A home-grown Singaporean, who was once so poor that he quit school in Secondary 2 after his father died to wash cars and clean ship engines, is making a bid for the highest office in the land.
Mr Farid Khan Kaim Khan, 62, chairman of marine services company Bourbon Offshore Asia, has announced that he intends to contest the presidential election that will be held in September this year.
He is the second person to announce his intention to stand in the election reserved for Malay candidates following changes to the elected presidency last year to guarantee minority representation.
Mr Farid said that although he is of Pakistani descent, he was born in Geylang Serai and his family and relatives speak Malay and "practise the Malay culture".
Launching his bid at a press conference yesterday, he said: "I wish to serve this nation, which I feel capable of doing to the best of my knowledge and ability."
Mr Farid's campaign is based on the theme "Together we build our nation". He listed five issues he would prioritise if elected: Help counter the threat of radicalism by working closely with the Government and various organisations; build trust among people of different races and religions; help troubled youth and the needy; boost efforts to create jobs for people; and work towards strengthening families as buildings blocks of society.
However, it is unclear if Mr Farid will be eligible to run. One requirement for candidates from the private sector to qualify is that they must have been the top executive of a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity.
Bourbon Offshore Asia, a subsidiary of French multinational marine company Bourbon, reportedly has shareholder equity of US$300 million (S$415 million). The Presidential Elections Committee, however, has the discretion to waive the criteria. "I am quite confident that I will qualify. There are many ways to compute shareholders' equity," he said. "Bourbon is one of the biggest companies in the world."
Candidates will also have to apply to the Community Committee to certify that they belong to the Malay community.
He said he has not submitted his forms and will likely do so next week. He declined to comment on his chances against other potential candidates. "In an open system, it is anybody's game," he said. "People have choices... It will be a fair fight."
Second Chance Properties chief executive officer Mohamed Salleh Marican said last month that he intends to run. Another likely candidate who has been widely mentioned is Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who has yet to make her decision known.
Mr Farid, who describes himself as an independent candidate with no political party affiliation, said he has spent the bulk of the past decade building up the company, and he was contemplating retirement when he made the decision to make a bid for the presidency.
At his campaign launch yesterday, Mr Farid was flanked by his wife, Madam Naeemah Shaik Abu Bakar, 62, a housewife; his daughter Raeesah Khan, 23, who works in non-profit organisation Reyna Movement; and his son Yusuf Khan, 18, an Institute of Technical Education student.
He has also gathered a group of old friends to help him run his campaign, among them Captain Ernest Wee, 58, managing director of local marine company AMMships.
"He started working on ships as a greaser who cleans ship engines. It is the dirtiest and lowest-level job in the ship," Mr Wee said of Mr Farid. They have sailed together since 1978. "He started from very humble beginnings and climbed his way up. His story is an inspiring one."