SINGAPORE - Over the years, Mr Salleh Marican grew his small tailor shop to a $250 million property and investment holdings firm and made a name for himself as a self-made businessman. But yesterday, the 67-year-old fell short in his bid to run for the presidency.
The Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) found Mr Salleh was ineligible to stand for election to the highest office in the land.
In rejecting his application, it found that he did not have the ability nor the experience for the office required for a candidate from the private sector.
The PEC laid out its reasons for rejecting Mr Salleh in a letter to him on Monday (Sept11).
The letter, which was shown to The Straits Times by Mr Salleh, said that while his investment holdings and retail firm was profitable through his tenure as its chief executive from 1999 to the present day, its shareholder equity - which averaged $258 million in the last three financial years - was considerably lower than the threshold required.
Among other criteria, presidential hopefuls from the private sector are required to have run a company with at least $500 million in shareholders' equity for the most recent three years.
The committee had also considered that the "principal activities of Second Chance were those of an investment holding company, retailing of garments, holding of property as investment for rental income, investing in equities, and trading in bonds and equities".
As a result, the PEC said it "was unable to satisfy itself" that Mr Salleh had experience and ability of a person who met the criteria.
Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday evening at his home near Upper East Coast Road, Mr Salleh said he was sad and "very disappointed".
"The reason is very vague, very general, they find that I cannot, I don't have the ability to manage a $500 million company. This is very subjective," he said.
"In business, it's (also about) luck, if let's say tomorrow, or in the next few months I have $500 million, maybe if property price goes up, I'm actually the same person."
He pointed out that he tried to convince the PEC by giving them testimonials from people who have dealt with him in business and believed he had what it takes to manage a $500 million company.
"I explained that from $8,000 of capital, from a small tailor shop, I have grown the business to $250 million, and along the way I have learnt much, I have gone through failures and setbacks and still all this somehow did not convince them," said Mr Salleh.
The PEC's decision is final and is not open to appeal.
Asked about his future plans, Mr Salleh said he did not believe in retirement, and would continue to run his business.
"I have been contributing to small charities over the last 30 years, I will continue to do so. I will contribute to my country and society in other ways," he said.
And while he wished Madam Halimah Yacob well, he also said this was not the endof the road for his presidential ambitions.
"I hope that I can grow this company in the next six years, and if I can meet the $500 million criteria six years later, I will try again, in an open election. I believe in second chances. I believe I will give myself a second chance," he said.