9 Aug 2005

Presidential contest - panic in the PAP?

Spotted at NewSintercom. A contest that was being billed as a non-starter and merely a matter of returning the presidency to Nathan is suddenly starting to get interesting.

Ever since Andrew Kuan announced his intention to seek the presidency, Singaporeans have been treated to an unaccustomed spectacle – the PAP coming out with all guns blazing, almost as if they're in panic.

Daily since Andrew Kuan was first mentioned by the Straits Times on Friday 5 August, PAP politicians and the media have been badmouthing him. He has been described as arrogant, too full of himself, and now dirt is being dug up by the New Paper about something that might or might not have happened at a condominium.

Minister Lim Swee Say today was quoted by the Sunday Times as saying that Singaporeans should not hope for a contest in the presidential election just for the sake of it.

What matters more is whether those who want to run for president have the qualities to perform the duties of the highest post in the land, the Sunday Times reported him to have said.

Lim was reacting no doubt to a heightened interest on the part of the public, in the presidential contest that had just days before looked like it would be another walk-over.

Of course, the rejoinder is: who is going to decide whether someone is qualified? Shouldn't it be the electorate? Isn't that what elections are for?

But not in Singapore though. Like in Ayatollah-ruled Iran, interested candidates must first be prequalified by unelected guardians of the faith (the PAP faith in Singapore's case). Only safe candidates can be presented to voters.

Was Lim preparing the public for a disqualification?

Andrew Kuan has to obtain a COE – not a certificate of entitlement to buy a car, but a certificate of eligibility – before he can stand for election. Two issues now appear to possibly stand in his way.

The committee determining eligibility has to decide firstly, whether his job (2001 - 2004) as the Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), which Kuan says has $11 billion in assets, is equivalent to management experience leading a company with at least $100 million in paid-up capital – one of the statutory requirements for eligibility.

Secondly, whether he is a person of "good character and standing" – the other statutory condition.

It is possibly difficult to persuade the public that a CFO of JTC is not sufficiently experienced, and thus to disqualify him on this ground would create a credibility nightmare for the PAP and for future presidential elections. Having said that, we should remember that the PAP has often enough undermined electoral systems and state institutions whenever their party fortunes were at risk, so if they're not confident that Nathan can win reelection, I won't be at all surprised if Kuan's CFO experience is ruled as insufficient, never mind what people in the street think, never mind the damage it does to already low public respect for the electoral system.

The less nightmarish course would be to disqualify Kuan on the ground that he is not of good character. Hence, the determined effort you see now to dig up dirt on him.

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Anonymous said...

Based on Straits Times report. I'm convinced that Kuan is a scheming opportunist, arrogant and embroiled in numerous conflicts. He is not qualified to be president according the the newspaper because he is not CEO of a company. Also, look at all the pictures of him in the STRAITS Times, he look so evil and sinister. Just compare him will friend Nathan - no fight lah.

soci said...

I am rather surprised that your comment starts, "Based on Straits Times report", referring to that bastion of independednt journalism.

But I do agree that anyone going up against Nathan would have one hell of a battle on their hands.

clyde said...

I don't know which judgment is worse. The one based on the Straits times, or the one based on his "evil" looks. It's well known that George W. Bush looks like a monkey but that didn't stop him from being President of the USA. In any case, I'd take the sinister-looking one over the sinister one any day. Like the boys at South Park said, the battle for power is always going to be between the giant duchebag and the turd sandwhich anyway.

Oh..and happy National Day to all S'poreans.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andrew Kuan is about to be sued for defamation for making defamatory remarks against a PAP member. Not only is he NOT going to be President or be allowed to run, he will be made a BANKRUPT like all the past serious opponents of the PAP. Kuan has stated his intention not to be a passive ceremonial President, this has ring alarm bells. He must will be made a bankrupt.

They will make sure he is destroyed effectively. Don't support him okay. Its a waste of time. Singaporeans must learn to obey the PAP. If people like Kuan dare to come forward to change things, then what will happen? Like Wong Kan Seng said, Singaporeans have to obey the laws. Some of the laws are written laws and there are other laws that are not written.

Kuan did not obey. He will be crushed like cockcroach.

akikonomu said...

The PAP believes in its time-honoured election tactics, like suing the pants off people. All the more reason why Singaporeans should not let the PAP get its way this time.

atreidai said...

Sometimes, it seems that there's a glimmer of hope for true democracy in singapore when people like Kuan step up. But then the huge PAP machine more often than not, prevails at the end of the day. I wonder how effective change can really happen? From working within the PAP itself maybe? Or will the next generation of "politicians" "sell out" as well?

soci said...

Hi Atreidai

I am not so sure that they sell out. I think it might be a matter of having to toe the party line or you are out.

In the UK even within the Labour Party who are now in power, there is group known as the 'back benchers' and they will speak out against their own party policies.

In fact Robin Cook resigned from a very high position because of the Iraq war. Regretfully he died a few days ago, but there are others who will continue to speak out even against their own party policies.

I think the significant difference comes from a severe lack of 'self-censorship' here in the UK. Sg politicians would argue that self-censorship and a united front leads to stability and on to economic success for the nation.

Anonymous said...

Referring to Anonymous 4.17 who says "He is not qualified.....because he is not CEO of a company."

Well, our ex-President, Dr Wee Kim Wee, wasn't a CEO nor a graduate at all but was a "people-president"! But I think more important is someone who is honest, sincere and has the wish to serve the nation like Dr Wee Kim Wee. Someone who is able to influence and make constructive changes in policy-making and not a mere "puppet" (Mr Nathan seems one to me) and gets his "big fat salary" every month throughout the 6-year term. I thought there is another contestant who is a lawyer who'd submitted his application on the last day. Yet to know PAP has really been able to "let go" of this opportunity to have an "outsider" to take up this position, which I doubt it.

Anonymous said...


(excerpts from Yawning Bread's column "Let him stand, let me vote")

"It was clear to me the moment I saw the picture (of Andrew Kuan submitting his application for a certificate of eligibility, with retired Archbishop Moses Tay beside him) in the Straits Times, that Kuan is playing the religious card. He showed up to submit his papers for eligibility with the former Archbishop of the Anglican Church in tow.

You may say retired Archbishop Moses Tay is a citizen like any other, so why not? But when a person has reached such a position, he cannot even in retirement pretend that his very presence anywhere does not have significance.

On a separate note, Moses Tay is particularly objectionable to gays and lesbians. Andrew Kuan's association with this cleric will probably render his candidacy toxic.

Tay is infamous for his rabidly homophobic actions. In the late 1990s when he headed the Anglican Church in Singapore and Southeast Asia, he was one of the leaders of the anti-gay wing of the Anglican Communion. This wing wanted to oust the American churches for being tolerant of gay and lesbian parishioners and clergy.

Here is a man who was divisive, extremist even by the standards of his own church, and contemptuous of established constitutional order in the church of which he was an office-bearer.

Is Kuan going to follow Tay's example when it comes to defending the Constitution of Singapore?

I don't know if Andrew Kuan shares Moses Tay's homophobic views, but just by bringing the retired Archbishop along to a politically significant (let alone media-covered) event, and letting Tay speak to the media, suggests both a lack of judgment on Kuan's part, and every indication that they share similar positions.

Unless Kuan dissociates himself from Moses Tay's homophobic stance, unless he wises up and not play with the fire of religious identity, you will not find me supporting him."

(full article in http://www.yawningbread.org/index2.htm)

Anonymous said...

First, PAP promotes Mah Bow Tan to be the next Acting PM. Tony Tan, present Acting PM, says that he will complete his 2 current assigned projects by end of August. Isn't this obvious that PAP only selects and guards their power very well?

clyde said...

Well, to be fair to Mr Kuan regarding gay rights, what is the current president doing that makes him any better? The last I heard, gay pride parade was 'banned'.

Anonymous said...

Kuan is finito. Defamation lawsuit, complaints about his job performance, complaints about his job hopping. What kind of person is this clown. He is in so much trouble, how to be president. We want our president to be approved one, like honourable Nathan at least more presentable. You see Nathan's smiling face also feel better, this Kuan guy don't even know how to smile.

Anonymous said...


Singapore hopeful tries for political hole-in-one

By Sebastian Tong

SINGAPORE, Aug 12 (Reuters) - In a corner of Andrew Kuan's
three-bedroom, book-cluttered apartment hangs a photo of him,
grinning as he receives a trophy from former Singapore Prime
Minister Goh Chok Tong. "That was in 2002 when I scored a
hole-in-one in a golf tournament," said the 51-year-old chartered
accountant, who has created a stir by seeking to run for president
in the city-state, a largely ceremonial but potentially powerful

The political establishment has turned decidedly less cordial
after Kuan, a member of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP),
emerged last week as a possible contender in what had been seen as a
second-term shoo-in for the 81-year-old government-backed incumbent,
S.R. Nathan, a former internal security chief.

An unknown before his surprise bid, Kuan has come under attack for
his employment record. This week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
called on him to be "completely open" about his past.

On Thursday, the government agency that employed Kuan as chief
financial officer for three years issued a public statement saying
that he was asked to resign after an "unsatisfactory" performance.
It would not give details.

State-controlled media have also cited the unhappiness of another
former employer, water treatment firm Hyflux , over not knowing of
Kuan's "ambitions" when it hired him.

Kuan told Reuters he was unperturbed by the adverse publicity as
he was "physically, mentally and spiritually prepared".

"I believe in the letter of the Singapore Constitution and the
spirit of the national pledge," he said. "It's for all of Singapore
to see if we are a truly democratic society based on justice,
equality and meritocracy."


Kuan is one of three candidates seeking to enter the race against
the incumbent. But he is the most likely to meet the strict
requirements for the post, which has custodial powers over the
city-state's vast reserves of $116 billion.

Before facing Singapore's 2.1 million eligible voters, candidates
must display experience in heading a state body or a firm with
minimum capital of S$100 million ($61 million).

Kuan, an avid reader of political biographies and motivational
books, said he decided six years ago to run for the post, which has
been uncontested since 1993.

Singapore's constitution was modified in 1991 changing a
government-appointed post to an electoral one and giving the office
veto power over government budgets.

Garry Rodan, Director of Murdoch University's Asia Research Centre
in Australia, said the government's response to Kuan's bid throws
into question its promise for greater openness.

"If he is deemed ineligible for the contest in spite of a lack of
any wrongdoing on his part, then the government displays a complete
lack of confidence in the Singapore people to judge for themselves,"
he said.

This could have consequences for the ruling party in the next
general elections, expected later this year, he said.

Kuan, however, insisted he was not interested in testing political
limits in the wealthy Southeast Asian state.

"I'm just doing what the Constitution allows me to. I am
pro-Singapore and not anti-PAP ... Let the people see if we really
walk the talk," said the father of two adult children.


Prior to his government stint, Kuan ran his own business
consulting firm for more than 13 years and worked in foreign
multinational companies.

The eighth of 15 children, Kuan said his father became a locksmith
to support the family after he lost his goldsmith business. "I have
known hardship," he said.

Kuan said he joined the ruling party six years ago to better
understand its inner workings ahead of his bid: "They are very
well-organised. It's a systematic and well-oiled machine. I've
learnt from the best."

The first directly elected president, Ong Teng Cheong, was openly
critical of the government, complaining that information about
Singapore's national reserves was withheld from him in spite of his
custodial role.

His successor, former civil servant Nathan, has had a more
harmonious relationship with the government since his tenure began
in 1999. A government-appointed committee will determine by August
17 if Kuan or the other two applicants can run. If the presidency is
contested, the election will be held on August 27.