Farewell to the President

PM Lee pays tribute to President Tony Tan: A ‘relationship based on mutual trust and respect’

Dr Tan waving farewell as he left the Istana yesterday after six years as president. At the farewell reception, he said he was "determined that the President's Office should symbolise and champion the role we all can play to make Singapore a better s
President Tony Tan Keng Yam, with his wife Mary, getting a round of applause from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Mrs Lee, as well as other guests who attended his farewell reception at the Istana yesterday. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Dr Tan waving farewell as he left the Istana yesterday after six years as president. At the farewell reception, he said he was "determined that the President's Office should symbolise and champion the role we all can play to make Singapore a better s
Dr Tan saying goodbye to Istana staff yesterday afternoon. About 50 employees from various departments of the President’s Office lined the corridor of the Istana main building to bid farewell to Dr Tan. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH
Dr Tan waving farewell as he left the Istana yesterday after six years as president. At the farewell reception, he said he was "determined that the President's Office should symbolise and champion the role we all can play to make Singapore a better s
Dr Tan waving farewell as he left the Istana yesterday after six years as president. At the farewell reception, he said he was “determined that the President’s Office should symbolise and champion the role we all can play to make Singapore a better society”. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

PM Lee pays tribute to Dr Tan, lauding warm ties between head of state and Government

In his six years as president, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam was a "prudent and conscientious custodian" who made sure Singapore's past reserves were well guarded and its key public offices held by suitable, qualified people.

This was helped by the warm ties between the head of state and the Government, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.

"We were able to operate these presidential safeguards effectively and smoothly, because your office and the Government have had a close and constructive working relationship, based on mutual trust and respect," he said at a farewell reception for Dr Tan at the Istana.

Dr Tan said in response: "Mutual trust and respect underpin our constitutional roles as prime minister and president, and our cordial relationship has allowed formal as well as informal opportunities to work together. I have greatly valued our regular meetings, and I am happy my contributions and views have been helpful and constructive."

Mr Lee gave a glimpse of his working relationship with Dr Tan, recounting fondly their regular meetings, often over lunch.

He would update Dr Tan on significant developments and plans, and discuss with him a range of issues. Said Mr Lee: "These informal interactions helped us understand each other's thinking, and enabled the formal mechanisms of the elected presidency to function properly."

He recalled how, when the Government sought the President's consent last year on a guarantee for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail project, Dr Tan studied the issue carefully, and gave his thoughts from the perspective of safeguarding the country's reserves. "Happily, we were able to take your views fully into account in the final agreement, which we signed with your concurrence," said Mr Lee.

CLOSE TIES

We were able to operate these presidential safeguards effectively and smoothly, because your office and the Government have had a close and constructive working relationship, based on mutual trust and respect.

PM LEE, in his speech at outgoing President Tony Tan Keng Yam's farewell reception.

The Government also discussed with Dr Tan and the Council of Presidential Advisers how the Government could fund over the next two decades major infrastructure such as Changi Airport's Terminal 5 and the Cross-Island MRT line.

"No funding decisions need to be made yet. But these are huge long- term investments," said Mr Lee. "It is therefore necessary to begin thinking about possible funding approaches early."

Dr Tan gave his input, and Mr Lee said: "Your views will be valuable as we continue to study this issue with your successor."

In his response, Dr Tan said he was committed to the understanding that Singapore's president is not a centre of political power.

"But the president can be a resource," he added, saying he was glad that his experience had been a resource to the Government.

"More importantly, I was determined that the President's Office should symbolise and champion the role we all can play to make Singapore a better society," he added.

The elected presidency was also reviewed and strengthened during his term. Mr Lee noted the amendments were the prerogative of the Government and Parliament, but Dr Tan's views were sought, and it was "proper and valuable" that he gave them his public support.

With the new arrangements, the upcoming presidential election will be reserved for Malay candidates.

"If all goes well, Singapore will have a Malay president whom all Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion, will look up to with pride, as representing them and the nation," said Mr Lee. "A president who will bring as much honour and distinction to the office as you and your predecessors have."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2017, with the headline 'A 'relationship based on mutual trust and respect''. Print Edition | Subscribe