Marine service provider chairman Farid Khan announces presidency bid

Marine service provider chairman Farid Khan announces presidency bid
Mr Farid Khan Kaim Khan, the chairman of marine service provider Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific, announcing his intention to run in the upcoming presidential election. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY
Published: 2:16 PM, July 11, 2017
Updated: 9:23 PM, July 11, 2017

SINGAPORE — Although his identity card shows his race as “Pakistani”, presidential hopeful Farid Khan Kaim Khan considers himself “Malay enough” to run in the coming presidential election reserved for Malay candidates.

Speaking on Tuesday (July 11) at a press conference held at Village Hotel Changi to announce his intention to contest the September polls, Mr Farid, 62, said: ““I was born in the Malay village in Geylang Serai, the heart of the Malay community. And I adopted the Malay language, and when I studied in school, my second language was Malay... So, I’m very confident that I can be qualified as a Malay.”

He was responding to reporters’ question on whether he qualifies as a Malay candidate. Malays in Singapore come from different ethnic backgrounds such as Javanese and Boyanese, said Mr Farid, adding that he sees himself as a Malay of Pakistani descent.

Mr Farid’s name was first thrown up as a candidate last month after a group of friends had collected forms for the election on his behalf. At that time, his friends were tightlipped on his identity and would only say that the prospective candidate is above 60 years old, a Malay Muslim, and the chairman of a multinational corporation. The Straits Times subsequently reported that Mr Farid was the mystery man in question, although he declined comment when approached.

Mr Farid is the chairman of Singapore-based marine service provider Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific. Married with two children, a 24-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son, he has been working at the company for more than a decade. The firm has about 800 workers in the region, and is part of French company Bourbon, which has more than 9,000 employees worldwide.

Unveiling his slogan Together We Build Our Nation, Mr Farid said he was stepping forward to “serve the nation”, and “fulfil the people’s wish and trust”. He said he would champion issues such as strengthening the trust among people of all races and religions, helping the needy and troubled youth, creating more job opportunities, and promoting the importance of family as the building block of the society. He also wants to work with the Government and other organisations to stem the growing threat of radicalism. “I wish to serve this nation which I feel capable of doing so to the best of my knowledge and ability,” said Mr Farid.

After the press conference on Tuesday, Mr Farid went to a nearby Indonesian restaurant at Changi Civil Service Club to greet more than 300 supporters, comprising current and former colleagues as well as family friends.

Mr Mohd Shah Omar, a seafarer, told TODAY that Mr Farid was raised in a Malay cultural setting and has adopted its customs and practices. “Malays also have different backgrounds. I don’t think there is such a thing as a pure Malay,” said the 60-year-old.

Mdm Norazizah Supait, who has known Mr Farid and his wife for some 40 years, also described Mr Farid as “more Malay than Pakistani”.

Mr Farid’s father, who came to Singapore from Pakistan, had worked for a British bus company while his Chinese-Pakistani mother was a homemaker. His father died when he was 13, and the second eldest child in the family had to drop out of school to support his mother and eight other siblings, as his older brother had died at a young age. He worked at a timber processing factory during the day, and as a car washer at night.

He later enrolled in a Marine Engineering course at Singapore Polytechnic. After graduating, he became an engineer and rose up the ranks while working in various companies.

In 2005, he became a partner at French firm Bourbon Offshore and later helped to start its Asia Pacific branch.

TODAY understands that the shareholder equity for Bourbon Offshore Asia is over S$350 million, but short of the minimum S$500 million criterion in order for Mr Farid to qualify as a candidate. However, Mr Farid said he was confident that given his job scope and experience, he could qualify based on the discretion of the Presidential Electoral Committee.

Apart from Mr Farid, Second Chance Properties CEO Salleh Marican has also declared his intention to contest. The 67-year-old, who is of Indian heritage, was heavily criticised for his lack of fluency in the Malay language.

Another name that has been bandied about is Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, whose father was Indian-Muslim.

To qualify for the reserved election, prospective candidates will have to submit a community declaration to the Community Committee to certify their ethnic group. A fact-finding process will be conducted by a sub-committee to decide if the candidate belongs to the community. The person may be interviewed and required to provide further information, among other things.