Halimah Yacob will assume “the most controversial presidency in the history of Singapore”, former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock said on Wednesday (13 September).
Extending his congratulations to the President-elect, Tan said in a post on his Facebook page that people “feel muzzled and angry” that there was a walkover for this year’s presidential election (PE), which is reserved for Malay candidates.
Explaining the reason for their anger, Tan said, “Because when you take away our right to vote, you take away our political voice. You tell us that our choice does not matter.”
Tan, who had previously stated his intention to contest in this year’s presidential election, lost his appeal case against a High Court ruling on his constitutional challenge to the timing of the reserved PE. Halimah will be sworn in as Singapore’s eighth president at the Istana on Thursday.
The former Ayer Rajah Member of Parliament pointed out that when the Presidential Commission recommended scrapping presidential elections and reverting to an appointed presidency, a government white paper rejected the idea. The reason for the rejection was that it was important to give the presidency a “popular” and “direct” mandate, Tan pointed out.
In the 2011 PE, Tan said he stood for elections because he did not want a walkover. “In fact, I recall that in 1993, the Government’s preferred candidate was Ong Teng Cheong. Everyone knew he would win. But Dr Goh Keng Swee still went out of his way to persuade Mr Chua Kim Yeow to stand for elections. Why? To prevent a walkover and give citizens the dignity of expressing their choice,” Tan added.
As for this year’s PE, Tan said independent candidates Salleh Marican and Farid Khan “valiantly stepped up” to contest but they were deemed ineligible to run in the election by the Presidential Elections Committee, thus resulting in “a disappointing walkover”.
Tan said the PE has been a “quiet affair” but there is now a “deafening silence awakening the nation”. “We did not get a chance to speak with our vote this round, but the time will come. And when it does, it will be thunderous. Of this I am sure,” he concluded.