The late elected President Ong Teng Cheong did his best to live up to his duties to Singapore and Singaporeans. Yet he did not succeed.
To my mind he had a mindset problem.
A mindset that he could not win in a contest of wits and will against the mighty PAP govt.
A mindset compromised by long years of labouring at the behest of his PAP bosses.
A mindset enslaved by group think.
A mindset shackled by a mantra of ‘party first’.
A mindset conditioned by what he knew of the ins and outs and the inner working of the PAP and the PAP cabinet. But, far from being an asset, as an ex-insider this knowledge and familiarity with the PAP ways worked like a baggage of a ton of bricks tied to the feet.
Surely, no one could have forgotten the discourteous treatment meted out to OTC, from early in his presidency, for that cardinal sin of asking for MORE details and information pertinent to one of the two primary responsibilities of his job as elected-president?
OTC ran into a brick wall and was buried in it! It was a bad start. He was then effectively ostracized, walled up! The tension between the president and the govt was palpable from then on.
There was no ‘absolution’ even when he passed on – the PMO did not give him a state funeral. The vindictiveness ran deep.
It may be a different time and space now, but the dynamics are essentially unchanged, they remain the same. Thanks to a docile and compliant Nathan presidency.
An ex-PAP as president, endorsed or otherwise, is a NAKED PRESIDENT.
For, as much as he knows about the PAP, warts and all, the PAP also knows as much, if not more, about him – strengths, beliefs, weaknesses, thinking, how he reacts and behaves in situations, the ‘handles’ and ‘levers’ available for control or to elicit a desired response, and when all else fail, to checkmate him if he persists in his ‘unfriendly’ ways. And the govt has infinitely more resources at its disposal to keep the elected president in his ‘palace’, when necessary.
He would be ONE lined up against MANY from the cabinet and the civil service.
He would be a one-horse calvary charge who cannot even count on members of the council, created in the name of his office, to assist him.
The members of his council would be more than likely made up of men or women who ultimately report to members of the cabinet. This is the supreme irony of the Singapore system of an elected president.
Nathan, George Yeo or Tan Cheng Bock, are they real choices?
We need an ‘iconoclast’, but who among them can really ‘hack it’?