Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Opportunity for last legacy by President Nathan

We are only days away from the first contested presidential election in 18 years and come 1 September, the winner of the contest will assume the mantle of Singapore's 7th Head of State.

But until then, the incumbent, President S R Nathan, is technically still the defacto president and in my book, it means that he should still be able to exercise the powers entrusted to him by the Constitution.

If ever there was a time for us to call upon the powers of the president to check a potentially rogue government, now would certainly qualify as the time to do so given the impropriety of the actions (as I see it) of the People's Association (PA) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) in annexing public spaces for and on behalf of the People's Action Party (PAP).

He may not have the executive authority to take the government to task but he does have the moral authority to register his objections and call upon the prime minister to do the right thing.

President Nathan, whose term of office only expires at the end of the month, now has an opportunity to leave a legacy that will ensure him a permanent place in the annals of Singapore folk lore as a president who, when the time called for it, stood up against a government that had overstepped its authority.

No matter how you look at it, the disclosure of the transfer of 26 plots of public spaces from the HDB to PA in Aljunied GRC and the application to similarly transfer six plots in Hougang SMC can be seen as an attempt by the PAP to subvert the role and functions of two otherwise politically neutral organizations for its own purposes and not in the interest of the people.

I would urge President Nathan to censure the PAP-led government for bringing disrepute and putting into doubt the neutrality of the civil service, for staining the good name of PA and HDB, and for abusing the moral authority vested by 60.1% of the electorate during the May general election.

This will also serve as an acid test of the moral authority and independence of the presidency, and establish a concrete precedent for the exercise of the president's powers.

In addition, the president should also rebuke PA and HDB for allowing themselves to be drawn into partisan politics. This will help to set the tone for how all branches of the civil service should interact with the elected representatives of the people, irrespective of their political leanings.

President Nathan also has an opportunity to right a wrong by ensuring that all elected members of parliament are appointed as grassroots advisors, thereby granting them access to and use of PA premises such as community clubs. This would provide a level playing field for all elected representatives and their opposites.

In the current context, only PAP politicians, win or lose, are appointed by the government as grassroots advisors. This gives an undue and undeserved advantage to the PAP, including its losing candidates who in all actuality have been rejected by the constituents.

If we truly want to see our political landscape mature, we must, through the office of the president, insist on changes to the rules of political engagement to level the playing field, insist on accountability by political parties if they have gone beyond the bounds of propriety and decency, and insist on not having our intelligence insulted.

Enough is enough; Singaporeans have grown tired of the childish politicking of the PAP and would rather see a more mature engagement of political parties and the people.

It is my hope that the president, be it the incumbent or the next to be elected by the people, will lead the way.


Anonymous said...

Your post reminds me of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

Specifically Scrooge's encounter with the Ghost of Christmas yet to come.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge.
“But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

"I am not the man I was.
I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse.
Why show me this, if I am past all hope!...
I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.
I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.
Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

Anonymous said...

Actually he has no moral authority either. You must remember that he was never elected by anybody.

Anonymous said...

Ya, he's just there to collect his mthly due and uses them to expand his Haig Rd castle, till a few of his neigbours were annoyed and rejected his offer to sell.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Nathan
You had one last chance to rise to the occasion and be recorded in Singapore's history in a very different light.

The moment has come and gone.

And your chapter in Singapore's history draws to a close.

“If ye love wealth greater than liberty,
the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom,
go home from us in peace.
We seek not your counsel, nor your arms.
Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you;
and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
– Samuel Adams

Anonymous said...

So long as prata remains one of our favourite, long will the Prata Man be remembered.
The thing is; remembered for what? A stench that will never go away.