Chiam See Tong clarifies decision on Presidential Election

Alicia Wong
SingaporeScene

UPDATED

Ex-opposition MP Chiam See Tong is still studying the eligibility forms for the Presidential Election. (Yahoo! photo)

Former Opposition Member of Parliament Chiam See Tong has clarified that he has not announced whether or not he would like to run for President.

Responding to email queries from Yahoo! Singapore, he said, "I have not publicly informed any media about my decision yet."

"I will let you know in due course as I am still studying the application forms."

On Saturday, Chanel NewsAsia reported that Chiam will not be contesting the Presidential Election.

He was quoted as saying, he will focus on serving Singaporeans in his current capacity as he feels it is unlikely he will qualify for the Presidential Election, due by 31 August.

The supporter who collected the Certificate of Eligibility forms for Chiam, felt Chiam would have a broader reach serving Singaporeans as President, compared to his current position.

The 27-year-old, who wanted to be known only as De Costa, said he will consult with a lawyer next week to discuss Chiam's eligibility to run for President.

"People must know exactly what they want and expect from the President and government they voted in," he added.

De Costa said that he did not discuss the matter with Chiam or his wife, Lina Chiam, before collecting the forms.

The ex-Potong Pasir resident collected the forms at the Elections Department at about noon on Thursday and passed the forms to the couple on Thursday evening at their Meet the People session.

"They were very surprised and said they would look into it," said De Costa. They also thanked him for honouring them, he said.

De Costa, who is not a member of the Singapore People's Party, where Chiam is chief, said he is doing his part as an "active citizenry". He is also "uncomfortable" that several former People's Action Party members were interested in running for President.

Stressing that Chiam has the "moral authority" to lead as President and can take on the duties of providing oversight in areas such as racial and religious harmony and the Internal Security Department, De Costa said Chiam has a proven track record of being "independent" and "wise".

Chiam was Singapore's longest-serving Opposition MP. He had been MP for Potong Pasir single-seat ward since 1984 but lost his seat in Parliament after unsuccessfully contesting the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC in this year's General Election (GE).

He has since expressed interest in contesting in the next GE.

It is not known, however, if Chiam will qualify for the Presidential polls, due by 31 August. Candidates will have to fulfill a stringent criteria to run for President.

This includes having been chairman of the board of directors or chief executive of a registered company with a paid-up capital of at least S$100 million, or having held a comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity, which gives the candidate experience and ability in managing financial affairs.

De Costa hopes the Presidential Elections Committee will see Chiam's years as the Leader of the Opposition and his ability to "thrive and survive" against the odds, as fulfilling the latter criteria.

Chiam was declared the unofficial Leader of the Opposition in Parliament in 1991 and the de facto Leader of the Opposition in 2001.

While Chiam appears frail, the veteran politician's doctors had deemed him healthy and able to contest in the GE, added De Costa, who is unemployed and recovering from an accident.

Besides De Costa, businessman Mohammed Raffi, 50, also turned up at the Elections Department to collect forms to contest the Presidential Election, according to Channel NewsAsia.

Currently, former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock, former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian and Ooi Boon Ewe, who tried and failed to contest in the GE, have confirmed their interest in contesting.

Representatives of former foreign affairs minister George Yeo also collected the forms on his behalf on Monday.

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