Saturday, May 28, 2011

Open Letter to Presidential hopeful Tan Cheng Bock


Honourable Tan Cheng Bock Sir,

I welcome your willingness to put yourself up for selection and then election as the next President of Singapore. I can only hope that more individuals will follow your example, and put themselves up for selection and possible election.

I studied in schools not very far from the constituency where you were elected as a Member of Parliament, and where you enjoyed insurmountable popularity. Naturally, I have many friends who lived in your constituency. I am told you were game enough to attend some of their private celebrations and other events, notwithstanding your then busy schedule. I know you will be more than prepared for the ceremonial duties of the President but a President of my country is more than ceremonial.

The President of this great republic of ours is a defender of the constitution of my country and a protector of the faith in my country’s judiciary.

In this respect, I welcome the following remarks by you: “This country needs a unifying force. A unifying president... [who] can do the job of bringing together Singaporeans from all walks of life. Young and old, new citizens and old citizens.”

I recently learnt of your involvement in the detention without trial of some Singaporeans many years ago. This is documented to some level in the book, “Beyond the Blue Gate”, which was published just last year and can be purchased online. If you have not read it, you should.

The Court had decided that the detention was unlawful. I am given to understand that you were among those, who could not accept this. Your parliamentary comrades, with your support, used their dominant power in Parliament to deal with this unprecedented judicial courage. As a result of a move that you endorsed, the wings of my country’s Judiciary to review such matters have been clipped, for now.

This has left my country’s judiciary in an unfortunate situation. It is from time to time pelted with unfair allegations that it is not independent. We now have the sorry state, where a lot of judicial time and state resources are expended to deal with such allegations.

It is also public information that at least one of your parliamentary colleagues, who was in the Executive, resigned, among other reasons, over the decisions made in respect of this detention.

I think it is important for Singaporeans to scrutinise your support of this detention. I urge you to initiate a public discussion on this matter with the detainees, whose detention you supported.

If you wish to be a unifying force, reconciliation with these detainees must surely be the first step.

Further, I would like to know what you, if elected, will do to restore the powers once enjoyed by our Judiciary, and the steps you are likely to take to ensure that my country’s judges will not be unfairly accused of not being independent.

In closing, your remarks that the role of the President “is about principles, independence, common sense and the ability to ask the right questions and do the right things, without fear or favour” are felicitous.

One can argue that, without fear or favour, these are perhaps the right questions to ask of you, and the right things to request for you to do.

Dharmendra Yadav

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1 comment:

ehocs777 said...

The upcoming Executive Presidential Election has nothing to do with the PPSO (detention without trial). The Presidential Election is about electing a fellow-Singaporean who have the requisite qualifications and attributes of character who will be able to effectively carry out the role or responsibilities of ensuring that the National Reserves, built up by the blood and sweat of all Singaporeans, will not be squandered away by any ruling party of the day. The Elected Presidency is an executive post and hence the Holder of that highest post in our Land knows that his power is designated by the Constitution. So the Elected President must know that the use of the National Reserves has to be a matter of last resort. Also if at all there is a need to use any part of that Reserves, it must be for the best interest of the Nation. The other issue is that the National Reserves should first benefit the generation(s) that contributed to building up that Reserves. Every generation deserving enough to hold the Singapore Citizenship must contribute toward building up that Reserves. Only in this way can we help ensure Singapore's sustainability.

The PPSO (Preservation of Public Security Ordinance) is a legacy of our British colonial masters. This particular legislation also applies in Maysia and many countries that form the British Commonwealth. So let us not mess up things by making this piece of legislation an issue in the coming Elected Presidential Election.

Ho Cheow Seng