Friday, August 9, 2013

Revisiting President SR Nathan

I agree with Cho Vin Thai. Also it is better to know him as a person than as President. That office had been politicised by the government. Nobody can do the job well without friction with the government. The President who is above politics is nevertheless beneath the people and represents them. If the government of the day put its interests ahead of the people, we and therefore the President have a problem. In this sense I am glad Tan Cheng Bock did not win but at the same time I have no idea how he could reinvent the job either and succeed.

At least the humanity of SR Nathan could still emerge from a restrictive role, but not so with Tony Tan. He is too thin skinned and when the sharp barbs come he withdrew into a shell. How to be President this way? Tony Tan is just a PAP man. Until and unless the PAP is popular again, he would not be much welcomed either.

It is better for the President to come from civic society, the professionals or business with exemplary CSR. Otherwise the PE and office would continue to be political. But I am looking far ahead. Our immediate problem is to have a man or preferably woman fill the job and show how it can be effective and yet apolitical. Because the Singapore identity lacks depth, it might not yet be feasible. An effective President must draw the water from a deep well, which we haven't have yet. Today only George Yeo knows how to borrow other wells for our use.

I do not like to remember SR Nathan as President but I appreciate him very much for everything else he had done for us before he became head of state. For his humanity, sensitivity and especially courage.

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