12 Aug 2005

Reuters' Interview with Andrew Kuan

Posted anonymously in an earlier comment section. I will post the link to the original article if I can track it down.

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 post.

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.


Anonymous said...

-----"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."-----

This Kuan guy is a delusional dreamer. Singapore a Truly Democratic society? What a joke. After all the lies and half truths that he has been viciously attacked with, I must hand it to him that he hasn't run away like Tang Liang Hong.

The PAP smears who ever dares to step forward. It is suicidal to try to work towards the progress of Singapore

soci said...

Maybe he is a delusional dreamer, better that, than accept reality. All sounds rather Matrixesque don't you think.

It could also be viewed as Andrew Kuan doing some stand up comedy in the form of parody. The rhetoric of the PAP is there and so is the constitution but it seems to be being done so badly as to appear to be an intentional mockery of the rhetoric of the ruling party.

akikonomu said...

soci, surely you must believe in Singapore's Festival of Democracy?

Anonymous said...

Don't miss the obvious: Andrew Kuan has already won. PAP reactions are proof of this.

soci said...

a vote against nathan will be viewed as a vote against the pap.

Anonymous said...


Businessman vows to press on with Singapore presidency bid

SINGAPORE, Aug 12 (AFP) - A Singaporean businessman who has threatened to quit the ruling party and run for president vowed Friday to pursue his bid despite comments from former employers casting doubts on his credentials.

"I will persevere to the end," Andrew Kuan told AFP after his state-linked former employers, industrial developer JTC Corp., said he had been asked to leave because of unory performance.

Kuan, 51, who was JTC Corp.'s group chief financial officer from 2001 to 2004, was given chances to improve his performance and was even counselled on his shortcomings by chief executive officer Cheong Lit Cheong, it said.

"On a personal note, I will say that he's friendly," Cheong was quoted as saying in the Straits Times Friday.

"But on a professional work front... we were not satisfied with the performance."

Meanwhile, water treatment company Hyflux, where Kuan worked as the regional chief financial officer for a joint venture with a Middle Eastern-based firm, released a statement saying he would not have been hired if they had known of his presidential ambition.

Kuan, who now runs his own company, surprised the political establishment last week when he declared plans to run for president and quit the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) if declared eligible.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has publicly backed President S.R. Nathan's bid for a second term.

If Kuan is allowed to run, Singapore will have its first contested presidential election in 12 years. Nathan won his current six-year term in 1999 when no other candidate was certified.

Kuan's spokesman Francis Mah said it was now up to the Presidential Elections Committee to issue Kuan a certificate of eligibility so that he could contest the polls on August 27.

The final list of qualified candidates will be released on August 17.

Under Singapore's stringent electoral rules, anyone who wants to be a presidential candidate must first get a certificate of eligibility from the three-member Presidential Elections Committee.

Any candidate must first have been a cabinet minister, chief justice, parliamentary speaker or senior civil servant. Otherwise, he must have run a company or government-linked business with a market capital of at least 100 million Singapore dollars.

lee hsien tau said...

I think I'll vote for Andrew Kuan unless Nathan gets an ACCA qualification within the next 2 weeks.

Anonymous said...

An Indian President with an 'N' has never gone 2 terms ...

Asia Press Service said...


SINGAPORE - 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.

Mr Nathan's office could not be reached for comment.

soci said...

an anonymous commentator is posting reports that appear to be from reputable sources but are not. As a result comments from anonymous sources are going to be denied.

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