Sunday, 3 September 2017

Having Dinner over the Presidential Reserved Election.

Yesterday, I had dinner with my loved ones, in-laws and parents and we were all uncertain about whom to vote for in the coming EP (if it ever goes to the ballot box).

The reserved election has caused some of us to feel that the whole EP thingy is too contrived, convenient and confusing.

As it stands, only Halimah qualifies. And her independence is surely the least of the qualifying factors in the minds of many Singaporeans.

Raised, bred and nourished in the political womb of the majority-led PAP government, Halimah's weakest link is her seemingly disingenuous claim that she will be independent if elected. Perception is really everything here.

Notwithstanding her stellar credentials and rich experiences, she is unfortunately plagued by three "backfiring" factors beyond her control: democracy, meritocracy and multiracialism.

Many felt that democracy has been tempered with. It is not unfettered  or free. Neither is it open. Puppetry seems to be the common gossip on the street. It gives the impression that the people vote for whomever the government puts on the ballot plate for them.

Alas, I feel that the government is not taking enough risk with the EP because they may feel that the electorate is just not mature enough to appreciate all that they have done for them.

And meritocracy, because of its skewed elitist elements. Of course, merits beat patronages and hereditary rights anytime, and I always believe we are on the right track by choosing merits over privileges. But elitism can mutate into the very problem that it once seeks to eradicate.

When meritocracy becomes institutionalised to favour only those pioneers who have made it in their early struggles, the leviathan can become not only paranoid but also self-serving and self-preserving.

The $500m shareholders' equity bar effectively eliminates the competition. In my view, it institutionalises merit into a gated edifice and keeps it away from the credible handful who have what it takes to be the people's president (save for the equity bar). 

The TCB court saga has already left a bad taste in the mouth of the people and they are clearly disillusioned.

Alas, the last thing we need is an elitist president, engaging regally in waving hands, cutting ribbons and tickling baby's cheek just for the camera. 

What's more, Warren Fernandez (Editor-in-Chief) wrote in today's article that "many in Singapore's Malay community also feel uncomfortable about such a concession being made for them, contrary to the deeply held meritocratic ethos of the country."

And lastly, multiracialism. I know the government has great foresight since independence to keep a good balance on the racial differences. But, there is a risk that the seemingly rushed-job of the reserved election is missing the forest for the trees.

Editor-at-Large Han Fook Kwang wrote an article today entitled "Will reserved election promote multiracialism?" and he said this:-

"The bottom line: There are no serious or pressing problems among the races, though racial biases and prejudices exist and may never go away. Seen in this context, the Government's move to introduce reserved elections for the presidency might seem perplexing. If it ain't broken, why fix it?".

Fook Kwang went on to highlight two more pressing issues like the "growing influence of Islamic teaching from the Middle East" and "China's growing strength" which "will greatly influence Singapore's Chinese population", and how "the confluence of these two developments can sharpen the differences among the races here."

That is the emerging grim reality that will conspire to destabilise the racial composition in our country. And in that light and context, and considering that the recent EP has raised more heat than light, the reserved election may not even be a step in the right direction to deal with the more pressing issue at hand.

At best, it may be a case of looking for your keys under the street lamp because there is light instead of searching for it where you had dropped them. At worse, it may be a case of cutting your nose to spit your face.  

And to compound matters, there is the foregone conclusion of a walkover to consider. Imagine that, our first reserved election for the Malay community and it is a walkover. The celebration will definitely be muted, if at all.

In such an event, Halimah would clearly be the winning candidate, and it is neither because the whole process is democratic nor meritocratic. It is simply because she is Malay, full stop, and the government wants a Malay in Istana for the next six years. 

So, there you have it. Dinner with loved ones can be a tricky terrain to negotiate when it comes to electing the next Malay president for Singapore.

Electing one is like picking a dish on the table, which has already been prepared for you. You have no or little say in the menu.

And if it is a good day, you get variety. If it is a bad day, you get just one dish. But the good thing about getting one dish is that you don't need to think so hard. Just suck it up and munch it down. Cheerz.

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