Dr Tan Cheng Bock: 'I will tell ministers what I think'

The above clip is of Dr Tan Cheng Bock submitted his Certificate of Eligibility application for the Presidential Election on 22 July (at 1.30pm) followed by a press briefing at Bayview Hotel.

I like it when he's quoted in the latest Asiaone article: "Many of you all think that the president is so caged that he can't do any damn thing. No, he's not."

Well said. Notwithstanding the use of the word 'damn'. Heh.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock has hinted at how he would approach his duties if elected as president and listed instances on how he stood up to fellow colleagues from the People's Action Party (PAP).

While he might not be able to initiate change, Dr Tan says he saw no reason why he could not give his "two cents' worth" to a minister on issues.

The 71-year-old filed his eligibility certificate in his presidency bid on Friday and spoke to reporters at a press conference held at Bayview Hotel on how he had "earned trust over the years by standing up for Singaporeans."

He listed instances when he stood up to his PAP colleages, such as on the issues of streaming pupils in the 1980s, and how he fought for Central Provident Fund savings to be used for tertiary education.

He also voted against the Nominated MP (NMP) scheme, despite the party Whip not being lifted, as he felt that Parliament was for elected MPs, and it was not right to allow non-elected MPs.

He even drew criticism from Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the past when he voiced his opinions on foreign talent.

"I cannot say that the PAP has done me wrong or something. I think I'm quite grateful to the PAP. It's from the PAP I developed to where I am today," said Dr Tan.

But he stressed that his track record shows that he dared to speak up if he felt things were not right.

"I don't toe the party line all the time," he said.

There has been recent debate on the president's powers on whether the president can offer views outside his areas of duty.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam issued a statement two weeks ago, reiterating that Singapore's system of government is a parliamentary one, not a presidential one.

When asked what he thought about the president speaking on issues outside the constitutional limits, Dr Tan hinted that his views, which he will give later, might spark more discussion.

"Many of you all think that the president is so caged that he can't do any damn thing. No, he's not," he said.

He assured that he will speak about the issue in the near future and reveal exactly what he wants to do as a president.

"You can be assured of that. And I will not mince my words," said Dr Tan.

From Asiaone, "'I will tell ministers what I think'".

The President is the only Singaporean leader voted by all Singaporeans and as such, they need a president whom they can trust and who will put the nation above politics, said Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

Dr Tan made the point at a news conference on Friday after submitting his papers for a Certificate of Eligibility to contest the upcoming Presidential Election, due by end-August.

During his press conference at the Bayview Hotel, the former PAP MP said he believes that Singaporeans also want to know whether their president empathises with them and will make decisions without external influences.

"They want to know if they can trust him to put the nation above politics, to look after their money, to make special appointments of top civil servants whose policies will affect their lives.

"He must make good and wise decisions, without fear, without favour," said Dr Tan.

He said he understands the powers of the president are bounded by what is in the constitution.

"We should not comment on issues because the president must be above all these discussions, all these issues, but that does not preclude me from holding private discussions with, let's say, the ministers and so on because at the end, what is our motive? (It's) to make everybody happy."

He added: "If I become the president, although I am not able to change the issues I cannot change ... at least my two cents worth maybe to the ministers could have changed some of the policies. So we are not there to rock the boat, must remember, we are there to make the whole country very, very happy.

"So the president plays a very, very important role ... I'm not going to interfere on how Temasek runs the company or how GIC runs its company, but I want to know the processes, I want to know the procedures that are going on there."

When asked if he is politically independent from the PAP, Dr Tan said: "In the eyes of some, I am not independent because of my past PAP link. But if Singaporeans do look deeper into my past Parliamentary debates, I hope they see a man who will stand up for what he believes is the right thing to do."

He pointed out that while in Parliament, he had stood up against some PAP policies.

"I stood up for Singaporeans against streaming of students in the '80s because I feared it would create class divisions in our society and divide Singapore."

"I went to the Parliament to ask the government to 'Think Singaporeans First'. I took their pain when I was publicly scolded for taking this stand," said Dr Tan of the time when he spoke out against the foreign talent policy.

When asked if his political links to the PAP will affect his chances at this year's Presidential Election, Dr Tan said it is unfair to discredit the party as it has helped him to become what he is today.

"I have to be fair to the party. I have to let Singaporeans know that if they want to label me as not independent, I can't help it. I prefer them to judge me on my performance, based on the way I've done things and stood up for Singaporeans."

Dr Tan declined to reveal his plans if elected as president, adding that he was doing so out of respect for the other contestants.

Together with his wife, Dr Tan turned up at the Elections Department at Prinsep Street around 1.40pm Friday to hand in his papers for a Certificate of Eligibility to contest the Presidential Election.

"I think the forms, they were all well-received," said Dr Tan to crowds of journalists and well-wishers.

Dr Tan, who then walked to the nearby Bayview hotel for his news conference, later said that he is confident he will be awarded the certificate as he had checked with his lawyers, who said he has the qualifications to meet the stringent criteria laid out in the Presidential Election Act.

Dr Tan is the third presidential hopeful to have submitted his forms.

The other two are former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian and former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Singaporeans need a president they can trust, says Tan Cheng Bock".


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