SINGAPORE: A Singaporean blogger, Pat Low, who runs the blog “Chempost: Going down the rabbit hole”, penned a blog in June addressing Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s decision to resign from the People’s Action Party and Cabinet to contend for the presidency.
In his post, while acknowledging Tharman as a “very decent man” and having no personal qualms about him being Singapore’s head of state, Low finds the idea of Tharman as president “troubling,” due to the presidency’s critical role as guardian of national reserves.
Low notes Tharman’s extensive ties to the government and the People’s Action Party throughout his career, highlighting that his presidency could make him “the Mother of “ownself check ownself”.”
Mr Low noted that As Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, Tharman once made the anti-government statement that the policy of continual dependence on foreign labour is unsustainable.
But Mr Low further raises concerns about Tharman’s transition from government to presidency, pondering whether his role as a “PAP stalwart” might introduce a moral hazard to the presidency and likening it to switching from a million-dollar Ministerial post to a two-million-dollar seat.
Low’s article also highlighted the stark contrast between Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s breach of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) many years ago, and how Singapore’s mainstream media portrayed Lee Hsien Yang, the younger son of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, might not qualify to run for the presidency.
The article questions the ethics of quoting unnamed sources in journalism, particularly in the case of CNA reporting on Lee Hsien Yang’s potential disqualification from the presidency based on court findings of lying under oath.
The author argues that the Singapore Constitution’s Section 19 does not disqualify Lee Hsien Yang from running for president unless the Presidential Selection Committee determines that he lacks integrity, good character, and reputation.
Mr. Low criticizes certain pro-PAP voices, including “Critical Spectator,” for their knee-jerk reaction to Tharman’s presidential bid, arguing that their mockery of the opposition’s inability to field a candidate reflects a misunderstanding of the non-political nature of the presidential election.
“It borders on a juvenile inability to understand the presidential election is non-political. And it is the PAP’s stealth legislation that has turned it into a political event. It is fast becoming a six-yearly farce of PAP musical chair to push a cadre to the elevated ceremonial role.”
Mr Low finds it concerning that Tharman Shanmugaratnam, initially favoured by the public to lead the ruling party but bypassed by the Party, is now deemed suitable for the presidency, suggesting a discrepancy in treatment and raising speculation about racial bias within the party.
Presidency “evolved into the Mother of ‘ownself check ownself’”
He said the strict criteria for presidential candidates in Singapore, while appearing to safeguard against rogue governments, actually limits citizens’ choices and perpetuates dominance by the ruling party, resulting in a presidency that has “evolved into the Mother of ‘ownself check ownself’.”
He criticised that the concept of “ownself check ownself” has become normalized as a governmental management approach, “It is an intoxication of power to the extent of an inability to discern impartiality is the mainstay of the search for truth.”
Mr Low points out that the PAP internalizes the concept of “ownself check ownself,” but the core issue causing public dissatisfaction is the PAP’s implementation of this approach for investigations into wrongdoing or failures.
This raises questions about the ruling party’s belief in independent reviews, which are more credible when separated from the Executive, and the normalization of “ownself check ownself” is disingenuous and borders on fraudulent practice.
Lee Hsien Yang’s resharing Mr Low’s post as PE2023 approaches Polling Day
Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) further contributed to the discourse by sharing Patrick Low’s post as the Presidential Election draws closer to polling day.
Although recognizing that this post was composed three months ago, he deemed it relevant as the Presidential campaign gains momentum, thus finding it worthwhile to share.
In this regard, Mr Low’s article emphasized that “Tharman has been a government and PAP man his entire adult working life. As President, it would make him the Mother of “ownself check ownself”.”