Calvin Cheng, opinionated ex-Nominated Member of Parliament and sometimes controversial online social-political commentator, spoke out on Monday against Halimah Yacob running for the Singapore presidency.
His comments come a day after news of the Parliament Speaker revealing that she is considering running for office, in this July 17 Facebook post:
In summary, he made two points about Halimah:
1. She is the only minority member in a GRC and should stay on to serve her constituents.
Unlike many who have taken Halimah's announcement as the precursor of an inevitable outcome, Cheng has not given up on the likelihood that Halimah may in the end decide not to run in the race to become President.
The government has made clear that there will be no by-election if Halimah resigns from her seat and PAP to run for the Elected Presidency.
In a way, Cheng seems to be trying to
guilt trip persuade Halimah by reminding her of her responsibilities to her constituents.
2. She does not appear to have the professional experience needed to manage our financial reserves.
This is a point that may not have been made as explicitly before by others.
Cheng thinks that the role of the Speaker is equivalent to a Minister in protocol, but not in the nature of the work done in terms of financial and people management.
If a former Speaker qualifies to run for President, he argues, it will "detract from the credibility of recent changes to private sector eligibility criteria".
You can read his post in full below:
By all accounts, Madam Halimah Yacob is a warm, compassionate and humble person, and a popular MP; she is well-loved by her constituents. Madam Halimah has also carried out her duties as Speaker of Parliament with dignity, as the first female Speaker of Parliament in Singapore's history.
However, I feel she should not run for the office of Elected President.
Firstly, she has been elected not only as a Member of Parliament, but as the all-important minority candidate of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC. She owes a duty to those who elected her to stay on and fulfil her responsibilities as MP. It would also call the whole raison d'être of the GRC into question, if it is left without a minority representative. The role of Speaker of Parliament is also a ve[r]y important one. It shouldn't be resigned from lightly.
Secondly, although the position of Speaker is equivalent to a Minister in protocol, it surely isn't in responsibility. One reason for raising the criteria for private sector candidates (chief executive role in a 500m company) was to benchmark it to the responsibilities of a Minister, who has to manage huge billion dollar budgets and hundreds to thousands of civil servants. The Speaker of Parliament has no such equivalent responsibility. It would thus detract from the credibility of recent changes to private sector eligibility criteria, if a former Speaker were deemed to have the necessary skill-sets to guard our financial reserves.
Madam Halimah is already a highly respected MP. She has already cemented her place in history as being the first female Speaker of Parliament. Her services are arguably more needed amongst the constituents she loves, and who love her in return.
I do hope Madam Halimah will seriously consider whether to run for EP, as she is doing, and decide eventually not to.
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Top photo from Halimah's Facebook and Calvin Cheng's Facebook