Singapore

People feeling 'muzzled and angry' after walkover: Tan Cheng Bock

People feeling 'muzzled and angry' after walkover: Tan Cheng Bock
Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has hit out at the uncontested reserved Presidential Election, claiming that there is now a “deafening silence awakening the nation” when people’s political voice was taken away. TODAY file photo.
Published: 8:32 PM, September 13, 2017
Updated: 11:51 PM, September 13, 2017

SINGAPORE — Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has hit out at the uncontested reserved Presidential Election, claiming there is now a "deafening silence awakening the nation" that would be "thunderous" when the time comes for citizens to vote.

Writing on Facebook on Wednesday (Sept 13), Dr Tan said Singaporeans are feeling "muzzled and angry" with the "disappointing walkover".

"Because when you take away our right to vote, you take away our political voice. You tell us that our choice does not matter," he said.

Singaporeans are unhappy with the walkover because the government had rejected the Constitutional Commission's suggestion to scrap the Presidential elections and revert to an appointed Presidency, said Dr Tan. The Government had said it was important for citizens to give their popular and direct mandate.

Yet, it did not put up another candidate aside from former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, and the Presidential Elections Committee rejected two independent hopefuls - Mohamed Salleh Marican and Farid Khan Kaim Khan - who had "valiantly stepped up", Dr Tan wrote.

This was in contrast to the 1993 Presidential Election. The Government's preferred candidate was Ong Teng Cheong, but former deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee "still went out of his way to persuade Chua Kim Yeow to stand for elections", he said.

"Why? To prevent a walkover and give citizens the dignity of expressing their choice," he said.

And in 2011, two candidates, Mr Tan Kin Lian and Mr Tan Jee Say, were allowed to contest under the deliberative track. The Presidential Elections Committee had exercised its discretion and gave the green light to the two hopefuls, who did not meet the criteria set out. Dr Tan also contested in 2011, losing by 0.34 percentage points to Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam.

This time, "everyone knew Mdm Halimah would win. Still, we looked forward to a poll to tell the Government what we thought about the elections", said Dr Tan, a former People's Action Party Member of Parliament.

He recently mounted - and lost - a legal challenge against the Government's decision to hold a reserved Presidential Election on the basis that it had been five terms since Singapore had had a Malay President.

The Government started the count from the term of Wee Kim Wee, who was the first President to exercise powers under the Elected Presidency scheme, introduced in 1991 while he was in office. Dr Tan argued that it should have begun from the term of Wee's successor, Ong, who was the first President elected by popular vote.

In his Facebook post, Dr Tan congratulated President-elect Halimah but said she would occupy "the most controversial presidency in the history of Singapore". "I wish her well," he added.