Tharman Shanmugaratnam launches 'Respect For All' campaign for Singapore presidency

Former senior minister emphasises unity, need for Singapore to evolve its culture and norms to stay relevant to the world

Former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam embraces a vision of inclusivity and unity with the launch of his
Former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam promised a vision of inclusivity and unity with the launch of his 'Respect For All' campaign. (PHOTO: Bloomberg)

SINGAPORE — Tharman Shanmugaratnam officially launched his campaign for the Singapore presidency on Wednesday (26 July), expressing his vision of being "a president for a new era".

During a press conference held at the York Hotel, the former senior minister emphasised the need for Singapore to evolve its culture and norms, in order to ensure the country remains a prominent and exemplary entity on the global stage.

CNA reported that Tharman also stressed the importance of unity, to prevent the nation from becoming a divided society amid challenges facing the city-state on both the global and domestic fronts.

'Respect for All' campaign

Launching his "Respect For All" campaign for presidency, Tharman expressed his commitment to utilising his extensive 22 years of experience in politics to unify people, a critical responsibility of the president.

"When we talk about being a unifying figure, I do not say this rhetorically or just as an aspiration, but I speak from a real track record," he said, highlighting his history of respecting diverse viewpoints and constantly striving to find common ground.

His decision to run for president led to his resignation from the People's Action Party and all his government positions, including Senior Minister, Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC.

Prior to his political career, Tharman worked as an economist and civil servant, primarily at the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Having served as Minister for Education and Finance and Deputy Prime Minister from 2011 to 2019, Tharman brings a wealth of experience to the table. His involvement with prominent international organisations like the International Monetary Fund, World Economic Forum, and the United Nations further strengthens his candidacy.

Tharman cautions against artificial distinctions between past political affiliation

Tharman, however, stressed the importance of avoiding artificial distinctions based on past affiliations, reported The Straits Times.

He referred to the case of former President Ong Teng Cheong, and explained that there exists a clear difference between being independent from any previous political party affiliation and possessing an independent mind and character.

He added that his own advantage stems from the experience he gained while working on policies and understanding the complexities of governing Singapore.

Tharman stated that he believes judging individuals solely based on their past, or on their close association with the government, would "weaken the system".

"Let’s not draw these artificial distinctions based on past affiliations. Let’s look at the positive attributes of each candidate...that’s what we should judge them on," The Straits Times reported him as saying.

Contemplates presidential responsibilities

In addressing his potential responsibilities as president, Tharman said he is fully committed to fulfilling other crucial duties, such as safeguarding the reserves, drawing upon his governmental and political expertise.

CNA reported that he stressed his more fundamental qualities, such as integrity and independence of mind, will be paramount in his role as president.

"I don't have to change my colours like a chameleon. I'm the same person with the same integrity and same independence of mind, and that remains critical for the role of the president," he asserted.

The 2023 Presidential Election is anticipated to be announced soon, as the six-year term of the current President, Halimah Yacob, ends on 13 September. This upcoming election is open to candidates of all races.

Gathers backing to support presidential bid

At the official campaign launch of Tharman, other key figures were present. These included his proposer, seconder, and eight assenters, all of whom will sign his nomination paper.

Tharman's proposer is former Nominated MP Thomas Chua, the president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Association and honorary president at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

His seconder is Mohammad Alami Musa, Singapore's ambassador to Algeria and head of studies in inter-religious relations at Nanyang Technological University. Mohammad also served as the former President of MUIS from 2003 to 2021.

The eight assenters supporting Tharman's candidacy include individuals such as Hassan Ahmad, special advisor (humanity matters) and former chief executive of Mercy Relief; Mary Liew, NTUC president and Singapore Maritime Officers' Union general secretary; Lim Siong Guan, founding chairman honour (Singapore) and former head of the Singapore Civil Service; and Royston Tan, film director and creative director of National Day Parade 2023.

Businessman and investment chief ready to shake up the race

In the upcoming presidential election, two other candidates have declared their intention to run for office. The candidates are businessman George Goh and former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song.

The eligibility requirements for public sector presidential candidates stipulate that they must have held office for a minimum of three years as a minister, chief justice, attorney-general, or in other high-level posts.

For private sector candidates, they must have served as chief executive of a company with an average of S$500 million in shareholders' equity for at least three years.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam to face competition in presidential election as businessman George Goh and former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song declare their candidacies.
Tharman Shanmugaratnam to face competition in presidential election as businessman George Goh and former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song declare their candidacies. (PHOTO: Reuters and Bloomberg)

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