Sunday, July 17, 2011

More than meets the eye in Jee Say presidential bid?

Serial killers often display a pattern of murders before they earn their titles in criminology. For our presidential candidates, a metaphorical pattern of murder is also emerging: resigning from their respective political parties so as to kill their links with such organisations in attempts to declare new-found independence.

Tan Jee Say, in announcing his bid for the presidency, has not bucked this trend. However, can such trend-setters really be independent of the parties they once represented?

Inherent in this too is the pattern of another Tan emerging to mark his spot in the presidential race. My friend, Aaron Koh, of the dormant Mediaslut, candidly remarked, “You can shout "I vote for Mr Tan" and your vote is still a secret!”

Jee Say has trailed his guns on the criteria that entitles one to be President; the requirement that a person must have for at least 3 years been “chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency”, or been “in any other 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, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President”.

Jee Say is going to rely on his leadership position on a shelf company, which through affiliated or related entities managed over $100 million in assets. A friend has kindly pointed out to me that this reliance is kinked.

It was domestically reported, "As for fulfilling the eligibility criteria, Mr Tan said he was chief executive officer with the title of regional managing director of John Govett (Asia) and its successor company AIB Govett (Asia) from February 1, 1997 to March 6, 2001."

What domestic media was too kind to omit was an issue picked up by international media many years back. The international report noted, "The Asian crisis of 1997 to 1998 crippled Govett's business, which is largely focussed in Asia, and despite 'substantial restructuring' the business lacked the scale and was not expected to return to profitability in the near future."

Perhaps, if the state of Singapore’s national reserves are “crippled” or in need of “substantial restructuring”, Jee Say could make a strong candidate.

With such cards stacked against him, can Jee Say therefore pull it off?

This determination will now fall on the Presidential Elections Committee comprising a majority of public servants:
a. Eddie Teo, Chairman of the Public Service Commission
b. Chan Lai Fung, Chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (former Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Law)
c. Sat Pal Khattar – Member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights (founder of the split law firm KhattarWong)

The public service mentality is, when in doubt, reject – which is perhaps what is going to happen to Jee Say’s bid. Of course, such rejection means the decision may end up in court for judicial review.

If history is predictive, some great battles of the Singapore Democratic Party have been fought in the Singapore courts. It is these battles that have enabled the SDP to win sympathisers and become a household name.

Jee Say’s candidacy could be one such battle that is brewing. If that battle drags on in the courts and the judge hearing the matter is empathic, Singapore may end up without a President for some time.
In the context of the legal backgrounds of some its members, there can be little doubt that the Presidential Elections Committee will probably come out of such a battle victorious but bruised.

What it could also mean is that Jee Say would have effectively brought domestic scrutiny to bear on the process to elect a President. It would also give him the standing that he needs as an opposition leader to serve as a check and balance to the ruling party.

There is clearly more than meets the eye in Jee Say’s presidential bid. While his bid will help address the desire of many Singaporeans for a “non-PAP President whose independence of the PAP is clear, obvious and cannot be in doubt”, it will also give him the platform he needs to eventually hold political office. The sum total of this could well be that his place in Parliament in 2016 would be more or less secured.

Happiness,
Dharmendra Yadav

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

PEC members are appointees of the establishment; therefore they would likely follow the rules interpretations strictly without leeway.

I reckon the PEC's decision is final and even if challenged in court would prove to be futile other than generating some distracting political buzz.

TJS's credential is surely better than Andrew Kuan. But IMHO and casting TJS's own words, his eligibility is NOT 'clear, obvious and cannot be in doubt'.

contrarian said...

s18(9) of the Constitution prevents any judicial review of the decision of the PEC:
A decision of the Presidential Elections Committee as to whether a candidate for election to the office of President has fulfilled the requirement of paragraph (e) or (g) (iv) of Article 19 (2) shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal or review in any court.

Dharmendra Yadav said...

That may be true but it does not prevent anyone from making an application to the court for an appeal or review.

All this provision states is that the decision cannot be a subject of appeal or review.

It does not state that the procedure by which the decision is reached cannot be a subject of appeal or review.

And, as I said, such a challenge would not be mounted to reverse the decision, which as you correctly share is not reviewable. It will just be an application to capture mind-share on the arbitrary and less than transparent nature of the decision.

The said...

/// For our presidential candidates, a metaphorical pattern of murder is also emerging: resigning from their respective political parties so as to kill their links with such organisations in attempts to declare new-found independence.

Tan Jee Say, in announcing his bid for the presidency, has not bucked this trend. However, can such trend-setters really be independent of the parties they once represented? ///

What pattern? What serial killer? The fact is - candidates are required to be politically neutral and not belong to any political parties. Hence, the resignations.

All the other candidates have a few decades of association with the PAP. TJS only had a few months of aossciation with the SDP - not even long enough to warm his seat there.

Aurvandil said...

I did a blog posting on this.

http://singstatistician.blogspot.com/2011/07/tan-jee-say-master-tactician.html

They might be tempted to bend the rules to spark a 4 corner fight which will benefit Dr Tony Tan. This is however based on the assumption that Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr Tan Kin Lian stay in the race. If either one of them pull out, it will revert to a 3 corner or 2 corner race with Mr Tan Jee Say as a frontrunner.

Anonymous said...

'The sum total of this could well be that his place in Parliament in 2016 would be more or less secured'

I think it's too simplistic to conclude that his place would be more or less secured just because of his fight to be eligible for the Presidential election.

For TJS to submit his candidacy bid despite the suggestion that Govett's business could really worth much less during his period of management would speak volumes about the person. He should know the situation in the coy best.

IMHO, if the election committee could justify their reasons for rejection with clear facts, the decision should be respected.

Anonymous said...

"The Asian crisis of 1997 to 1998 crippled Govett's business, which is largely focussed in Asia, and despite 'substantial restructuring' the business lacked the scale and was not expected to return to profitability in the near future.". Unquote.

It was Asian Crisis, so naturally business operations in Asia were likely to have faced the brunt of it.

Can anyone kindly tell us voters, how was Govett's business after 1998 to to date?