I was at the Bedok Library today. When you go past the library entrance, you will see a poster with our past presidents on it and a table with a number of books on Singapore and a few books on our ex-presidents. I saw President Wee's book which I read a few years ago and a book on President Devan Nair. If you look at our past presidents and their achievements, there are a few that stood out. President Wee was loved for being a people's president - someone who rose from a very humble background and was very approachable. President Devan Nair fought for workers as a leftist for years before he became president. The achievement that most Singaporeans remember well and probably appreciate the most is President Ong Teng Cheong fighting his ex-colleagues in the cabinet for greater transparency of the reserves. I have a confession to make here. In 1993, like many other Singaporeans, I voted against Ong Teng Cheong because I felt that having a former PAP minister check on a party he used to belong would be a real farce. I think he eventually proved all us wrong but he could not complete what he set out to do - to fight for greater transparency of our reserves....we don't even know how much it is yet we are accused of raiding it when we asked for more reasonably priced flats.
In 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed, thousands of Singaporeans saw their lifesavings wiped out due to financial products marketed by banks, I watched our elected leaders and MAS very closely for their reaction. I believe they would have walked away from this group of ordinary Singapore if possible and leave them to "swallow their losses" - the 1st act of the MAS was not to go and talk to these Singaporeans to find out how they can be helped but to have discussions with the banks. Our leaders said these investors went in "with their eyes open" and legally deserve no compensation. They forgot the impotance of justice and fairness and the need to intervene to bring about a just outcome. Because our laws impose the mandatory death penalty for various crimes, it does not mean it is always right and just to put someone to death. The President holds the power to pardon death penalty cases and while our society debate whether we need to be more humane, we need an enlightened president who puts the spirit of justice above the letter of the law in such cases.
There is only one potential candidate who stood up for ordinary Singaporeans in the dark days of the Lehman collapse, only one candidate whom we can trust to continue and complete what President Ong tried to do to safeguard our reserves and fight for greater transparency and one candidate with the humility of President Wee that endeared him to ordinary Singaporeans.
I hope Tan Kin Lian runs. but I will respect him as much if he decides not to. It is a big persoanl decision because the post comes with a complete change in life, decorum and total loss of privacy. Also, Tan Kin Lian has shown he can contribute when the need arises without being president and the position comes with ceremonial duties that will take up a lot of time.