Friends and fellow Singaporeans,
Tonight is the one night I am permitted to hold this mass rally to talk to you in person. I shall use this opportunity to explain to you why I seek this office of the President and what I intend to achieve on your behalf.
Tonight I will walk with you through the history of our past Presidents. We must know where we came from and only then will we know where we are heading.
Our first President was Encik Yusoff bin Ishak. He was a good President who fought for the independence of Singapore. He was a ceremonial President, a Man of the People and a Freedom Fighter. When he died, he was given a State Funeral and buried at Kranji State Cemetery.
Our second President was Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares, a much respected ceremonial President and an eminent doctor. The Sheares Bridge is named for him. He was a very popular President and cared deeply for the people but unfortunately he died rather early.
Our third President is Mr Devan Nair, another Freedom fighter who was jailed by the colonial government and set free in 1959 when the PAP took power. He worked hard for the people and launched the NTUC. As a trade unionist, he was a street fighter and when he was elevated to the Presidency, he continued to speak up for various causes and this was where he overstepped his ceremonial role. He was then labeled an alcoholic and removed from office.
Mr Wee Kim Wee succeeded Mr Devan Nair. As a journalist and diplomat with no political base, he nevertheless succeeded in becoming the People’s President.
Our first Elected President was Mr Ong Teng Cheong, former DPM, who took the custodial role of the Presidency very seriously. He asked for information on the Reserves but was turned down and told it took too many man-years for the information to be churned out. Why did they not just use more men to process this information? That was his first falling out with the PAP government that he worked for, for so many years. When he died of cancer, he was not accorded a state funeral.
President Nathan became our President for 12 years. He was the only candidate in both Presidential elections and walked in without a contest due to the decision of the Presidential Elections Committee. As an ex-civil servant without a political base, he fulfilled the role of a ceremonial President but lightly exercised his custodial powers vis-a-vis the Reserves and key appointments in specified state organisations.
We cannot overly fault him because the way that the Elected Presidency is structured required him to take counsel from the appointed wise men in the Presidential Council on the one hand, and the government, on the other. If he disagrees with their advice, his veto will have to go to the government and the latter can overturn his veto by a two-thirds vote in Parliament.
In the past, the President was appointed by the Prime Minister. But 20 years ago, the Constitution was amended 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 perform his duty of providing checks and balances on the Government.
Five key areas are specified in the Constitution -
1. National reserves,
2. Key appointments,
3. Detentions under the Internal Security Act,
4. Investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and
5. Restraining Orders in connection with the maintenance of religious harmony.
Power of veto
The President has the power of veto over the Government in these 5 areas. All 5 areas are important but I will focus my discussion on the first 2 to show how they affect the day-to-day life of Singaporeans. The President should and will exercise his veto power if he believes that the Government is trying to raid the reserves and spend them extravagantly on unnecessary projects; this is your money and if the Government requires it, I as President will make sure that it is well spent on meaningful projects that benefit Singaporeans directly such as schools and hospitals. On key appointments, I will scrutinize the background and track record of all Government appointees who come before me for confirmation. I will ensure that only true talented Singaporeans are appointed who are motivated by a sense of public service and not by huge financial rewards. Re-appointments will also be subject to the same scrutiny. Only such a system of intense scrutiny will ensure the integrity and independence of key institutions such as the civil service, the judiciary and investment agencies. Singaporeans deserve this as their daily lives and savings are at stake.
For too long, you have been accustomed to the idea that the President has a limited ceremonial and diplomatic role. But then why the need for an Elected Presidency, with such a generous salary? I believe, a President, acting with courage, has real powers under our Constitution.
In seeking the Presidency, I am not motivated by personal ambition or monetary gain. As an ex-civil servant, I have always been driven by public service. Rather than receiving over $25 million for 6 years, I intend to return the bulk of the President’s pay to the People if I am elected.
Let me now briefly speak in Bahasa and Mandarin before coming back to speak in English again.
Message in Bahasa
SALAM SIR-JAH-TER-RUR SINGAPURA.
SIR-PURR-TEE YOUNG ANDA TE-LAH TA-HU DEE AN-TA-RA URM-PART CHA-LON YOUNG BER-TARN-DING CAR-LEE INI, SAYA LAH YOUNG PA-LING BAY-BUS DA-REE PENG-NGAH-ROH PAP.
DAN SAYA AKAN JUGA MEM-BER-REE ANDA SOH-KONG-NGAN SE-BAR-GAI SUA-RA UNTUK MENYAH-TOO-KAN RAKYAT.
SAYA LA-YAK MEN-JA-DEE PRESIDEN KERA-NA SAYA BER-SATU HATI DENG-NGAN ANDA DE-MEE UNTUK KE-MA-JOO-WAN NEGARA.
SAYA JUGA ING-NGIN MENG-OO-CHAP-KARN SELAMAT BERPUASA DAN SALAM EYE-DEEL FIT-TREE.
UNDI LAH SAYA SE-BAR-GAI PRESIDEN BARU ANDA.
Message in Mandarin
Let me speak in Mandarin.
今年五月， 新加坡选民已經选出了一个政府， 現在你們又有另一个机会选出一名总统來监督与制衡政府， 让政府加倍努力工作， 提髙人民各种福利。
记住8月27日， 星期六， 投下您的神圣一票給陳如斯Tan Jee Say. 选票上有个心的瞟誌旁打个叉字。
Change is inevitable. Change has already come upon us. Without us even noticing, the old guard of our government over the years passed away or retired and were replaced by younger career politicians. The government of today is not the government that our parents entrusted their lives and the lives of their families to, in decades past. This government needs to be challenged and checked, if we do not want it to become complacent.
First, I intend to change the direction of the Presidency, to move it much closer to the aspirations of the People. To do that, I cannot remain within the ivory gates of the Istana. I must move among the people and initiate programs that will galvanize the young and the young at heart, and harness their energies to build a better Singapore. At the same time I will do my utmost to help the poor, the sick, the under-privileged, the retrenched and the unemployed. I believe that in a fast moving society such as Singapore many will be left behind to live quiet desperate lives. It is the duty of the President to use his moral authority to help bridge the widening social divisions in our society. In order to do that, the President must have the courage to question the government judiciously, and encourage them to do better, always better. The President needs to exercise his powers independently, without fear or favour. We Singaporeans have had such a President before, and we need such a President again, now.
I believe that Singaporeans are thirsting for change. We want a greater democracy. We wish to be heard and long for a more equal and more just society. The May 7 General Election has shown very clearly that Singaporeans desire change. They are not happy to be patronized and to be talked down to as if they are juveniles. There are many things that are not right in our society. The Internal Security Act has caused much pain and suffering and only history will tell how many innocents were put away and condemned.
As a President with custodial powers over the Reserves I intend to encourage the government to do more and utilize it to invest it for the benefit of the people.
I shall also examine more closely the appointments to government bodies, statutory bodies and government linked companies. I believe that there is an over concentration of power – too few people holding too many portfolios within the government. As a result we find the same individuals occupying many different board memberships. This is not good for Singapore as it does not allow the younger aspirants a chance to develop their skills, acumen and exposure for higher office. The President should look into casting the net further, and asking whether the various proposals for appointments are as thorough and robust as they should be.
Just as the government is accountable to the people, the Elected President should also be similarly accountable to the people who elect him. However, up to now, there is not a single annual report detailing what the President has done over the past twelve years. Until this year we were not even aware that the President does not have the power of pardon in capital cases and that he must take direction from the government. Thus the appeal to the President for clemency is but an illusion, raising false hopes for the families of the condemned. I intend to introduce greater transparency into the working of the Presidency by issuing an Annual Report to the People detailing all the custodial, ceremonial, diplomatic, and social/political functions that he has performed during the year.
Let me share with you some of my beliefs …
In times of economic uncertainty, we must look within, within Singapore. We cannot count on multinational corporations, or these casinos. We must look to ourselves, our own people, our own talents.
I want to build up our young, encourage the government to provide pre-school education for all Singaporeans, but not the type of education that is all about tests and scoring the highest marks. Our children should enjoy their childhood, and at the same time, be prepared for the reality of the working world by building up their confidence, resilience and problem-solving abilities.
I want to build up our youth, make university education much more accessible, and beyond that, allow them their dreams and aspirations, fund grants that enable them to create and innovate.
I want to build up our fellow Singaporeans, a truly meritocratic society needs to level the playing field, make up for children who come from families where parents do not have university degrees. We can offer more bursaries and scholarships to help our Malay and Indian students to do even better in schools and encourage them to pursue the activities they are talented in.
I want to build up our families. We should not have to worry so much about our jobs, our kids, our future. I want a Singapore where people love our country so much they want to have more children, and their children want to grow old here and have more children.
I want to build up our home-grown businesses. The government-linked companies are too huge and starve out Singaporean small and medium-sized enterprises, stifling the growth of our own talent and limiting the potential for the growth of robust and resilient home-grown industries. The business of government is not to do business.
I want to take care of our elderly. I am glad that now, our elderly can enjoy subsidized bus fares throughout the day instead of only at certain times. I want to ask if it is necessary for so many indirect taxes to be levied on the people of Singapore. Such as the maid levy, Hong Kong got rid of it in the last economic recession. Who benefits from the money collected? Many families depend on maids to give their elderly parents personalized care, and the burden on them should be lessened.
I want to take care of those who need help, the handicapped, the homeless, the learning disabled. We cannot be a society that leaves our own people behind in the pursuit of material gains that are never enough.
These are my beliefs, this is the Singapore I want to see. I am sharing with you what is in my heart for Singapore.
I believe in you. Give me your trust, and together we can build a Singapore for our tomorrows, not our yesterdays.
In order to achieve these goals, Singapore needs an Independent President to do his job, and to do it well. Merdeka!
My Fellow Singaporeans, very soon you will be going to the polling booth on August 27 to vote in a new President. This is the first real contest in 18 years. I am honoured to stand before you today asking for your vote. The PEC has certified me as a candidate of integrity, good character and reputation. It also certified me as having such experience and ability in financial affairs that I can effectively carry out the functions and duties of the President. I know that the journey is a long and hard one. But if I walk it together with you, I know for sure that we will complete our journey side by side. I know that ordinary Singaporeans like you will have the courage to vote for change. You stood up decisively on May 7 and showed the way for others to follow. So come 27 August, vote with your heart. Put a cross next to the symbol of the heart, the heart of the nation. And if you choose ME to be YOUR next President, we shall walk hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart to the door of the Istana and together we can claim Singapore as the nation we love, we share as we celebrate OUR new beginning. YOU have that power to make a change. Use it. And VOTE me to be YOUR next President.
Thank you and good night.