Sunday, July 24, 2011
Too Much Too Little Too Late
I am dedicating this song to President Sellapan Ramanathan in honour of his new-found determination.
Suddenly, he has woken up from his two terms of slumber. He has been in the news almost daily to show that he intends to leave the office that pays him millions annually on a high note.
In doing so, he has shown an unprecedented resolve to ensure that he does not go down in Singapore’s history books as this country's most uninspiring and notoriously silent elected President, when compared to the legacies left by the late Presidents Wee Kim Wee and Ong Teng Cheong.
Yesterday, taking a page from at least one presidential contender Tan Cheng Bock, he was seen on television attending the World Cup qualifying match between Singapore and Malaysia.
To show that he is in the know about his position as defender of minority rights in this constitutional democracy, he has attended separate events for such communities in Singapore; one day he was launching a book on the origins of Indians and another day he was promoting the very unhealthy but tasty dish called ‘briyani’ at a mosque.
If that wasn’t enough, he followed another example from presidential contenders Tan Kin Lian and Dr Tony Tan, to comment on matters that are in the realm of the Executive.
Addressing the Malay-Muslim community leadership, he expressed concern about divorces rates within the community. He has remarked, “The other day I went to see the foster mothers. The large number of Malay foster mothers looking after children. These are not orphans who have lost their parents. We should bring it down through education and counselling."
I have always respected the office of President. But last year, I found myself unable to respect the leadership of the current President. At the National Day Parade, the President, instead of walking shoulder to shoulder with the many men and women who dedicate their lives to our armed services, chose to depart from tradition and inspect the guard-of-honour from a motor vehicle. This was billed as the "first presidential drive past inspection on the Padang (using the SAF ceremonial Land Rover)". To me, however, it reflected a presidency disconnected or out of touch with the people of Singapore.
Compare this to a Singapore of yesteryear: the President of this country led the parade in his full suit, while the rain pelted the sacred grounds of Padang. The President stood there with his unbendable resolve to set an example for the many men and women at that parade. In that process, he inspired a whole generation of youths, one of whom would go on one day to be the Prime Minister of Singapore.
Some of my friends tell me I am being unduly harsh to the President as, taking into account his ripe age, he has achieved much. They say he was a very elderly man by the time he put himself for presidential elections, when he really could have chosen to stay away from the limelight and spend time with his many children. With the benefit of hindsight, he perhaps should have.
As a Singaporean, it only leaves me to wish him a retirement that is as remarkably silent as his presidency.
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?
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