Friday, 24 June 2011

A Strong President for a Weak Government?



It looks like we are going towards this direction. With Dr. Tony Tan applying for the COE for presidency and the high chance of wining the Presidential election, it seems to indicate that a strong and knowledgeable man will be the next Singapore President in September.  

Strong President

Yes. He has the PM-material quality but turned down to be the PM.  Goh Chok Tong was the second choice, and Ong Teng Cheong – the first elected President ranked even further. Even the current President, S R Nathan, has said that Dr Tan has the qualities to lead the country.

Even those voters who want to vote against Dr. Tan will agree that he is the best qualified person in terms of talent, management and knowledge.  But does a strong candidate necessary mean a good candidate for President?

Weak Government

Since the GE in May, the PAP government wants to project an image of a listener.  It appears that the government wants to do away with the past high handled way of governing Singapore. They want to collect feedbacks and implement policies for the benefits of Singapore citizens.

Yin for Government and Yang for President

The government in this way is engaging ‘yin’ role and a high profile candidate like Dr. Tony Tan, perhaps also for the other 2 potential candidates, all need to play a different role than the present President and have to take on the ‘yang’ role. President Nathan had said few knew his contribution and his type of low key performance seems to suggest he is playing the role of ‘yin’.

So, with the GE2011 and the coming Presidential election, we will see the role change of the government and the presidency. They are exchanging role from the past.  This is good. The President (yang) champions for a unified force, a united Singapore and prevent social divide.  And the government (yin) accepts the criticisms and suggestions from the people.  In Yi Jing principle, this is good for the country as the ruler is humble and cares for the people. 

Difficult time, complex changes. Is there anything that we do not know?

In announcing his candidate for the President, Dr Tan seems to suggest the country is facing difficult time, complex changes, and needs to undertake tough decisions to reform institutions in coming years. That is why he believes the country needs "a president with experience and a steady hand" (likes him).

This is like the Chinese saying of ‘国难当头 匹夫有责’. When the country is facing great difficulty, a person must show his duty and responsibility to come forward.

Our GDP growth is good; the property market is stable; the stock market has not crashed; the tourist arrival reaches new high and the job creation also looks good.   But Dr. Tan foresees the challenges and danger.  Is there anything that we do not know? Can Dr. Tan enlightens us and gives some advices?

Constitutional changes for a stronger President

Zaobao reporter asked twice about this issue.  I don’t why. Dr. Tan replied that any changes will need to be debated in the Parliament as representatives of the voters and the Parliament has to consider what other power or suitable changes to be given to the President. Or, in Yi Jing language, what ‘yang’ role the Parliament and the government want the elected President to play?

However, at least, there is a hint that there may be some constitutional changes to the role of President.  Will it be more ‘yang’ role for the elected President due to a weak government that the new batch of ministers is less qualify than Dr. Tan’ era when he was a DPM.  

Stable President = Strong President?

Dr Tan said he could not remain a spectator while Singapore faces ‘complex changes’. ‘临危受命’ is another Chinese proverb that can describe the decision of Dr. Tan. It seems there are difficulties ahead, and the government needs guidance and advices from a ‘wise’ man.  Dr. Tan with his experience has to take on a higher role to provide direction for the government.

But due to the non-executive power of the President, Dr. Tan may not be able ‘to advise on some policies’ or to guide the government into the right direction. Hence, there may be a need to have some changes in the Constitution.

Dr. Tan has always projected a serious, stable, knowledgeable and intelligent man.  Therefore, he is more ‘yang’ than George Yeo whose image is ‘yin’. (See my previous posts on George).   And the role of next President is more suitable for a ‘yang’ candidate.

Independent candidate – is there a need to stress it?

If you have resigned from the PAP, and being a non-party related candidate, surely you are thinking differently from the previously associated party and even the government.

Is there a need to ‘画蛇添足’ drawing a snake with unnecessary legs? The other 2 potential candidates seem to be more independent and why they don’t stress it?  The more you talk about it, the more people will think about it.

A better Singapore

After so many years, we finally get to see a Presidential election, no walkover.  I think this is a positive sign for a better Singapore.



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