When her father and CEO of Second Chance Properties Mohd Salleh Marican told her late last year that he intended to run for president, Nadia Marican laughed at the idea of becoming a member of Singapore’s First Family.
But Salleh’s eldest daughter and her other family members realised that the 67-year-old patriarch was serious about his presidential bid. They rallied around him and began to plan for his election campaign. Even the current fasting month is not slowing their momentum.
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Singapore on Monday (19 June), Nadia, 41, said, “We have been holding meetings every other day, especially during the month of Ramadan. We will break our fast at our father’s house and hold our discussions there.”
Her brother-in-law Ferus Bakar is overseeing Salleh’s media communication plans while she and her younger sister Radiah Marican, 40, are acting as their father’s personal assistants in the campaign.
Nadia, who is currently pursuing a PhD in International Psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, said that her father has a good chance of winning the election. Wearing a navy blue midi dress, Nadia was joined by Radiah and Salleh during the interview at her house in the eastern part of Singapore.
Salleh’s campaign kicked off on 5 June 2017, when he collected his presidential election forms at the Elections Department (ELD). But Salleh was sidetracked afterwards by the online criticisms of his lack of proficiency in the Malay language.
During a media interview outside the ELD, Salleh struggled to answer in Malay to a question posed by a reporter. In response to the criticisms, Salleh told Yahoo Singapore that he had engaged a Malay media veteran to brush up his conversational skills in the mother tongue.
Nadia said that the Marican family was prepared for negative reactions from some netizens. “It was so vicious that we were surprised at first. But personally, I think they are trolls,” she added.
The messages from Singaporeans from all walks of life about her father’s bid have been overwhelmingly encouraging, according to Nadia, adding that she has received “hundreds of friend requests” on her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Some of her close friends have already asked her to invite them to the Istana for tea, Nadia revealed.
Qualities of being a “good president”
When asked about her father’s attributes that would put him in good stead to be the President of Singapore, Nadia was effusive in her praise for him.
“The majority of Singaporeans prefer their president to be apolitical and my father represents that. I am confident that he stands a good chance, given that he is a man of honour and integrity and has the leadership qualities to be president,” said Nadia.
“He has a pragmatic approach to life and has a soft heart. He is a man who is generous in sharing knowledge with others. These are the qualities needed for a president,” she added.
Salleh, who was seated near Nadia during the interview, smiled and nodded in response.
Radiah agreed with her sister, saying her father is a natural leader at home, in business and that he could be the same at the Istana.
“I believe he has the leadership qualities that would make him a great President. On top of that, my dad is as Singaporean as can be, someone we can all relate to,” she said.
Rebounding from his business setbacks
Nadia also shared several family anecdotes about her father, saying that he has always been there for her, Radiah, and her two other siblings – Sofia, 36 and Amal, 29.
During her growing up years, Nadia said her father preferred to counsel her and her siblings whenever they did anything wrong instead of caning them.
Salleh is also a romantic at heart who is not shy about displaying affection for his wife Sapiyah Abu Bakar, 65.
“Knowing that my mum loves flowers, he will make it a point to buy her a bouquet of flowers during special occasions with a personalised card. He is romantic that way,” Nadia said with a giggle.
When asked about her father’s decision to close down the apparel outlets under the Second Chance brand from 1989 to 1992 and the impact it had on him, Nadia paused before replying.
“He used to tell us about the ups and downs of his business and sometimes, he admitted that he cannot sleep at night. He always emphasised that it is never easy to run a business. As children, we know he needed his space and we would try not to irritate him,” Nadia said.
In later years, Salleh revamped the company and diversified into other businesses including property and jewellery retail. Second Chance listed on Sesdaq in 1997 before it moved to the mainboard in 2004.
Salleh’s ability to turn around his company when the odds were stacked against him could inspire Singaporeans and convince them that he is the right man to become a “People’s President”, Nadia said.
“If he wins, I will be the proudest daughter in the world. Who knows, maybe the tea party in the (Istana) garden might come true!” she quipped.