Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Spore pushes for a minority race President but is not ready for a non-Chinese PM

Update 29 Sep 2017: PM Lee Candidly Repeats Need for Reserved Election, Receives Candid Responses Calling for His Head

Okay, we know that many Singaporeans (online, at least) are sore at the way recent “selected presidency” that was PE2017. Their main gripe is with the process, namely the government’s amendment of the Constitution, barring of independent candidates, and starting the count for our first elected president from an earlier appointed president.

The Prime Minister’s Office yesterday released an edited transcript of candid remarks PM Lee Hsien Loong made to about 500 grassroots leaders at a People’s Association Kopi Talk dialogue on Saturday (23 Sept) defending the need for a reserved presidency.

This was published by state media and, hilariously, candid remarks from netizens came streaming in calling for the PM Lee to step aside come the next General Election for a minority-race prime minister.

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Important for a minority to be President from time to time: PM Lee

The Republic has come a long way in building a nation where everyone is equal, but the country is not colour-blind.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave this assessment in an exclusive 1-hour interview with Channel NewsAsia, which was broadcast on Sun (Sep 4).

“I think we have come a long way. It’s not a Chinese or Malay or an Indian nation. Everybody has his place, everybody is equal. Treated equally, equal standing, equal rights and status,” Mr Lee said.

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Enough qualified Singaporeans of all races to run for president: PM Lee Hsien Loong
Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong during the 14th ASEAN-India Summit in Vientiane on Sep 8, 2016

Mr Lee had been asked if there were enough qualified Malay candidates for the elected presidency, after the government accepted in-principle on Wednesday the main recommendations of the Constitutional Commission that reviewed the elected presidency
  • "There are qualified Malays, there are qualified Singaporeans of all races,"
  • "Furthermore, we minimise the risk that we will not have minorities become president from time to time," he said, referring to another recommendation by the commission that an election be reserved for a particular race if no one from that racial group had been elected president for 30 years.
  • "That is very important - I've explained this multiple times - and that's the fundamental reason why I asked the commission to study how we can make an arrangement so that we make sure that minorities get a chance to be president from time to time.
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Ensuring minority representation in EP delicate problem that must be solved: PM Lee in NDR 2016
One of the public hearings for feedback on the Elected Presidency, which was held at the Supreme Court auditorium, Apr 22, 2016. (Foto: Lianne Chia)

The Constitutional Commission appointed to review the Elected Presidency system in Singapore has made recommendations to improve on current arrangements in all 3 areas it was asked to review, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech on Sun (Aug 21).

The speech was delivered in 2 parts over Sunday evening, after Mr Lee took ill in the middle of the English portion of the Rally.

The Commission has made recommendations in these 3 areas: On how the President can give more weight to the advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA), on how to update the criteria for someone to be a candidate, and on how to ensure that minorities regularly have a chance to be elected to the position, Mr Lee said.

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Minority representation for Elected Presidency not 'tokenism', says PM Lee
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right), during his interview about race and politics. Foto: Jason Quah

Addressing concerns from the minority races over a seemingly easy ride into the Istana should changes be made to the Elected Presidency (EP) scheme to ensure minority representation, PM Lee Hsien Loong noted that such sentiments were entirely understandable and reflected the Republic’s success in building a meritocratic system.

“People want to succeed on their own merits. Nobody wants to come in on a free ride and see that standards have been lowered for a particular race,” said Mr Lee in a Mediacorp interview on race and politics which was aired on Sunday (Sep 4).

Dismissing the notion of tokenism, he stressed that the same qualifying criteria for the EP would apply to all races, without “any relaxation or any doubt” that the elected candidate is qualified.

PM Lee says it's his 'responsibility' to carry through proposed changes to the EP
Changes to Elected Presidency not meant to keep out 'difficult' people
EP changes needed as race still matters in politics: PM

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PM Lee Hsien Loong hints at provision for minority elected president
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives at the Hangzhou International Expo Center to attend the G20 Summit in Hangzhou on Sept 4, 2016.FOTO: AFP

PM Lee Hsien Loong has given the clearest hint of proposed changes to the law to guarantee that ethnic minorities are elected president from time to time.

This special provision may need to be used, he said, only if there has not been a president of a particular race for a long time - say 4, 5 or 6 terms.

Then the next election could be reserved for a member of that community if a qualified candidate presents himself or herself.

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Ensuring minority representation in Elected Presidency not 'tokenism': PM Lee

The proposed changes to ensure minority representation in the Elected Presidency (EP) are not "tokenism", and minority candidates will have to meet the same criteria as everyone else.

In an exclusive interview with Mediacorp broadcast on Sun (Sep 4), PM Lee Hsien Loong said the proposed amendments to the EP system were a "very necessary symbolism" of what Singapore is as a multiracial society. He also said that this was an important issue that he felt strongly about & did not want to “leave to his successor”.

Referring to the recent Channel NewsAsia-Institute of Policy Studies survey on race relations, he said people prefer somebody who is one of their own to be President.

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Why Singapore needs a minority president from time to time

Despite Singapore's multiracial harmony, we are not "completely race blind".

PM Lee acknowledged that we are not a homogenous society.

He cited in his Chinese speech how, when he visited Tanjong Pagar after Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death, residents asked for a "bilingual minister" despite the fact that he was accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law and Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Indranee Rajah, who had served in the ward for many years and could speak Cantonese fluently.

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PM Lee quote his father to fix the Presidential election

“This is not a Malay Singapore, not an Indian Singapore, not a Chinese Singapore. This is for everyone.”

Quoting his father Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that it is necessary to fix the upcoming Presidential election and allow only the Malay race to contest this round because it is their turn. PM Lee Hsien Loong then went on to explain using unrelated reasonings why he is re-writing the country’s Constitution:

“The symbolism of the President must ring true with the day to day experience of Singaporeans living in our multi-racial society. In many other societies, multi-racialism are celebrated on stage during occasions such as independence days but they are “not a reality”. “But in Singapore, (the racial relations we experience) in real life have to match and do match what we celebrate on National Day. When people incite division and misunderstanding between different races or religions, we have to act firmly against them…This is one of the areas where we are hypersensitive and it is a no-go.”

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Elected Presidency: Symbolism must ring true in S'poreans' daily experience, says PM Lee

In a White Paper put up last week, the Government broadly accepted recommendations put up by the Constitutional Committee tasked to review various aspects of the EP scheme, including a "hiatus triggered" mechanism where presidential elections will be reserved for a particular race which has not been represented in the office for five consecutive terms.

Mr Lee said: "Racial harmony is one of the major motivations for us to make changes to the Elected Presidency... Every citizen must feel that one of his community can become President and regularly does become President because that is a symbol representing all of us."

He quoted the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's words on the Republic's first national day in 1965: "This is not a Malay Singapore, not an Indian Singapore, not a Chinese Singapore. This is for everyone." The symbolism of the President "must ring true with the day to day experience of Singaporeans living in our multi-racial society", stressed Mr Lee.

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Racism still a problem for some Singaporeans, CNA-IPS survey finds

Racism remains a problem for some Singaporeans, with 1 in 3 among minority races having felt racially discriminated against, according to a nationwide survey specially commissioned by Channel NewsAsia in partnership with the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

The survey, which polled 2,000 Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 21 & above, is among the few large-scale surveys on race relations in Singapore.

Instances where respondents felt they were treated differently than other people

related: Success is independent of race for most Singaporeans

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Most Singaporeans want someone of same race as Prime Minister, President: CNA-IPS survey

If given a choice, most Singaporeans prefer someone of the same race as the nation’s Prime Minister or President.

This was 1 of the findings in a nationwide survey of 2,000 citizens and permanent residents on their views on relations between the country’s 4 major races. The survey was commissioned by Channel NewsAsia in partnership with the Institute of Policy Studies, & was 1 of the largest of its kind.

The survey, conducted between Jun & Jul this year, was done through a random sampling of dwelling types. Malay and Indian respondents were oversampled to ensure sufficient minority representation. Selected households completed a survey questionnaire then returned it to a surveyor at a stipulated time, to reduce the possibility of interviewer bias.

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PM’s hard push for minority President gets a pushback

PLAYWRIGHT and poet Alfian Sa’at has asked for a real change in the G’s handling of race issues instead of mere tokenism. In a widely-shared (807 and counting) Facebook post, he says that he doesn’t want a “Malay puppet President”, and that he wants respect for his rights as a Malay instead of being made a symbol.

He cast doubts on whether there was any real positive effect on the lot of minorities, Indians in particular, when Mr S R Nathan was President and raised the issue of how the former president was mocked as “the prata man in the Istana”, a sign that racism was not diminished by his uncontested election to the office.

PM Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech yesterday that “mechanisms” had to be in place to ensure there were minority Presidents from “time to time”, a clear indication to watchers that the rules for the Elected Presidency would be amended to mandate some sort of minority representation. He said that if there were no Malay or Indian President for a while, members of those groups would start to feel uneasy, and rightly so.

related: If Schooling can lead the race, can a minority lead the nation?

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Most Singaporeans would choose Tharman as the next Prime Minister: survey
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is the clear favourite of Singaporeans to succeed Lee Hsien Loong as Singapore’s next Prime Minister, a survey conducted by market research consultancy Blackbox shows. According to the poll commissioned by Yahoo Singapore, 69 per cent of all 897 respondents

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is the clear favourite of Singaporeans to succeed Lee Hsien Loong as Singapore’s next Prime Minister, a survey conducted by market research consultancy Blackbox shows.

According to the poll commissioned by Yahoo Singapore, 69 per cent of all 897 respondents said they would support Tharman as a candidate to be prime minister.

The 59-year-old led three other men who emerged as possible contenders: fellow DPM Teo Chee Hean (34 per cent), Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (25 per cent) and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing (24 per cent).

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The next Prime Minister: 6 men to watch

Insight takes a look - in alphabetical order - at the 6 men tipped to be in the running to be the next prime minister:
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Who will be the next PM of Singapore?

This year’s Singapore National Day Rally Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong attracted more international interest than ever, as a sudden bout of illness interrupted the PM’s address.

The nationally televised speech was suspended for an hour and Lee had to be helped off stage where he was attended to by a medical team. He then was able return to the lectern. The cancer survivor apologised to the audience for giving them a “scare”, and continued his address without further interruption.

Although doctors say there is no immediate threat to the PM’s health and that his near fainting was caused by fatigue and dehydration, he is currently on a week-long leave to recover after the episode.  

related: The rise of the class of 2011

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Singapore not ready for non-ethnic Chinese leader: PM

Singapore, a multi cultural state of over 3.5 million people, is not ready for a non ethnic Chinese premier in the near future, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in remarks published Sunday.

Lee made his remarks Saturday during talks with members of the local Malay community in response to a question of whether Barack Obama's election as the first black US President could be mirrored in Singapore. "It's possible. It depends on how people vote, on who has the confidence of the population," Lee was quoted as saying in The Sunday Times. "Will it happen soon? I don't think so, because you have to win votes," he added.

"Who votes for whom, and what makes him identify with that person... these are sentiments which will not disappear completely for a long time, even if people do not talk about it, even if people wish they did not feel it."

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Non-Chinese PM? Possible, but not soon

Singapore may have a non-Chinese prime minister one day but that is unlikely to happen any time soon, PM Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, four days after Americans elected their first black president.

Mr Lee said race is still a factor that determines voters' preferences here, although he noted that attitudes have shifted.

He was replying to a question from Association of Muslim Professionals board member Yang Razali Kassim at a dialogue with 350 Malay grassroots and community leaders at the Grassroots Club.

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'Matter of time' before S'pore has non-Chinese PM
Asked whether he would be prime minister, DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam said he did not see himself taking on the job.FOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Deputy PM Tharman Shanmugaratnam has said it is a matter of time before Singapore gets a non-Chinese prime minister.

"It seems to me inevitable that at some point, a minority prime minister - Indian, Malay, Eurasian, or some mixture - is going to be a feature of the political landscape.

"We've got a meritocracy, it is an open system," he said yesterday, noting that people share experiences like national service and are educated largely in English, and that the common space is expanding.

related: Singapore could see a non-Chinese PM

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A Non-Chinese PM?

The debate on the possibility of a non-Chinese prime minister for Singapore in the future, though interesting, has ignored one important point. Owing to the uniqueness of Singapore’s history, culture and demographics, social cohesion in Singapore may be further strengthened – all other things being equal – if Singapore does indeed attain a PM from the minority races.

As this debate has been conducted in a mature and civil manner, it is certainly a sign of how far Singaporeans have come as a maturing polity.

Unfortunately in this debate, those in the “no” camp, though applauded for sharing their views, have put forward untenable arguments.

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Is S'pore ready for a minority PM?

Meanwhile, Singaporeans are still lumbering along like 3rd World tribes, dragging our baggage of racial hang-ups.

Of course, not all Americans are enlightened voters.

Half of the country's population, who are older and mostly white, are still living in the past and might well view President-elect Barack Obama as an 'uppity nigger'.

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Will Tharman Shanmugaratnam be the next Prime Minister of Singapore?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam is the most deserving guy to be the next Prime Minister, the question is will Singapore rise above petty racial discrimination to select a deserving man from its minority residents as the next Prime Minsiter?

I would like to think that he would be the next PM of Singapore simply because if the PM Lee chooses to step down as PM at the next election, Tharman would be as old as he is today and would therefore be an acceptable age to take over. You're probably looking at another interim situation (ala Goh Chok Tong) with a new PM with a relatively short term. Of course all this is based on the premise that the PAP continues to get elected into the majority going forward.

Every time a minority is involved there are always comments on racism or issues regarding race when or if that person doesn't get the job. Could it be true? Yes. But it it true? Impossible to say. The comments of both the Lees (PM and the late LKY) shared that they didn't believe that the polity were ready for a minority Prime Minister. As a completely political point, that is entirely probably, but isn't a good reason why the PAP given the authority that it does have should choose to bow to the pressures of political expediency, which then makes it a poor excuse.

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Will Singapore ever be ready for a non-Chinese leader? Question looms as ethnic Tamil deputy PM shines

Singapore’s ruling party is celebrating a resounding re-election victory, thanks partly to its economic Tsar, an ethnic Tamil politician whose voter appeal poses an awkward question for its leaders: can a non-Chinese ever become prime minister?

As the People’s Action Party (PAP) settles down to another five years in power, the guessing game of who will succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon has begun - and the name of Tharman Shanmugaratnam keeps coming up.

What are the odds of Shanmugaratnam, who is deputy prime minister and finance minister, making it to the top job?

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Transport Minister chide Straits Times editor: Singapore get to choose its own Prime Minister

According to the Transport Minister, the Prime Minister position is chosen by the Ministers of respective ministries through an internal election process. Given the single party majority domination with only 9 Opposition members in Parliament, the selection lies solely in the hands of the ruling party PAP. Minister Khaw then pointed to Australia’s political system, mocking them for changing 5 prime ministers in five years.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was guaranteed the Prime Minister position because of his dictator father Lee Kuan Yew who selected only his supporters as MPs. Lee Hsien Loong has been in power for the third term and in his 13 years. There is no constitution on the limit of the number of years a Prime Minister can serve like other democracies, where a leader can only serve two terms maximum.

The recent fainting episode during the National Day Rally speech suggested that Lee Hsien Loong’s health is weakening. The 64-year-old could barely give a 3 hour-long speech even though he is still below the retirement age of 67, unlike other elderly in their 70s who are working manual labour with long hours. The likely candidates for the next Prime Minister are Chan Chun Sing, Tan Chuan Jin, Heng Swee Keat.

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Next PM will be picked by the young ministers
PM Lee Hsien Loong delivers the National Day Rally 2016 speech at Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central.ST FOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

I am surprised by Mr Han Fook Kwang's article ("Relooking leadership renewal in Singapore", Aug 28).

He, of all people, should know that the process by which we choose prime ministers is anything but "opaque". He has worked on many books with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and heard Mr Lee describe in detail leadership succession in the People's Action Party (PAP).

We scour the country to find able, honest & committed people to field in elections. Possible candidates go through a rigorous vetting process. This begins the day after every general election.

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More than 80 percent want to see Tharman as Singapore’s next PM

We asked our readers on Sunday (4 Sep) who should be the next Prime Minister of Singapore. As at 12pm today (6 Sep), we have had 2,316 responses to the poll – and most (1882 votes) voted for Tharman Shanmugaratnam to lead Singapore into the future.

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Why no women on the Presidential scene? AWARE asks Constitutional Commission

Women’s rights group AWARE took issue with the glaring lack of women on the Presidential scene as public hearings held by the Constitutional Commission on the Elected Presidency got underway on Mon (Apr 18).

AWARE kicked off its presentation with an image captioned “All the President’s men”, showing current President Tony Tan Keng Yam surrounded by the 6-member Council of Presidential Advisers – all of which are men.

Executive director of AWARE, Ms Corinna Lim, pointed out that this was the case despite there being “many highly qualified women (and) female talent at the highest levels”.

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AWARE on the elected presidency
The following letter is by AWARE on the elected presidency:

We agree that the representation of diverse races in political leadership is important, and welcome the greater recognition that racism and prejudice are urgent and enduring problems that require proactive solutions.

Members of minority groups need to see people like themselves being represented meaningfully in important public institutions.

This applies to women, too. Singapore has not reached a stage where we are free from gender biases—some unconsciously held—that limit women's chances to participate fully in the political sphere. For example, some still believe that mothers do not belong in politics because of childcare.

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Singapore’s succession struggles

When Lee Hsien Loong collapsed during the National Day Rally speech on 21 August 2016, it shocked not only many Singaporeans, but also leaders from around the world. Although he recovered quickly and was able to finish his speech after a short break, the incident drew attention to the issue of leadership succession in a country that has long experienced predictable politics with little change.

While Singapore maintains the appearance of a democracy, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has dominated politics since independence by creating significant barriers to political opposition — currently the PAP control more than 90 per cent of seats. In order to maintain this level of control, the PAP has successfully transferred power to the next generation of hand-picked leaders. But presently, the leadership succession is still unclear despite the fact that the current prime minister is already 64 years old.

This level of uncertainty is a new development in post-independence Singaporean politics, which has become used to the dominant role of the PAP. The party’s first leader and prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, has often been affectionately called the nation’s founding father. His successor, Goh Chok Tong, was widely seen as a seat warmer for the current prime minister, who is the son of the elder Lee.

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UN General Assembly Opening Session

UN chief delivered hard-hitting final Speech warning leaders not to rewrite Constitution
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivered a hard-hitting Speech in his tenth and final speech at the U.N. General Assembly. His Speech was directed against a host of world leaders from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to South Sudan’s Salva Kiir Mayardit

In the Speech filled with frustration, Ban charged that: “In too many places, we see leaders rewriting constitutions, manipulating elections and taking other desperate steps to cling to power.”

Adding: “My message to all is clear: serve your people. Do not subvert democracy; do not pilfer your country’s resources; do not imprison and torture your critics.”

Although the Government of Singapore has changed the Republic’s Constitution a few times (including a pending change to the Elected Presidency scheme); although the ruling party has been accused of gerrymandering elections to give itself an unfair advantage to cling onto power; although citizens who have been detained without trial allege torture; it is highly unlikely that Ban was targeting Singapore in his Speech.

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Singapore Daily:
Saints, sinners, and the Singapore President
PM LHL drop strong hints that Gov will ensure next President will be a Malay
Singapore Elected President – Why We Need a Malay Muslim
PM Lee’s TV interview abt minority representation on EP draws flak from netizens
PM Lee explains why the opposition do not like the Elected Presidency
Elected president: More time needed to persuade candidates?

PAP wants to redefine ‘election’, plays racial card to protect its interest
Tharman to become President & Prime Minister of S’pore at the same time

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A Tribute to Singapore’s First Elected President
SM Emeritus Goh Chok Tong recognisd Ong Teng Cheong as Spore's 1st Elected President

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The National Library Board calls Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first president to be elected into office

HistorySG, a government-run portal called Ong Teng Cheong the first elected president

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Our National Archives shows that Ong took part in and won Singapore’s first presidential election

Then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong also called Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first elected president in a condolence letter to to Ong Teng Cheong’s wife on his passing in 2002

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The Istana website calls Ong Teng Cheong the first president to be popularly elected by the people

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Even international news calls Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first elected president

So, government records say Ong Teng Cheong is Singapore’s first elected president

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related: An Indian Muslim can be a Malay but a Malay Christian cannot be a Malay
Elected President: CC vs AGC
2017 Presidential Election to be reserved for Malay candidates
Public Forum on Elected Presidency cancelled due to poor response
White Paper on Elected Presidency scheme
Spore push for minority President but not ready for non-Chinese PM
Changes to the Elected Presidency Scheme