VIENTIANE - There are enough qualified Singaporeans of all races to vie for the post of an elected president, even with the qualifying criteria looking set to become more stringent, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Sept 8).
"There are qualified Malays, there are qualified Singaporeans of all races," he told reporters at the end of the Asean Summit in Laos.
Mr Lee had been asked if there were enough qualified Malay candidates for the elected presidency, after the government accepted in-principle on Wednesday the main recommendations of the Constitutional Commission that reviewed the elected presidency
Among the proposed significant changes is the doubling of the period potential candidates must have held their positions at work which qualifies them to run for the presidency. It was raised from three to six years.
The commission also suggested that the definition of a large and complex company be revised from $100 million in paid-up capital to $500 million in shareholders' equity.
Mr Lee said the Government wants the criteria strengthened in order to ensure the president who is elected is well-qualified.
"Furthermore, we minimise the risk that we will not have minorities become president from time to time," he said, referring to another recommendation by the commission that an election be reserved for a particular race if no one from that racial group had been elected president for 30 years.
"That is very important - I've explained this multiple times - and that's the fundamental reason why I asked the commission to study how we can make an arrangement so that we make sure that minorities get a chance to be president from time to time.
"They've made a good proposal - we're studying their proposal," Mr Lee said.