Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Singapore Presidential Election

As we move forward to the next presidential elections here in Singapore I can't help but feel less than enthusiastic about the prospect.

When I became a Singapore citizen, among the many things I had to learn was the Singapore pledge. For me it had meaning, a promise and a commitment not only of myself but of all Singaporeans that was something to aspire towards. However, recently that very same pledge, those aspirations spoken by millions of Singaporeans through the years, has in my opinion been undermined.

The Singapore government has recently announced what it is calling a "reserved" presidential election. What this means is that the election for the office of the President will be reserved for a certain community (i.e. Chinese, Malay or Indian and other minority communities) if no person belonging to that community has held the office of the President for any of the last 5 terms of office, in an attempt to ensure multi-racial representation in the office of the Presidency.

On the surface, it's an understandable goal and some newspapers here have printed articles that the move "affirms values of multiracialism & meritocracy", but in implementing this change it in effect limits the candidates for election to a single race. I fail to see how that makes Singapore more democratic. In my opinion it is the very definition of racism since it denies candidates of other races the opportunity to run for that office, and as such I fail to see how it supports the political philosophy that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively based on ability and talent?

One could argue that it is fair because the criteria for candidates for the office of president remains the same regardless of race, or that it will rotate between races if no one of that race has held the office in the last five years. But fair and democratic are two separate words. If, as a voter, i am forced into a position where I am required to vote for a candidate based solely on the race of that candidate as the first and foremost criteria of eligibility, while their ability to hold that office takes on a supporting role, how does that support meritocracy?

In my opinion limiting eligibility for candidacy of the presidential office to a single race, regardless of how well intended the motives behind such a decision may be, is the very definition of racism and a move that is totally in contradiction to the words of the Singapore pledge that promises "as a united people", "regardless of race", "to build a democratic society"

It has to be said that my faith in the government of this country has reached new lows. The pledge that I firmly believe in seems to have been put to one side, and the words that have been spoken by millions of Singaporeans since it was first written in 1966 now ring empty and hollow.