SINGAPORE, Aug 13 (APS) – A mass rally is being planned on August 17, nomination day for Singapore’s presidential election, to protest against the government’s refusal to allow potential candidate Andrew Kuan to run for the post of president.
The organisers plan to hold the protest at the People’s Association headquarters at around 11 am, when the incumbent, Mr SR Nathan, arrives to file his nomination for re-election.
On Saturday, the island’s Presidential Elections Committee granted Mr Nathan a “Certificate of Eligibility” to contest the election and rejected the bids by three other applicants.
This means that come Nomination Day on August 17, the 81 year-old former internal security chief will be returned unopposed for a second six-year term.
In a statement, the committee said that Mr Nathan has “all the credentials for the office of the President and is well regarded and respected for his public service”.
It also announced its reasons for rejecting the other three applications.
It said two of them, Mr Ooi Boon Ewe, a former tutor, and Mr Ramachandran Govindasamy Naidu, a retired senior store keeper, were rejected due to their lack of qualifications.
“The career history of these two men obviously showed that they did not hold any similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector, which is necessary for the office of the Presidency,” said the statement.
As for Mr Andrew Kuan, the former Group Chief Financial Officer of JTC, the committee argued that “the seniority and responsibility of that position was not comparable to those needed for the office either”.
Singaporeans by and large were shocked at the announcement and newspaper offices were flooded with calls from irate readers calling on the government to explain the rationale for rejecting Mr Kuan’s application.
Meanwhile, online newsgroups and blogs saw tons of angry postings calling for the government to allow Mr Kuan to stand for the election.
A posting on the soc.culture.singapore newsgroup said: “it’s pretty obvious the MW (“men in white”, here referring to the ruling PAP government) is NOT READY for the TEST”.
As the public outcry triggered by a huge scandal at the government-backed NKF (National Kidney Foundation) is still fresh on many people’s minds, the reader said the government was afraid that Mr Nathan could be defeated at the polls.
Speaking to reporters, the organisers of the protest rally said they hoped Singaporeans would turn out in force to pressure the government to review their decision to reject Mr Kuan’s bid.
“The PAP government obviously owes the people of Singapore an explanation,” said the spokesman, who refused to be named.
Meanwhile, an online petition calling on Singaporeans to support Mr Andrew Kuan for the presidency (http://www.petitiononline.com/sg050817/) has been gathering steam since it was launched by a mass organisation calling itself The Singapore Patriotic Front (SPF) here on Sunday.
The SPF said Mr Kuan’s “distinguished record in public service, strong professional financial training and experience” would allow him to do well as a “People’s President”, provide “a watchful eye over the Singapore’s national assets and foreign reserves”, as well as push for “greater transparency and accountability in the Government-Linked Companies”.
The petition also slammed the incumbent, Mr Nathan, for failing to discharge the responsibilities of his office “despite having received close to $10 million in salary over the last five years”.
It added: “this could be attributed to his lack of financial training and his being appointed by the Singapore Government instead of being elected by the Singapore citizens”.
Expressing shock at the government’s rejection of Mr Kuan’s bid, the SPF argued that “if the incumbent, despite his poor performance and his alleged connections with the Japanese Kempeitai during World War II, is allowed to run for the Presidential Election, there is no reason for a more qualified candidate like Mr Kuan to be denied the ‘Certificate of Eligibility'”.
“Unless the Singapore Government is trying to manipulate the outcome of the election to suit its nepotic & despotic needs,” it added.
The SPF also took the state-controlled media to task for launching a smear campaign against Mr Kuan.
“We demand that the Singapore Government stop treating Singaporeans as fools and manipulating the media to cast the incumbent in the best of light while conducting smear campaigns against all those who are running against the incumbent. This is childish & unconstitutional,” said the SPF.
Mr Nathan’s office could not be reached for comment Sunday. – APS
By: Simon R. Nigel
South East Asia Correspondent,
Asia Press Service
Copyright: Asia Press Service
The day when there is an actual street protest of any nature, much less a political one, is the day when a revolution has begun – one which would signifiy a change in Singaporean public ethos. I’m skeptical of any imminent change as of yet. Shocked as I was upon reading the fact that the President became uncontested due to the ineligibility of the rest of the candidates, the effect dissipated soon after. But who knows? Another 1789 fall of the ancien regime could take place once again. (Or not!)