Lee Hsien Yang: Time to vote for independence and for accountability, no more ‘ownself check ownself’

SINGAPORE: As the 2023 Singapore Presidential Election approaches, with Singaporeans poised to cast their votes on Friday (1 September),  Lee Hsien Yang, the younger son of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, has issued a call to his fellow citizens.

He urges them to vote in favour of both independence and accountability, as Singapore need a truly independent president, “not more ‘ownself check ownself’”

In a recent Facebook post on Tuesday (29 Aug), Mr Lee highlighted the pivotal nature of this presidential election, emphasizing its departure from being truly free and equitable.

He pointed out that the presence of arbitrary regulations and procedural obstacles has effectively curtailed genuine choices for Singaporean voters.

“The legislation and the exercise of discretionary powers by the “PEC” (Presidential Elections Committee) make it hard for independent or popular candidates to come through, ” Mr Lee added.

Yet, despite these hindrances, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issued a resolute reminder that spoiling one’s vote is not a viable course of action.

He provided context by elucidating that the founding principles of the elected presidency encompass independence and accountability.

He added that the president plays a role as the people’s guarantor against hidden corruption and the appointment of connected persons to cover up abuse of power.

“We need a truly independent president, not more ‘ownself check ownself’, ” Mr Lee asserted. Mr Lee reinforced this stance by highlighting the unique and critical role conferred upon the presidency by the Singapore Constitution.

He contrasted this with the prospect of having another government or PAP-affiliated individual, which he argued would essentially amount to ‘ownself check ownself’.

“Recent scandals have heightened awareness of the need for independence. Please make your vote count.”

Controversy surrounds PEC’s authority

Mr Lee’s remarks pertained to the scrutinized authority of the PEC, prompting doubts among civil society groups about entrusting an ‘unelected’ committee with the prerogative to vet potential Presidential candidates.

The PEC is a six-member council established by the government to vet presidential candidates against the qualifications in Article 19 of the Constitution.

On 18 August, The Elections Department (ELD) revealed the list of qualified candidates for the upcoming Presidential Election, Former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, ex-GIC Chief Investment Officer Ng Kok Song, and former presidential aspirant Tan Kin Lian have successfully secured their positions on the list.

Regrettably, businessman George Goh, aspiring to join the race, failed to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) due to not meeting the stipulated requirements during the application process.

Based on the private sector’s criteria, which mandates a minimum of three years’ CEO experience in a company with consistent shareholders’ equity of at least S$500 million.

Goh cited leadership in five companies with a combined equity of S$1.521 billion, prompting debate due to constitutional phrasing referring to “a private sector organization.”

Unlike past assessments, the PEC’s current role is confined by constitutional definitions, marking a departure from previous authority.

Singaporeans to cast their vote on 1 September

The Singapore Presidential Election 2023’s Polling Day is set for 1 September, designated a public holiday by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

There are a total of 2,709,455 eligible voters in the updated voter rolls – an increase of over 55,000 people from the 2,653,942 electors in GE2020.

Singaporeans will be voting to elect their ninth president from three candidates: Mr Ng Kok Song (75), the former GIC investment chief; Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam (66), a former senior minister of the People’s Action Party; and Mr Tan Kin Lian (75), the former NTUC Income chief.

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