SINGAPORE: Speaking in his second live broadcast, Presidential candidate Ng Kok Song has reiterated his commitment to nonpartisanship as a key pillar of his campaign in the upcoming presidential election.
Calling upon Singaporeans to uphold the spirit of the Constitution, the former GIC Chief Investment Officer emphasized his unique position as the sole nonpartisan contender in the race.
Speaking during the second and final presidential candidate broadcast on Wednesday, Mr Ng stated, “There are three candidates standing for the elected presidency. ”
In a pointed critique of his fellow candidate, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, without mentioning names, he said, “One candidate resigned a month ago from the government and from the ruling party, to stand for president.”
“The second candidate has opposition leaders in his campaigning.”
“I am the only nonpartisan candidate, I do not and have never belonged to any political party, ” Mr Ng claimed.
Mr Tharman previously held the position of Senior Minister within the People’s Action Party.
In a bid to elucidate the significance of a nonpartisan president, Ng Kok Song highlighted the constitutional requirement that nominees for the presidency refrain from political party affiliations.
“Our constitution is very clear to have a nonpartisan elected president so that the president is above the partisan politics of Parliament,” he asserted.
Mr Ng noted that this constitutional spirit had been strained over the years, as presidents affiliated with political parties assumed the role.
“Our system has been compromising the spirit of the Constitution. Our system has complied with the letter, but not the spirit of the Constitution,” he observed.
Ng Kok Song highlights concerns over “government-endorsed Presidents”
As he contemplated the future, Mr Ng foresaw a landscape marked by additional challenges and crises that would necessitate substantial draws from the nation’s reserves in the years to come.
Prompted by these concerns, he posed a poignant question, asking, “Can we take the risk of having another Government-endorsed President checking Government requests to draw down our reserves? Is it appropriate for an ex-Finance Minister who set fiscal policies to then move across the table and become the President and check on the very policies that he had put in place?”
“I do not believe any person should be put in such a position of conflict, and we don’t need to. We cannot rely on an “ownself check ownself” mechanism to safeguard our reserves or the integrity of the public service.”
Harking back to a pivotal moment in Singapore’s history, Mr Ng referenced the 1984 National Day Rally where then-Prime Minister late Mr Lee Kuan Yew first introduced the concept of an elected presidency.
He noted how Mr Lee sounded a cautionary note about the potential influence of eloquent yet insincere politicians who could recklessly dissipate Singapore’s reserves.
In a more recent context, Mr Ng underscored a statement made earlier in the month by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
PM Lee said that in a freak election with the “wrong team” in charge, a “rogue government” that wanted to raid the reserves would be able to lose the life savings of generations of Singaporeans in one term.
Commenting on the contemporary political landscape, Mr Ng noted, “Having the wrong team in charge in the near future is no longer a remote possibility.”
“Our Government leadership will also undergo a generational change in the next few years. There are uncertainties and risks with all transitions.”
Reflecting on recent parliamentary debates, Mr Ng cautioned against complacency regarding Singapore’s traditionally high standards of uncorrupted governance.
“In the face of such increasing risks, we cannot afford to have a President who may be beholden to political parties who endorse their nominations and help get them elected. “We cannot afford to have a President who is manipulated by political parties to serve their political agenda,” he added.
Mr Ng highligting the disconcerting electoral patterns
Highlighting a concerning trend, Mr Ng pointed out that Singapore has experienced three uncontested elections out of the last five presidential contests.
He candidly addressed the issue, stating, “While the bar to qualify for the Presidency is high, I believe the real reason is the perception that, unless you are endorsed by the Government or strongly supported by opposition leaders, you have no chance to get elected.”
Mr Ng stressed his firm conviction that there exist capable, impartial Singaporeans who possess the necessary qualifications to hold the esteemed position of President.
He emphasized their potential to make well-informed decisions that serve the collective interests of all Singaporeans.
Importantly, these individuals would operate independently, unburdened by personal allegiances or any party’s historical or present-day agendas, policies, or ideologies.
“I am standing in this election, to set an example for more Singaporeans to do the same in the coming years. I am the only candidate in this election who is non-partisan. More than that, I have the domain knowledge and experience to protect our reserves.” Mr Ng said.