Salleh Marican: I am taking Malay lessons ahead of Presidential Election 2017

Presidential hopeful Mohd Salleh Marican (right) is aiming to improve his Malay conversational skills. Photo Safhras Khan/ Yahoo Singapore

Presidential hopeful and CEO of Second Chance Properties Mohd Salleh Marican said he is taking Malay lessons ahead of the upcoming presidential election after he was criticised for his poor grasp of the language during an interview.

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Singapore, Salleh, 67, said the weekly lessons would enable him to converse in Malay fluently about his candidacy during media interviews and interactions with the electorate. Salleh was talking to Yahoo Singapore on Monday (19 June) at the house of his eldest daughter Nadia Marican in the eastern part of Singapore.

On 5 June 2017, Salleh struggled to answer in Malay during an interview with a group of reporters outside the Elections Department after he collected his presidential election forms. The incident prompted criticisms online about his inability to speak the language well given that the September presidential election is reserved for Malay candidates.

Instead of being affected by the criticisms, Salleh said he is taking firm steps to address the issue. The father of four added that while he is able to converse in “everyday Malay” currently, he wants to improve his conversational skills by taking lessons from a Malay newspaper and television media veteran.

“You don’t need to be good in Malay to carry out your duties as a president because the official language is English.

“Now that this has happened, I have to do my best to improve my mastery of the language and I am taking it as a challenge. I am taking several Malay lessons a week and I am challenging myself that on Nomination Day, I will make an off the cuff public speech in the language,” he added.

“My life has changed”

Salleh said he is staying “totally focused” on preparations for his presidential campaign and taking things in his stride.

“I am a businessman, and I am used to taking up challenges. Moreover, as an entrepreneur, I am optimistic by nature,” said Salleh.

In an earlier interview with this reporter, Salleh said that he aimed to convince the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) that he is adequately qualified for the job. Presidential candidates must obtain a certificate of eligibility from the PEC and confirmation from the Community Committee that they are members of the Malay community.

The founder of Second Chance, which is also a popular clothing brand in the Malay community, acknowledged that he is now the subject of greater public attention.

“My life has changed since I made the decision (to compete in the election). It changed in the sense that my mind cannot concentrate on other things.

“When I go out, many people congratulate me and smile at me,” he said.