Do we want a citizens' president or a businessman president?

The qualifying criteria for the elected president emphasise financial dexterity. A person from the private sector who wants to run for the presidency must have experience in running a company with at least $100 million in paid-up capital.

There has been a suggestion for the amount to be raised so as to narrow the field and improve the "quality" of candidates.

This measure may seem objective, but we could run the risk of being blinkered in our approach, if it is extended too far.

While there can be no disagreement that candidates must be submitted to stringent scrutiny, we must be cognisant of the fact that raising the amount could further limit potential candidates.

Is the office of the president of Singapore increasingly the exclusive purview of only chairmen of boards and chief executive officers of multimillion-dollar companies? Do we want a businessman president or a citizens' president?

Can a respected doctor, litigator or educator qualify to be Singapore's president?

I am also baffled by the need to consider legislating for a "minority" president. Expanding the group representation constituency concept into other areas of society is not helpful, even regressive.

Singapore has always pursued and admired the fact that everyone is where he is on his own merit. It has been our guiding principle for half a century.

Singaporeans want the best candidate as president. We should have confidence that we will know a strong candidate, regardless of race, and vote accordingly.

I favour Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon's view that the president symbolises the unity of the nation first, above everything else.

The sine qua non of a citizens' president is that he carries the concerns and aspirations of all citizens, regardless of race.

Out of this mandate comes the will and courage to exercise the custodial duties of the office.

Nicholas Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Do we want a citizens' president or a businessman president?'. Subscribe