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PE2017: Mad at the G

The Middle Ground logo The Middle Ground 11/9/2017 Bertha Henson

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by Bertha Henson


Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

I AM really mad at the G. Mad because I can’t signal how mad I am with it. Mad that I didn’t even get to spoil my vote to underline how mad I am with it. I can hear the politicians now saying that the process is open and transparent, the electoral system has happened and so let’s all get behind the (sole) victor. After all, walkovers are common and it can’t be helped that more qualified Malays didn’t step up to the fore.

I am mad that the multiracial argument was used to justify a reserved presidency. If anyone had openly pointed out that there has been no Malay president since Yusof Ishak and we should make arrangements for one, he or she would have been shouted down for being a chauvinist. He or she would have been told to stand behind our meritocratic ideals, rather than ask for affirmative action. Because affirmative action it is, despite all the spin the G wants to put on it.

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So it’s not a groundswell of Malay sentiment about the lack of a Malay president, just “rumblings’’ that made the G order a committee to come up with a way to insert a Malay into the job. Then we hear about how in an era of terror attacks, it might be good to have a multiracial (read: Malay) president. Or maybe not (Read our story on four interesting questions raised at the IPS forum).

I have been so worried about a reserved election taking place that I have been writing against it since day one, arguing that this coming election should be an open one to help disprove the notion that Singaporeans vote on the basis of skin colour. It would have been an open election if the five-term hiatus trigger’’ had started from the tenure of the late Ong Teng Cheong, who has suddenly been de-throned because of advice from the Attorney-General that we still know nothing about, which Parliament faithfully followed through because the Prime Minister said so, and which the courts say is irrelevant.

It would have been an open election if the five-term hiatus trigger’’ had started from the tenure of the late Ong Teng Cheong, who has suddenly been de-throned because of advice from the Attorney-General that we still know nothing about, which Parliament faithfully followed through because the Prime Minister said so, and which the courts say is irrelevant.

I am mad because the assumption is that citizens won’t know a good candidate when faced with a slate, and would pick any fellow because of skin colour, and not because he or she has brains or heart. Of course I hear the ceteris paribus argument – all things remaining equal, people will pick according to race. But people are NOT equal. Put up Madam Halimah Yacob against the slate that ran in the last Presidential Election and she could have won, albeit with a slim majority. But no, make her stand in a reserved election and she now has to say the appropriate words about being legitimately elected. I feel sorry for her, but glad that for the nation at least, the Establishment picked a good candidate for president.

I am mad because it’s farcical the way the Workers’ Party (WP) wasn’t able to get its adjournment motion discussed in Parliament because two People’s Action Party Members of Parliament (MP) suddenly had their own motions to table after the WP had made public its agenda. I’ve checked. There’s only been nine or 10 such motions since the 13th Parliament sat. Suddenly, we have three motions tabled in a spate of three days.

What has happened to the G’s conviction about the rightness of its views? It could have shouted down the WP MPs, but somehow it seemed to want the elections out of the way quickly. Call the WP “troublemakers’’ or what-have-you. Let them ventilate. There are people who agree with it. What’s this about tying up the deal as quickly as possible, especially one that most people don’t seem to endorse?

So it has been phrased as a tough judgment call, a hard choice made to secure the long-term future of Singapore. The G has acknowledged that it would have to pay a political price for this. It has asked why would it have done so if it knew it would be shooting itself in the foot. Here’s where the conspiracy theories come in. It wants someone out, it wants someone in. It wants at least six years with a co-operative president because the political gears at the top are shifting. Get this: Why would there be conspiracy theories if people could understand the “why’’? Is the G the only agency which cares for the Singapore’s future? Does it have a monopoly over concern for the country’s well-being?

This is all the G’s doing.

Racial questions are popping up, because people are being brought slap up against the knotty problem of who belongs to what ethnic group. Yet the G cannot tamp this down because it had opened the can of worms in the first place. Now, the discussion is described as “mature’’ when, in other instances, it would have been slapped down as being inimical to social order.

The G cannot take people’s acquiescence for granted, not even with a 70 per cent mandate.

People have suggested that it is irresponsible to spoil the vote. I can think of no other way to protest against the system. The G cannot take people’s acquiescence for granted, not even with a 70 per cent mandate. It should not pronounce that since Parliament has said so, so it must be so. Not with a House packed with its own MPs. And now that a walkover is likely, please let us not hear about the system being successful in producing a multi-racial presidency.

Oh, and please don’t throw the ball to the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) and say that it was the committee that disqualified the other two candidates. I pity the PEC too, because it would have been damned if it did and damned if it didn’t. What’s better? Allowing a contest and lay itself open to charges that it was being lenient to a race? Or disallowing a contest and be accused of paving the way for the Establishment candidate?

What a mess. This is the G’s doing.

The only good thing about PE2017 is that it is Madam Halimah who will be walking into the job. She is a good decent person with a good heart. She might have got my vote in an open election (I’ll have to see the rest). In a reserved election, however, I would consider a signal to the G more important than signaling my choice of candidate.

Now there’s no signal. Did anyone in the G go “phew”?

Featured image from TMG File.

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