the very best in the PAP should have become PM. The Public wanted Tharman but the PAP said no because of his race. Tharman, himself accepted it and did not resign in protest. So the time is finished for Tharman in politics. A good man with a sad ending. He should withdraw from the EP as he is submissive to LHL. He cannot serve Public interest like TKL who… Read more »

When in power, silence and inaction. When out of power, makes promises about the Moon, the Sun and the stars.

A vote for Mr Tharman is a vote for him to re-enact his days as part of LHL’s “cabinet.” Silence and inaction.

Whaa, with such flip-flop tendency, by year-end he will say he has always DISLIKE pineapple, change to advocating for bananas instead.

Another flipping roti-prata man. Time to make him retire on 1 Sept. We can do it, yes.

I dont mind

Obama , Jacinda Arden

Their speech is good too

Every Singaporeans knows every Ministers in the cabinet need to align with the PM because of who he is. Everybody knows who squeezes him hence no Ministers will ever agree to the need to disclose her salary.

In the past, TS has demonstrated his wisdom and foresight locally and internationally, hence Singaporeans openly clamour for him to be the PM believing with him as PM, the cabinet will be forward thinking rather than group thinking.

Alas, TS chose to decline to be considered as PM. Now he wants Singaporeans to vote him for President. What a farce.

Who are you to made comment

A Nominee ?

Bollywod star ?

Dear Tharman Supporters !!! Appreciate if you can read my message below:

Please watch this youtube video. The lady in this video explains very clearly what independence means?

How come the 2 Permanent Head Damaged idiots Eugene and Gillian never comment this dramatic change of stand by coconut head?

Botak hav a fix voter, the wealthy & new, pretend to b angel, the other zero guy tryin to pull Ah.Lian voter over by makin so much assumption everytime he go on media. Zero guy sound desperate on attack mode to Ah.Lian tat he 4got his wise&meditation…….