Ex-MP Inderjit Singh: Some Singaporeans concerned about idea of sitting MP resigning to run for president

Former MP Inderjit Singh. (Yahoo file photo)

Former Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh said that some Singaporeans have expressed concerns on the prospects of a current MP resigning to run in the upcoming presidential election (PE).

While Inderjit said that the Constitution allows for a sitting government politician to stand in a PE, the “spirit of the Elected President is independence of office as intended by Mr Lee Kuan Yew when the idea was mooted”.

Inderjit did not mention any MP’s name in his post on his Facebook page on Friday (28 July). His comments come after Yahoo News Singapore reported on Thursday that sources said Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who is also MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, is planning to run in the upcoming presidential election in September, which is reserved for Malay candidates. Two other potential presidential candidates, Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, are not sitting MPs.

Inderjit, who was formerly MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said public perception on the issue is important. “While Mr Ong Teng Cheong also did the same in (the) 1993 (presidential election), I sense people are increasingly uncomfortable with this,” said Inderjit, who is an entrepreneur.

On the debate as to who Singapore’s first elected president was, Inderjit said the policy makers could have avoided the question if they had paid more attention on the issue. The Constitution could have specified that the number of consecutive presidential terms during which there is no president from a particular community is five instead of six before a reserved election is triggered, he said.

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock had filed a constitutional challenge against the timing of the upcoming election, which was dismissed by the High Court on 7 July. Tan had filed an appeal against the ruling and will know the outcome on Monday.

Tan had questioned the advice given by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to the government that the first term of the elected presidency began with President Wee Kim Wee. Tan said the AGC should have counted the five most recent presidential terms produced by open elections, starting with President Ong Teng Cheong.

Inderjit also highlighted the concept of “Malayness” as a debatable issue. He said, “It is critical that the leaders of the Malay community and the government come out and make this position clear and hopefully this position will apply to all aspects of life in Singapore.”

The former MP also said that it is important that Singapore has enough qualified Malays who meet the “very stringent requirements” set in the Constitution to run in the PE. He added that it would be a pity if there are not enough qualified Malay candidates to choose from for the first ever reserved PE.

Inderjit hopes the issues that he has highlighted will be addressed before the PE’s formal process begins.

He said, “As the Head of State, the President of Singapore holds the highest office and he or she must get the full respect of all Singaporeans…And once our President has been elected, let’s all show respect for the President of Singapore and stand united as Singaporeans.”