The Presidential Race Heats Up: TOC’s Panel Discussion Part 1
TOC, in excellent form, provided an unprecendented and much applauded panel discussion by the 4 presidential hopefuls. Their teaser of Tan Jee Say acting very unpresidentail when provoked by Tony Tan was top notch as a hook on how well that panel discussion went.
Tan Cheng Bock opened the show with the idea of the importance of the independence of the president. Tan Jee Say followed up and quickly retorted that apart from the symbolism of the independenc, there had to be substance to it i.e the president had check and balance roles, although he glossed through on the limits of the president’s executive powers. He gave a few more punches about former PAP members having emotional ties to the PAP and mocking the independence of the Office as a resule, indeed. But he left out the fact about presidents who come as political adversaries to the PAP – himself as he was a SDP member too. Tony Tan was weak right from the start in terms of image as he flipped through his notes in his opening address. Although his prepared thoughts subsequently flowed better than Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Jee Say, it meant he was less “natural”. He was spot on that the Constitution set the limits to what the president can and cannot do in parliament, and that only parliament can review the president’s powers, not the president himself, pushing Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Jee Say back into their corners. Tan Kin Lian was actually not that bad, comfortably confident in his batik shirt talking about the values guiding his presidency if elected, but he was generally out of his depth.
My opinions of this history-making PE discussion that can only mean a proper debate for PEs in future:
Tan Cheng Bock – His annual Istana reports idea is appealing in the effort to be transparent. The symbolic separation of the government and the president’s office is nice but Tan Jee Say had a point that independence in substance is more important than the semiotics of independence. Tan Cheng Bock is honest and straightaway qualified that he cannot intervene directly in disabled issues when asked a potential vote-winning/losing question depending on how he answered. He often tackled questions with short and sharp points bringing back discussions that went off, but is in the danger of being seen as shallow in his answers by a less discerning audience.
Tan Jee Say – The political polar opposite of Tony Tan, and obviously the SDP man still. It is especially ironic because of his accusations that Tan Cheng Bock and Tony Tan are still PAP. He is unstately and unpresidential to have lost his cool after Tony Tan interrupted him. This was his moment to show that he can handle himself if not his supporters at nomination day and he lost that chance.
Tony Tan – Clearly the political animal and sharpest of the 4 as seen from his clever qualified statements e.g. no black and white answer in what the president can say or cannot say regarding what Goh Chok Tong said in the past and the Law Minister comemnted recently. He adriotly answers but yet does not answer them at the same time. While politically sharp, he can be seen as insincere compared to Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Kin Lian.
Tan Kin Lian – He tended to waffle in his insurance and investment views, but not as quick thinking as the rest on general socio-political views. He and Tan Cheng Bock appeared the nice old men compared to Tony Tan and Tan Jee Say.
The questions of the panels were diverse and loaded. The Maurah question on the use of the ISA then and specifically the Marxist Conspiracy, not the relevance of the ISA now and its use on terrorists was meant for Tan Jee Say to showcase. The question on special assistance for the handicapped was tricky too. Disability and welfare issues are not covered as part of the president’s powers but yet it was thrown at the panel. This was a curve ball question for the candidates to over-commit and step out of the constitutional powers. All 4 candidates answered the easy question on the transparency of the use of past reserves well i.e. they would disclose it.
I’m looking forward to TOC’s Part 2 clip.