Tan Jee Say: Wants to provide checks and balances

My Fellow Singaporeans,

This Presidential Election is a historic opportunity for all our citizens to fulfil the mission of the Office of President.

In the past, the President was appointed by the Prime Minister. But about 20 years ago, the Constitution was changed to enable the people to elect the President directly. This was a fundamental change.

The purpose of direct election is to give moral authority to the President to provide checks and balances on the Government.

Remember the key words "provide checks and balances on the Government". This is the over-riding objective of having an elected President.

It is a very important and timely objective in the light of the recent General Elections. Most of us can still remember that only 3 months ago, Singaporeans from all walks of life openly expressed their unhappiness with Government policies.

A substantial 40% did not vote for this Government. Yet the PAP Government still has 81 out of a total of 87 Members of Parliament. With their overwhelming majority in Parliament, the Government can implement whatever policies they want or even change the Constitution.

Do you want this to happen? Can you prevent it? Yes you can. But only if you elect a President who has the moral courage to stand up for you and to speak up whenever the Government crosses the line.

You have before you a choice of 4 candidates. All of us want your vote. You have to decide who among us can best perform the duty of providing checks and balances on the PAP Government.

The importance of independence

To do the job effectively, the President must be independent of the ruling party. This independence must be clear, obvious and cannot be in doubt. Only such an independent person can have the moral authority to check on the Government. He must not be influenced or hampered by past ties with the ruling party. If his ties with the ruling party had been long and strong, it will be difficult for the person to shake off the emotional ties he has with the party.

My three opponents are honourable men but they were members of PAP for 20 to 30 years until they resigned from the party with two of them having quit only very recently. During this period, they ate, slept, walked and breathed PAP. Do you now expect them to have a breath of fresh air? Mentally and emotionally, it will be very difficult for them to think differently from the ruling party and challenge their former colleagues and friends.

Unlike them, I do not have the same emotional baggage that they carry because I have never been a member of the PAP. Because of this, I can provide checks and balances on the Government without restraint. I can and will remind them of their lapses without feeling embarrassed. I shall be their conscience, as well as yours.

The economy

The economy faces an uncertain future with a difficult global environment. The President will likely be called upon to help meet the economic challenges. This will require the President to stay on top of the economy.

I am equal to the task. I studied economics in university and worked in the Ministry of Trade and Industry where I headed economic and manpower planning. In addition, I had worked in international banks and investment houses, so I understand global finance.

The coming global financial crisis will put domestic economic issues into greater focus. The open expression of widespread anger during the recent General Elections has shown how divided the nation has become. Job losses and the widening income gap will become more pronounced as the global economy worsens. They will divide society further and deeper. To prevent such deep division, bold measures are needed.

The Prime Minister has acknowledged that there is great unhappiness among the people. But the recent measures he announced during the National Day Rally Speech do not address the people's concerns adequately. They represent the same piece-meal approach of recent years.

A new and more comprehensive approach is needed to address the issues that trouble Singaporeans such as influx of foreign workers, over-crowding and high cost of living. We should not just be obsessed with high GDP growth with little regard for the resultant adverse consequences on society and Singaporeans.

The benefits of economic growth have not been shared by all, rather some have benefitted greatly at the expense of others and this has divided the nation. To play a unifying role, the President need to engage the Government in coming up with an economic philosophy that puts the happiness of all Singaporeans at the heart of its policies.

My Promise as President

This is what I promise to Singaporeans if I am elected President. I will encourage the Government not to pursue high GDP growth at the expense of ordinary Singaporeans.

I will not hold back resources including the national reserves from the Government

........if they need to use them to achieve stable economic growth with a fair distribution of benefits for all Singaporeans,

........and to pursue measures that will ensure that Singaporeans are competing on an equal footing with foreigners,

.......that adequate resources are put aside to meet the educational and career aspirations of young Singaporeans,

.......that families are helped to cope with rising costs in all areas,

.......that enough is done for the healthcare needs of all particularly the elderly,

.......that generous assistance is given to families to bring up their children particularly those with special needs, and

........last but not least, that your CPF savings are well-protected so that you have enough to live a happy retirement.

The Heart of the Nation

These matters should rightly be left to the Government to deal with but the input of a caring President will help the Government come out with more compassionate solutions. We have reached a point where the President needs to help heal the social division and unify the nation.

If elected President, I will step in with good intention and a good heart. I will work with the Government to achieve a better society for all.

My fellow Singaporeans, this is my mission. But I can only do it with your help. Let us set our hearts to do it. Together we can. I shall be your voice and the heart of the nation.

Thank you.


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