In the heated prelude to Singapore’s 6th presidential election, Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s second broadcast speech captured national attention.
As a stalwart of the People’s Action Party (PAP), his tenure spans two decades, but the Senior Minister’s recent declaration of independence from the PAP has been met with skepticism in some quarters.
Tharman’s emphasis on his service-oriented approach, striving for a more inclusive society, strikes a chord with many.
His statement, “If I am a partisan, it is that I am a partisan for better chances and better support for Singaporeans who have less,” reveals a politician dedicated to the upliftment of his people.
Yet, the conspicuous silence from PAP politicians on social media about him and the upcoming presidential election raises eyebrows.
Does their silence indicate a tacit endorsement or is it a strategic move to distance the party from Tharman’s campaign?
Adding to this, mainstream media’s avoidance of associating Tharman with the PAP seems a bit too orchestrated. Just try to take a sample of what the news writes about Tharman and see if you can spot a mention of PAP.
A parallel can be drawn with the 2011 presidential elections. Former Cabinet minister George Yeo, in his upcoming book, divulges that PM Lee Hsien Loong had approached him to run against Tan Cheng Bock.
While Yeo declined, the subsequent narrow victory of Dr. Tony Tan over Dr. Tan Cheng Bock hinted at the intricacies of party politics.
Yeo’s decision to act as a character reference for former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song, while also expressing camaraderie with Tharman, showcases the complex interplay of relationships in Singapore’s political landscape.
Yeo’s statement, “I can be Tharman’s character reference too, but he doesn’t need me,” speaks volumes about Shanmugaratnam’s standing in the political arena.
Interestingly, the previous presidential race in 2017 threw its own surprises.
Current President Madam Halimah Yacob’s spontaneous decision to step down as Speaker of Parliament and run for president was foreshadowed by Minister Chan Chun Sing’s faux pas in addressing her as “Madam President” not once, but twice.
Her eventual unopposed victory accentuated the influence of the PAP and the selection criteria for presidential candidates.
As 2023 unfolds, Tharman’s resignation from all governmental roles and his emphasis on standing as an independent candidate must be viewed with scrutiny.
George Yeo’s candid revelation triggers a question that the media has shied away from: Was Tharman approached by PM Lee in a manner similar to Yeo?