Recommendations on elected presidency bold, useful: ESM

Children yesterday getting ready for a lantern walk at Joo Chiat's Mid-Autumn Festival celebration, which ESM Goh attended.
Children yesterday getting ready for a lantern walk at Joo Chiat's Mid-Autumn Festival celebration, which ESM Goh attended.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The panel which reviewed the elected presidency has put out "some bold, useful recommendations", said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, he said the Government felt the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates had to be updated.

The Constitutional Commission was appointed in February to study the scheme, and it published a report last week proposing more stringent criteria for presidential candidates, among other things.

Another key proposal was that if nobody from one racial group has been president for five terms, the next election should be reserved for members of that race.

ESM Goh said the review was not aimed at one particular individual, but to ensure there is a good pool of candidates in future.

On Saturday, 2011 candidate Tan Cheng Bock said in a Facebook post that people should not jump to conclusions that the elected presidency was reviewed to disqualify him from the upcoming election.

The former People's Action Party MP also urged his supporters to wait for the proposed changes to be debated in Parliament.

Responding to Dr Tan's comments, ESM Goh said: "I like Tan Cheng Bock's dignified comments. He said not to jump to conclusions that the proposal was aimed at one particular individual, which indeed, it is not.

"It is meant for ensuring that we have a good pool of people who can stand for the future.

"So I thought that his comment was quite mature and dignified."

In its report, the commission recommended that candidates must have been, for at least six years, the most senior executive of a company with up to $500 million in shareholders' equity.

These changes, if accepted, would disqualify Dr Tan, 72, who was non-executive chairman of investment holding company Chuan Hup, which had $300.7 million in shareholders' equity as of June 30.

The Government will issue a White Paper in response to the report on Thursday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline 'Recommendations on elected presidency bold, useful: ESM'. Print Edition | Subscribe