SINGAPORE: Businessman George Goh Ching Wah, 63, casts his vote for the presidential election today (1 September).
The founder of Harvey Norman Ossia shared on his Facebook that his family cast their votes this morning.
“Woke up early this morning to go vote with the family. This presidential election has been an interesting one and for me personally, has deepened my resolve to serve the city.
“My wife and I will continue to do this through our foundation to look out for the vulnerable and needy. For now, it’s papa duties to get my youngest settled into university and then a little break for Lysa and I.”
“In the future, if you ever do see me in person feel free to say hi. May we all continue to do our bit for society, and be the change we desire to see,” he said.
Mr Goh announced his intention to contest this year’s Singapore presidential election in June 2023.
His application as a candidate in the presidential election was unsuccessful, he failed to receive the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) on 18 August.
The businessman had expressed his disappointment in a statement after the ELSD’s announcement, he said, the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) took a very narrow interpretation of the requirements without explaining the rationale behind its decision.
The Certificate of Eligibility certifies that the candidate is a person of integrity, good character and reputation, and meets the relevant public sector or private sector service requirements.
The PEC swiftly responded to Goh’s claims, emphasising that the Constitution mandated their evaluation of an applicant’s experience and ability in managing a large private sector organsation.
The PEC pointed out that the experience and ability derived from managing multiple smaller private sector organisations did not meet this criterion.
They underlined that Goh’s application acknowledged the disparate nature of the five companies he relied on, but he contended that they should be considered a single private sector organisation.
Despite careful consideration, the PEC remained unconvinced that these companies constituted a single entity.
At a press conference on 4 August to launch his bid, Mr Goh said he has a group of five companies with a combined shareholders’ equity of US$1.12 billion (SG$1.521 billion) over three years, adding that this is collectively equivalent to an average shareholders’ equity of SG$507 million annually for the group as a whole.
Questions about Goh’s eligibility have surfaced since he announced his candidacy on 12 June, with analysts expressing uncertainty about his ability to combine the average shareholder equity of several companies to meet the eligibility criteria.
Goh: “I didn’t let my supporters down”
Goh asserted that he had not let down his supporters, shifting the blame to the “decision-makers.” He stressed his independence, a recurring theme in his campaign, stating that he was the only contender who could claim to be “very independent.”
This statement was in response to presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian’s earlier remarks, suggesting that he would likely gain the majority of votes from those who desired an independent president now that Goh was out of the race.
Mr Goh had consistently highlighted his lack of political ties as an advantage, defining an “independent” candidate as one not affiliated with any political party, government-linked company, or Citizens’ Consultative Committees. He called upon the other candidates to prove their independence.
“I’m not sure the other three candidates can stand and say they’re very independent. You must prove yourself you’re really independent. If you’re not independent (and) you say you’re independent, it’s very sad right?” he said.
“You must be very clear. You cannot be in the same party or same policymaker. You cannot be in the same box. If you’re in the box and jump out and say you’re independent tomorrow, cannot. That is not correct. So I hope maybe they can rephrase themselves; change another … tactic to win the elections.”
Goh said， “they know if I go into the Istana … I’m going to look at the thing differently” but declined to specify who he was referring to. “This is why the result is like that.”
The entrepreneur added that he doesn’t think his failure to qualify for the Presidential Election will put off future presidential hopefuls from the private sector, and encouraged more entrepreneurs to come forward during the next election.
“I think more private sector people will come forward. They have seen what George has done and … (say) I believe (it’s) possible, I can run the campaign as good as George. I would like to encourage the private sector don’t give up the (certificate of eligibility),” he said.
“If we don’t stand up, you must think about your children … The independent candidate, please come forward stronger, don’t show our weakness. If we show our weakness, that means our democracy (has) failed.”
Of the three presidential contenders, Ng Kok Song, 75, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 66, and Tan Kin Lian 75, Tharman was the first to announce his bid for presidency on 8 June.
Goh and Ng subsequently announced their bids on 12 June and 19 July, respectively. Tan officially launched his bid on 11 Augz.
The PEC received a total of six applications for the certificate of eligibility by Thursday’s deadline, said ELD on Thursday in its press release.
Tharman applied under the public sector service track, while Ng applied under the public sector deliberative track. Tan meanwhile applied under the private sector deliberative track.
Polling stations open today — a public holiday — for voting from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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