CNA moderator cuts in to remind viewers on role of president after Tan Kin Lian's closing statement at live presidential forum

The three candidates delivered their closing statements on what they wish to tell voters before Polling Day.

Ashley Tan | August 29, 2023, 12:01 AM



The three presidential candidates, Ng Kok Song, Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Tan Kin Lian, took part in their first and only live presidential forum during the 2023 presidential election on the night of Aug. 28.

The forum was hosted by Mediacorp and broadcast live on CNA.

The trio were asked various questions on why they believed themselves to be the most qualified candidate to be elected president, as well as how they hoped to serve Singapore in that role.

The session was moderated by CNA news presenter Otelli Edwards.

Tan's closing statement

The hour-long forum ended with the three candidates delivering their closing statements, sharing what they wish to tell voters before heading to the polling stations on Sep. 1.

Tan, who was the first of the three to start, said that most importantly, he will have "an independent mind".

As president, he will "critically" examine government recommendations on the use of past reserves, and the appointment of "top officers in the public service", and that he "must be satisfied they are in the interest of the people" before giving his approval.

"This is what an independent president should do," he emphasised.

"I will also use the power of the president to call a commission of inquiry when needed, to ensure there is transparency and accountability in the government and the public service," Tan said.

Tan also highlighted that his main concern are the challenges young people face these days, citing competing with foreigners for jobs, national service for male Singaporeans and the high cost of living and unaffordable housing prices as examples.

He shared that he will convey such concerns to the government.

He concluded, reiterating his role as an independent candidate:

"My overall goal is to make life better for the people of Singapore. I believe the government shares a similar goal. I will collaborate and work with the government to find a better way to solve these problems.

I ask the people of Singapore to vote for an independent president."

Edwards cuts in

At the very start of the forum, Edwards laid out the role of the president in several slides, and what he or she can and cannot do.

However, following Tan's closing statement and before Ng started speaking, Edwards interrupted the closing statements segment to remind viewers on the aforementioned fourth point — that the president cannot express public views on legislation or government policy without being advised to do by the government.

Edwards is likely to be referring to some of the points Tan mentioned in his closing speech about national service, high costs of living and unaffordable housing.

Following Edwards' interjection after Tan's statement, Ng and Tharman delivered their respective statements without any interruptions.

Ng's closing statement

Ng emphasised that he has come forward as a candidate as he wants to serve his country, and that Singapore needs a president "who is competent and experienced", "trustworthy, and above all... non-partisan".

As mentioned in previous interviews with the media, Ng asked Singaporeans to examine his motives and reiterated that he is neither motivated by money, power or fame.

He said:

"I truly want to serve my country because I'm very concerned about our future wellbeing. I'm willing to make the sacrifice necessary so that what we have built up can be safeguarded."

Ng closed his speech by saying that he is running for president as he has "benefited from what Singapore has given [him]", and to "say 'thank you'" to Singaporeans for this opportunity to serve as their president.

Tharman's closing statement

Tharman started his closing statement with a call to voters: "Well, let me request for each and every Singaporean, respectfully, to vote for me on Friday, as a vote for an optimistic future."

"It is very easy to be pessimistic," Tharman said of the current happenings in Singapore and around the world.

However, there is cause for optimism when seeing what Singaporeans are capable of. At this, Tharman mentioned national sprinter Shanti Pereira, who recently broke the 200m national record and qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics — the first Singaporean to qualify for the 200m event at the world meet.

"Look at all the people who take second chances, who continue to inspire me every day, through my years on the ground, working with them. Who tell me when they become mentors, that they're not just helping others, but they're helping themselves and we're all changing ourselves. We're an optimistic country because of Singaporeans."

Tharman concluded the forum by saying that as a candidate, "there are no surprises with [him]".

With his many years of experience in the public service, his "life is an open book".

"What you see is what you get. Thank you very much for your support," he remarked.

Top photo from CNA / YouTube