BY: ESTHER NG and NG JING YNG
SINGAPORE – Fresh from a hard fought victory, President-elect Tony Tan, 71, said yesterday that reaching out to all Singaporeans was a priority on his to-do list.
Speaking at a press conference, the former Deputy Prime Minister said: “To those who voted for other candidates, I will strive to be your President also and to find ways in which I can best represent your hopes and dreams for our Singapore.”
Acknowledging that there was some divide among the electorate, Dr Tony Tan, who prevailed with 35.19 per cent of the votes in a keenly fought contest, reiterated that he will work to unify Singaporeans.
And Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was at a community event yesterday, backed Dr Tony Tan to do just that.
“He will go about it in a way that is above politics. He will have not the slightest compunction in coming to decisions that are independent, thoughtful,” said Mr Tharman, who is also Manpower Minister and Finance Minister.
Mr Tharman also said that as Finance Minister, he will engage Dr Tony Tan on the latter’s views and expertise on the global economy amid the ongoing uncertainty – paving the way for Dr Tony Tan to fulfil his campaign pledge of helping to guide the Government through any potential crisis.
Mr Tharman said: “Informal conversations, discussions are the way in which healthy set of institutions work – the Government, Parliament, the President. We’ve got to have that informality as well.”
On the Presidential Election results, Mr Tharman noted that politics here has become more pluralistic and the trend will continue – making it “all the more critical” that Singapore has a “non-partisan” President, he added.
Said Mr Tharman: “That has to be reflected in both the way we elect the President as well as the way in which the President conducts himself, and that’s why I’m glad that Dr Tony Tan is in place because he’s someone who can truly stand above politics.”
Mr Tharman also noted that Dr Tony Tan’s “very strong record in finance, in economics, in defence, in education, gave confidence that he is a person who would be able to come to an informed judgement on issues”.
This ability is important given the situations that the President would have to exercise his custodial powers will “often not be straightforward”, he added.
Mr Tharman also paid compliments to Dr Tony Tan’s closest rival Dr Tan Cheng Bock. Mr Tharman had worked with Dr Tan Cheng Bock when the latter was MP for Ayer Rajah.
“I had a high regard for him. As a grassroots MP, he was very well regarded, very well respected on the ground … And so it’s to his credit that he did well,” Mr Tharman said.
Result was ‘decisive’: Dr Tony Tan
During his press conference, Dr Tony Tan also noted that Singaporeans were becoming more vocal – a trend which he welcomed.
He said: “Admittedly, it may make the process of governing a little bit more difficult … decision-making may be a little bit slower but I think that’s maturing of our democracy, civil society and our politics in Singapore.”
Dr Tony Tan said some of the ways he would reach out to Singaporeans include attending events, organising tea sessions and engaging Internet users via social media. Apart from reaching out to Singaporeans, Dr Tony Tan said it was also important for him to ensure constant vigilance in fulfilling the custodial powers of the President.
He said: “It’s a learning curve but I think it’ll be short and not too steep”.
On his razor-thin winning margin of 0.34 per cent, Dr Tony Tan reiterated that the final result matters most.
Describing the result as “decisive”, he added: “We should look forward to see what we can do rather than look backwards as to the narrow victory, the votes for the other candidates and for myself.”
Nevertheless, Dr Tony Tan noted the substantial number of spoilt votes. According to the Elections Department, 37,826 votes were rejected.
Dr Tony Tan said he hopes for fewer rejected votes future elections – both the Presidential Election and the General Election – as citizens should vote carefully to ensure that their vote count.
Dr Tony Tan also paid tribute to the outgoing President, highlighting Mr SR Nathan’s work in charity. He said that he would use the President’s influence and prestige to create a more caring country.
Dr Tony Tan also expressed gratitude to the “love of my life” – his wife, Mary Tan. Dr Tan added: “I’m sure that she’ll be a great First Lady, and she will fufill that position with grace and distinction and makes a contribution to Singapore in her own right.”
Meanwhile, presidential candidate Tan Jee Say – who received 25.04 per cent of the votes – issued a statement yesterday to congratulate Dr Tony Tan on his win, and his other opponents – Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr Tan Kin Lian – for their “earnest” campaigns.
He added that he looks forward to Dr Tony Tan performing the duties and responsibilities of the office of President in a fair and honourable manner.
Mr Tan Jee Say also urged the President-elect to consider the concerns and interests of those who did not vote for him.
– Singapore Today