'I will tell ministers what I think'

Dr Tan Cheng Bock has hinted at how he would approach his duties if elected as president and listed instances on how he stood up to fellow colleagues from the People's Action Party (PAP).

While he might not be able to initiate change, Dr Tan says he saw no reason why he could not give his "two cents' worth" to a minister on issues.

The 71-year-old filed his eligibility certificate in his presidency bid on Friday and spoke to reporters at a press conference held at Bayview Hotel on how he had "earned trust over the years by standing up for Singaporeans."

He listed instances when he stood up to his PAP colleages, such as on the issues of streaming pupils in the 1980s, and how he fought for Central Provident Fund savings to be used for tertiary education.

He also voted against the Nominated MP (NMP) scheme, despite the party Whip not being lifted, as he felt that Parliament was for elected MPs, and it was not right to allow non-elected MPs.

He even drew criticism from Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the past when he voiced his opinions on foreign talent.

"I cannot say that the PAP has done me wrong or something. I think I'm quite grateful to the PAP. It's from the PAP I developed to where I am today," said Dr Tan.

But he stressed that his track record shows that he dared to speak up if he felt things were not right.

"I don't toe the party line all the time," he said.

There has been recent debate on the president's powers on whether the president can offer views outside his areas of duty.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam issued a statement two weeks ago, reiterating that Singapore's system of government is a parliamentary one, not a presidential one.

When asked what he thought about the president speaking on issues outside the constitutional limits, Dr Tan hinted that his views, which he will give later, might spark more discussion.

"Many of you all think that the president is so caged that he can't do any damn thing. No, he's not," he said.

He assured that he will speak about the issue in the near future and reveal exactly what he wants to do as a president.

"You can be assured of that. And I will not mince my words," said Dr Tan.

klim@sph.com.sg


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