What is a president for and how do we choose?

The coming presidential election is an interesting moment in Singapore politics. We’ve never really had a serious contest before — the last contested one in 1993 was a rather staged affair — and the office of the elected president is still a work in progress. What should the office be about? How much of a caged parrot should the poor sod be? How does one conduct an election campaign for a largely ceremonial office?

At the root of the issue is the fact that the elected president has no real power, except “blocking powers” in five areas:

The Constitution gives the elected president blocking powers in five narrowly defined areas: the spending of past reserves, key public service appointments, Internal Security Act detentions, Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act restraining orders and Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau investigations.

— Straits Times, 22 July 2011, President’s free speech: Lessons from Britain, by Elgin Toh

Even so, what exactly is meant by “blocking powers”? The actual power varies from one area to another, and sometimes the blocking power can be blocked.

In the area of key public service appointments, the Constitution allows the president to override  appointments or sackings by virtue of Article 22 (1)

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, the President, acting in his discretion, may refuse to make an appointment to any of the following offices or to revoke any such appointment if he does not concur . . .

The Constitution lists the appointments that he can override, and these include Supreme Court judges, Attorney-General, Auditor-General, military chiefs and the Commissioner of Police, Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.  However, the Constitution also says that Parliament by a two-thirds majority can overrule the president’s veto.

With respect to detentions under the Internal Security Act , Article 21 (2) (g) says

(2) The President may act in his discretion in the performance of the following functions:

(g) the withholding of concurrence under Article 151 (4) in relation to the detention or further detention of any person under any law or ordinance made or promulgated in pursuance of Part XII;

But 151(4) appears, by my reading, to limit this power. The president can only act if a conflict arises between an advisory board and the Executive. If you know anything about Singapore politics, the Executive would have long ago packed the advisory board with “reliable” people who would never dream of contradicting the wishes of the Executive, and thus the opportunity for a president to exercise his discretion will not arise. See this:

151 (4) Where an advisory board constituted for the purposes of this Article recommends the release of any person under any law or ordinance made or promulgated in pursuance of this Part, the person shall not be detained or further detained without the concurrence of the President if the recommendations of the advisory board are not accepted by the authority on whose advice or order the person is detained.

As for investigations of corruption, the president can override the prime minister’s blocking. Article 22G of the Constitution says:

Notwithstanding that the Prime Minister has refused to give his consent to the Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau to make any inquiries or to carry out any investigations into any information received by the Director touching upon the conduct of any person or any allegation or complaint made against any person, the Director may make such inquiries or carry out investigations into such information, allegation or complaint if the President, acting in his discretion, concurs therewith.

Outside of these five areas, the president’s functions are strictly governed by Article 21 (1):

Except as provided by this Constitution, the President shall, in the exercise of his functions under this Constitution or any other written law, act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet.

* * * * *

Any hope that the People’s Action Party (PAP) government would adopt a hands-off approach to the presidential election has now been dashed. While ministers themselves have been very careful to say nothing inappropriate, the mainstream media, widely recognised to be a propaganda tool when the need arises, have shown their hand. Veteran journalist P N Balji, writing in Yahoo!, noted that not only has Tony Tan, the former Deputy Prime Minister, been suddenly giving speeches all over town, his

 . . public pronouncements, though lacking in real news value, have been getting a lot of media exposure. The latest saw most of the newspapers giving the views of Dr Tan, the former chairman of the Singapore Press Holdings, Page One treatment, with The Straits Times going further by also reporting nearly every twist and turn of his quotes in a full page inside and using excerpts of his speech in the comment section.

— Yahoo Singapore news, 20 June 2011, Where is the new normal in ISngapore politics? by P N Balji. Link

The Sunday Times scraped the bottom of the  “insulting our intelligence” barrel when on 24 July 2011 it published this photo of Tony Tan and wife “lending a helping hand”:

It had all the hallmarks of a posed picture. The stupendously pregnant question is why nobody in the newsroom saw what a huge turn-off this kind of heavy-handed propaganda was. In a more educated, newly-politicised electorate, such shameless selling backfires.

So, how should a presidential election campaign proceed? I have the feeling that, precisely because the actual powers of the office are so few, voters will be deciding even less on a rational basis, and more on an emotional basis than was the case in the recent general election. Since there is almost no decision that any president makes that will impact our lives under normal circumstances, there is nothing to weigh rationally in terms of pros and cons.

Yet, people have to decide whom to vote for, and so two factors, which are always present in any election, will now come completely to the fore in this one: likeability and affinity.

* * * * *

Likeability is hard to define, but easy to grasp. Some people are just more approachable and have better intuition as to the level of engagement desired by whoever they meet. They extend warm handshakes, they appear genuine, and they are able to listen and respond with sincerity and goodwill. They know how to adjust their formality/informality to suit the comfort level of the other person and the context, and they also have a good sense about other people at the back of the crowd, with whom verbal engagement may not be possible because of distance, but eye-contact, a wave, a broad smile or a nod is freely given as acknowledgement in lieu.

Affinity is a different thing. It is what the person represents by way of values. People will always prefer to vote for someone who shares a similar worldview and guiding principles. This is actually harder to communicate than it may first appear. Some people have the knack for being able to communicate in broad brush terms; others have a tendency to get bogged down in specifics or technical details. Talking about transport or housing policy is not the same as talking about values. It takes a lot of hard work, and perhaps an intangible gift of oratory, to find inspirational language.

Unlike likeability however, the affinity factor can never win everybody over. Not everyone shares the same values, after all. But affinity binds supporters loyally where likeability merely makes support possible.

Going out to speak about values may be particularly relevant with respect to the five areas where the president has a little discretion. It would be good to know from each aspirant what his personal opinion, deeply held values and gut instincts are in relation to

  1. accumulation, transparency and use of reserves
  2. key public service appointments including judicial ones
  3. detention without trial
  4. the state of racial and religious relations, and
  5. issues of corruption, including nepotism and abuse of power for partisan advantage (which is another form of corruption)

I would also add two more: his views on the death penalty and gay equality. I will never support anyone who believes that gay people should be discriminated against.

* * * * *

The problem is, if you read between the lines, the government wants a president who knows his place, that is, who knows that his is a ceremonial job, with no room for discretion or input, except in the five prescribed areas. Law minister K Shanmugam was at pains to point out that the elected president had only custodial powers in restricted areas. The implicit message is that a more activist president would not be welcome and even if elected, might be cold-shouldered by the cabinet.

I hope people don’t see this is a scary threat, though knowing how risk-averse Singaporeans are, the very thought of “governmental deadlock” (however unrealistically overblown it may be) may cause many to buy the government’s position wholesale and dutifully vote for whoever they think the government has endorsed.

Personally, I would rather have an activist president than a compliant one. Sure, constitutionally, he has very little room for manoeuvre, but all it takes is a bit of smarts and creativity to create the job. Political messaging in Singapore is so heavily skewed in favour of the PAP’s agenda, that a president can do great service to the public interest and the long-term well-being of the republic just by using his office to rebalance it.


Well, consider this as an example: The Film Commission of Singapore refuses to fund a very talented filmmaker’s project on the basis that the script for his proposed film features a gay couple in leading roles. The president tells the filmmaker, if you can organise a fundraising dinner, I will go and lend my profile to it.

Or this: Single parents, sick and fed up of the systemic discrimination they face (not to mention the undertone of moral condemnation), are invited to the Istana on one of the public holidays for which the palace grounds are open. The president makes it a point to mingle with them and their children, and says some supportive words (and some other words obliquely critical of policy) within earshot of reporters. It is also video’d by the single parents themselves, going up onto Youtube.

The president may not have any role in making policy, but he can lend legitimacy to alternative viewpoints. Or he can speak out in ways that help focus any public debate on the key question, even if, in the process, he has to subtly debunk arguments put forward for the government as red herrings, which is something that the PAP government often resorts to. Most importantly, his role is to articulate regularly the aspirations of Singaporeans, be it for more compassion, more equality, more openness or more hope. In other words, his role is to provide moral leadership, and if you ask me, Singapore has waited too long already for anyone capable of providing that.

38 Responses to “What is a president for and how do we choose?”

  1. 1 Tan Tai Wei 26 July 2011 at 09:01

    Just a thought that occurred. Devan Nair wasn’t just ceremonial and passive, but had been somewhat the active President you describe. He made long speeches, and visited establishments continually holding long meetings there, asserting his influence.

    The trouble he eventually got into wasn’t planned, but was it the chance they were looking for to remove him? He thought so, and did give convincing details supporting his claims that the real diagnosis of his “alcoholism”, ie. a liver ailment, had been suppressed, etc. To date, they have just ignored them. No doubt, they had that ceremony for his ashes, but that seem to have the effect of showing they were magnanimous and so convince the public of their sincerity about him?

  2. 2 Tan Kok Tim 26 July 2011 at 09:47

    I posted this in FB two weeks ago, and bear repeating: My vote shall be to the person who has the attributes of “All leaders should be firm but considerate”, a person who knows how to reach out to the people with genuine Humility at heart, a role model for the people to reach greater heights in practising love and harmony to achieve unity that we have not experienced before. If the person fails in this, I said in my letter to the ST Forum on 4 May 1983: “Otherwise, a leader will walk a lonely path and feel isolated”. Who is this man of eminence who will rise way above from being aloof, cocky and almighty thinking that others below him are daft and stupid?
    Please what I wrote at the link below “All leaders should be firm but considerate’ and I said: “ These fundamental principles of man management are applicable at all levels – from the presidency of a nation to the lowest section……”.

    I believe it is still relevant today now that the EP contest is getting heated up with four Tans.
    Please see what I wrote at this link:

    and many other sub-links in the above link. There are 65 articles in 13 categories in my Blog.

  3. 3 Anonymous 26 July 2011 at 10:47

    Does it even matter who is elected as president? The whole process is just some grand wayang to show the western world that democracy exists in Singapore.

  4. 4 Singapore Book Titles I'd Like to See 26 July 2011 at 11:52


    1. “Defining Moments of My Singapore Presidency” by SR Nathan
    Publisher says book has potential to challenge for thinnest book category in the Guinness Book of World Records.
    Environmental groups are praising Mr Nathan’s book for leaving behind such a miniscule carbon foot print.

    Mr Nathan is planning to write a second book about his experience as a first time novelist.
    The book title is tentatively entitled “How I Wrote a Book in One Hour”

    • 5 Pundit 27 July 2011 at 10:05

      @Singapore Book Titles I’d Like To See

      I stand corrected. A person writing a book in one hour! Is it worth reading? This if the kind of Candidates the PAP loves for their choice of President -docile, unquestioning, obedient. I stick to my comic books which will have more of a storyline.

  5. 6 Loh 26 July 2011 at 12:07

    Great post, Alex. You are right to point out that the elected president can use his “soft” powers to put change into motion. That is what the ruling party is afraid of. They want us to believe that the president has no real powers under the constitution but how can that be if the purpose of having an elected president is to check a rogue government.

    When LKY proposed for an elected presidency, that was his reason – that should a rogue government be voted into office, the president is our only check against it. But was that really the reason? I highly doubt so. I believe LKY created the post for himself, in the event his son don’t become Prime Minister. He was hedging his bets, you see. But when LHL became prime minister, the elected presidency became a problem for them. So now, they have to keep telling us it’s not good to have an activist president.

    Among the 3 Tans who have already submitted their election papers, Tan Kim Lian best suits the profile of an activist president. Let’s vote for him.

    • 7 act the activist 26 July 2011 at 17:49

      this activist did not contest in the election
      he was actively inactive when he should be
      go ahead and vote him, i won’t

  6. 8 Chanel 26 July 2011 at 13:34

    Although the president has limited powers, he/she can publicly open up a debate. This is because whatever the president says, the mainstream media have to report it (albeit with sugar coating if the issue go against the establishment). The govt would then have little but to respond to the president’s comments.

  7. 9 Robin Low 26 July 2011 at 14:19

    The president though ceremonial, can have an effect if the president is active. As a figurehead, practicing soft powers for public diplomacy can empower a whole nation and affect changes, especially if there is foreign attention.

    I sure hope we have an active president, one that looks out for the needs of Singaporeans.

  8. 10 53891 26 July 2011 at 16:19


    I am not often disappointed with your posts but I am with this one. What you are suggesting is the equivalent of a toothless and clawless tiger meowing (!) timidly. What purpose does it serve? If the president takes a photo with you, does that make your gayness more legitimate? If he doesn’t, less?

    • 11 yawningbread 26 July 2011 at 17:20

      I am not SUGGESTING that the presidency should be a toothless and clawless tiger. It is.

      That being the case, what would you prefer the president to do?

      • 12 53891 26 July 2011 at 20:30

        Sorry, I did not express myself. The word ‘suggest’ should refer to only the meowing, and your implication that said meowing serves a purpose. As you point out, it is obvious the tiger has neither teeth nor claws.

        Inherent in the elected presidency is the presumption that Singaporeans are incapable of checking on the government. Hence, someone needs to be appointed to the job. Do we accept the presumption? If we don’t, we should not be asking questions such as what should the president do, who should be the president, is the election fair and just, or is the president against gays. Instead, we should just get rid of the presidency. We need someone for ceremonies? I am sure the PM can multi-task.

      • 13 Robox 27 July 2011 at 02:48

        If there is one thing about this presidential elections, is that as the first contest (or the first real one) together with a newly politicized electorate, it has spurred more of us to truly attempt to understand the roles, functions and powers of the office as well as the other issues associated with it; I certainll have learnt a lot about these since researching and reading on it soon after the GE.

        The conclusion I have come to is that the elected President is indeed a toothless tiger; but where s/he might have some power is in the area of his or her “soft powers”, which are not stipulated by the Constitution. However, those soft powers don’t come with the position being an elected one because even appointed or heriditary heads of states possess those same soft powers. Indeed, such heads of states have pretty much the same constitutionally-defined powers as our elected President.

        It is why in my online commentary I have decided to take this presidential elections as an opportunity to address the PAP government’s political motivations for the creation of this position. The PAP government has long spoken of the elected presidency as yet another check and balance in the system. But as I have written in this article for Temasek Review:



        “The Elected Presidency (EP) is an institution that the [PAP has devised] which, along with other institutions like the [NMP and NCMP schemes], were designed to create the false impression in Singaporeans’ minds that there are already sufficient checks and balances in the system; voting in more opposition members would therefore be unnecessary, and even redundant.”


        Particularly with the many calls by Singaporeans for a President who will be a voice for the people, and with expectations that that voice will be heard in the way we might hear opposition MPs when they make representation for those who elected them, if at all, it would be timely to remind Singaporeans that if they want to see – and hear – more representation for themselves, then they really should be doing much more to elect more opposition party candidates; many capable and deserving ones were not at GE2011.

      • 14 Robox 27 July 2011 at 04:02


        “…we should just get rid of the presidency. We need someone for ceremonies? I am sure the PM can multi-task.”

        My position on the EP is to abolish it as well, but for the reasons that I stated above: that it deludes Singaporeans into believing that with the EP, and along with the NMP and NCMP schemes, there are sufficient checks and balances in place against the Executive, and electing opposition candiadtes is therefore unnecessary.

        However, I do see the need for a head of state, and I would vehemently object to the PM assuming the ceremonial function of the head of state. The PAP government has in fact habitually usurped this role of the President of Singapore so as to advance its own members’ prominence and standing in the eyes of the public, and for unfair political gain. One such example is provided in this link, but as a Singaporean who has feasted on such news reports forever, I am sure you can provide innumerable other examples.


        This quote is taken from the Wikipedia entry, “Head of State”:



        “At home, [Heads of State] are expected to render luster to various occasions by their presence, such as by attending artistic or sports performances or competitions, expositions, celebrations, military parades and remembrances, prominent funerals, visiting parts of the country, enterprises, care facilities (often in a theatrical honour box, on a platform, on the front row, at the honours table etc.), sometimes performing a symbolic act such as cutting a ribbon or pushing a button at an opening, christening something with champagne, laying the first stone, and so on. Some parts of national life receive their regular attention, often on an annual basis, or even in the form of official patronage.

        As the potential for such invitations is enormous, such duties are often in part delegated: to such persons as a spouse, other members of the dynasty, a vice-president —for whom ……this is often the core of their public role— or in other cases (possibly as a message, for instance, to distance themselves without giving protocollary offence) just a military or other aide.”


        From observing how elected representatives of the legislatures of other countries conduct themselves in this capacity, I have come to this conclusion: PAP MPs and cabinet ministers have been playing a presidential role, and in all likelihood it is because they recognize that, as a holdover from the monarchy, the quality of “presidentiality” that this would confer on its members would not too distinguishable from the quality of “regality”.

        The PAP government has usurped the President’s role. But because Singaporeans have been inundated with such reports of PAP members in the media that has normalized this state of affairs for decades, they have become inured to this usurpation of a presidential role as a violation of convention.

      • 15 53891 29 July 2011 at 01:54

        ‘[Heads of State] are expected to render luster to various occasions by their presence, such as by attending artistic or sports performances . . . sometimes performing a symbolic act such as cutting a ribbon or pushing a button at an opening, christening something with champagne, laying the first stone, and so on . . . . The PAP government has usurped the President’s role.’

        Wow, you actually think cutting a ribbon is so important that it should be reserved solely for the president who . . . does nothing but cut ribbons!

  9. 16 Anonymous 26 July 2011 at 16:50


    “….This is because whatever the president says, the mainstream media have to report it …..”

    even if the msm doesn’t report what the president says there is nothing in the consitiution to stop the president from putting his thoughts in the Internet blogs right?

  10. 17 Anonymous 26 July 2011 at 20:56

    I read in Mr Brown’s blog (http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2011/07/lunch-with-dr-tony-tan.html) that you and eight other bloggers have been invited for lunch with Dr Tony Tan.

    I am glad that you did not throw your support for him. Thanks for keeping your conscience =)

  11. 18 Rabbit 26 July 2011 at 23:20

    We don’t want Tony Tan. He may be painted as tiger with great achievement by PAP and thru his own media coverage. The point is, he is trained in the circus and already tamed by Zoo Keeper. Eventually he will become brain dead or Zombie like the current one subjected to further manipulation. That is not the tiger we want to see holding the highest office. Probably the ruling party wanted him to retire in Istana after serving the PAP (not the people) for decades. To deserve respect as People president, he needs to earn it from the people, not from PAP

    We want a tiger that is free-will, with or without teeth, to capitalize on its status as king of the jungle to scare even the cockiest animals without needing a fight. We don’t want him to have any association to the government more than with the people.

    Analogy aside, a president can capitalize on his respectable status by doing something for the people during his office. As I mentioned in the comment somewhere in this blog, he can give talk, make a speech anywhere he was invited or wanted to go. Organize activities to mingle with all political parties in Singapore to find out their take on making Singapore a livable place. He may want to invite a group of bloggers to Istana to share views and give his takes too, or invite old folks to Istana for a meal rather than waiting for public holiday to open his ground. He may even consider a blog for himself or a face book and roll up his sleeve by taking a train downturn. Engaged the new media and keep all govt-controlled medias on their toe such that his messages get reported.

    Without legal constitutions, a president can tap on his basic human rights to carry out his duty proper for the people. Eventually, his name will earn respect on international stage without having to make perfuntory visit to countries in the name of “diplomatic-ties”. This is called Active President

  12. 19 reservist_cpl 27 July 2011 at 00:15

    Maybe, just maybe, the PAP doesn’t mind if Tony Tan loses.

  13. 20 Robox 27 July 2011 at 04:37

    Notwithstanding what I had written above, I think that YB readers will nevertheless be interested in the Wikipedia entry on “Heads of State”, which I have found to correspond closely to what I myself had previously studied on the subject. (We would still need to investigate exactly which of what was written up is applicable to the Singapore head of state.)


    The rest of this post is adressed to those, including Alex, who have a particular interest in the President’s role in the granting of clemency/pardons, and also with regards to granting assent to unconstituional legislation such as S377a. From the section “Roles of heads of state” (Legislative role):

    1. “In some parliamentary systems, the head of state retains certain powers in relation to bills to be exercised at his or her discretion. They may have authority to veto a bill until the houses of the legislature have reconsidered it, and approved it a second time; reserve a bill to be signed later, or suspend it indefinitely (generally in states with the Royal Prerogative; this power is rarely used); refer a bill to the courts to test its constitutionality; refer a bill to the people in a referendum.”

    2. “…in most parliamentary systems, the head of state cannot refuse to sign a bill, and, in granting a bill their assent, indicate that it was passed in accordance with the correct procedures.”

    While I have yet to determine which of the powers of some heads of states described above have in common with the President of Singapore, the two phrases from the quotes that struck me most were “to test its constitutionality“ and “in accordance with the correct procedures“. I don`t see why the President of Singapore should not or would not be concerned about either matter. Concern for the constitutionality of any legislation would be relevant in the cases of both S377a and – I am insisting – any law that carries the MDP. And though the “correct procedures“ above refer specifically to the legislative process, would not the conduct of any political or legal process “in accordance with the correct procedures“ be of concern to the President, such as for a case under consideration for clemency.

  14. 21 T 27 July 2011 at 16:33

    Perhaps I ask too much of a President outside ceremonial and constitutional duties.

    I’ll like a President who travels on crowded buses and trains, hearing the stories of fellow passengers and creating laughter and discussion, thus enabling “audiences” onboard some reprieve from the daily commute.

    I’ll like a President who does “wacky” experiments like travelling on a wheelchair while unassisted, walking blindfolded while accompanied, just to get another sense of how the physical and social environment can be further improved to be more inclusive.

    I’ll like a President who can be spontaneous, like trying out the job of a rubbish-collector for an hour a day for a week upon seeing a rubbish-collector struggling by the road. All with the latter’s consent of course.

    I’ll like a President who wears disguises occasionally and moves around as an ordinary person, assessing both public and private sector companies incognito at a macro and micro level.

    I’ll like a President who has as little hate for anything and as small an ego as possible. Someone who will not be prejudiced against prostitutes, loansharks, pimps, traffickers, murderers and other “deviants”, but instead questions how circumstances of culture, poverty and family has compelled individuals to adopt such ways of life. And how society can be better.

    I’ll like a President who can see the merits of alternate (and sometimes opposing) perspectives while having an ability to reconcile competing interests and needs. Someone who thinks beyond zero-sum games and dichotomies and never stops trying to find ways to make the world a nicer place.

    I’ll like a President who says and does things that make me feel lucky and proud to be alive, right here and right now. And in the course of doing so, he/she convincing me that my gender, race, religion, sexuality, ability, affiliation (s), intelligence, successes and failures should not and do not matter at all in pursuing a worthy life.

    These may not be what a President is for, but it’s how I’ll like to choose one.

  15. 23 Impressed 27 July 2011 at 17:51

    Dr Tony Tan is the ONLY presidential candidate who actively court bloggers,I am quite impress with that,it seems that candidate Tony Tan is now his own man.

  16. 25 Anonymous 27 July 2011 at 20:46

    I would vote for a president who is willing to help us fight for better CPF interest rates by using it’s soft power.

    I would vote for a president who can prick the conscience of PAP government to serve the people instead of serving itself.

    I won’t vote for a quiet president who restricts his role to a ceremonial head.

    I won’t vote for Dr Tans.

    I will vote for Mr Tans.

    • 26 PlayFair 4 August 2011 at 19:18

      Wholeheartedly ageed with you. Problem is – which Mr Tan? If both are given COE, I am afraid the quiet one will win as votes will be split between the 2 Mr Tans.

  17. 27 meiming 27 July 2011 at 23:02

    Who will be my choice?

    TT: He is a 100% PAP man. Can I expect a PAP to check on another PAP??

    TCB: He is a 50% PAP man. He lost my vote when he declared that as EP, he would do quiet diplomacy, i.e. there is no way for us to know what he would be doing.

    TKL: A 30% PAP man and I am not impressed by him.

    TJS: A good candidate.

    • 28 Anonymous 28 July 2011 at 00:22

      Who do PAP supports?

      Read Straits Times to find out.

      Positive and prominent coverage – Dr Tony Tan
      Positive coverage – Dr Tan Cheng Bock
      Little and out-of-point coverage – Mr Tan Jee Say
      Negative coverage and smears – Mr Tan Kin Lian

  18. 29 Sad case 28 July 2011 at 01:52

    @ impressed:

    You mean tony tan has now, finally, become his own man at age of 71????? Oh my gosh, i have higher expectations on choosing a president who’ll earn over 20 million taxpayers’ money during 1 term. Anyway tony tan is too old for me, i don’t think he can do much.

  19. 30 Anna 30 July 2011 at 23:06

    Coming across this article, I felt a need to commend President Nathan for his work so far, and we often do not give him as much credit as he deserves. As a university student, I have met President Nathan on several occasions, and when I did have an opportunity to talk to him, he was approachable and genuinely interested in what we had to say.

    Prior to meeting the President, I was guilty as viewing him as a “puppet” of the government, or nothing more than a figure who makes ceremonial appearances. However, I recently had a privilege to speak with him and he is extremely worldly and intelligent man with views of his own. Moreover, most of his works goes unnoticed, such as how he makes frequent appearances at events which allows him to mingle with us regular Singaporeans.

    This is pretty unrelated to this article, but I felt like in the midst of this Presidential Election, we often forget to reflect upon our current President’s past term.

  20. 31 Sad case 31 July 2011 at 13:21

    Hi Anna, I supposed many of your university lecturers would have performed those tasks that you mentioned of what Nathan did about interacting with students. There is a reason why 20 millions are paid for a sg president. Go find out the key roles of a president before you write.

  21. 32 Lim Bt 1 August 2011 at 21:02

    Our past Presidents can be grouped into 4 types:
    i) he does not know what he can or cannot do – blur like sotong
    ii) he does not know what he can or cannot do but speaks out anyway- artificial intelligent (kay kiang)
    ii) he knows what he can or cannot do but keeps quiet – act blur
    iii) he knows what he can or cannot do but speaks out intelligently – People’s President.

  22. 33 Anonymous 2 August 2011 at 00:18

    Whenever I think of Nathan, the idiom ‘As quiet as a mouse’ sufaces in my mind.

    • 34 PlayFair 4 August 2011 at 19:24

      Whenever I think of Nathan, I think of the 4.2m, how this huge sum is so unwisely spent on someone who so damn undeserving and how this huge sum can be put to much better use like helping those less fortunate in our society.

  23. 35 Anonymous 7 August 2011 at 00:10

    I am just wondering if we even have a choice in the coming Presidentail election. What even only TT is deemed the only qualified by the PEC?

  24. 37 Speakup 11 August 2011 at 19:17

    It would be clever for the qualifications committee to approve all candidates.
    To split the anti-Tony Tan vote amongst the other candidates, leaving Tony with the majority.
    Conversely, it would be clever of the low-probability candidates to campaign vigorously, but then to withdraw and throw their supporters behind one of the high-probability candidates before the election.
    If I were in charge of strategy for the PAP, I would also have 5th column members in each political party, to foster inter-party disagreement and prevent merging, cooperation or coherent platforms — thus again splitting the vote. 60% yields only 6 seats. You think it worked?

  25. 38 God save the Queen 12 August 2011 at 01:39

    Enough of this president nonsense. Bring back the queen!

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