Mr Ng Kok Song has put down former Cabinet minister George Yeo as his character reference in a form submitted to the Elections Department of Singapore
He declined to say who else he listed as character references in applying to contest in the upcoming Presidential Election
He will announce his team of proposer, seconder and assenters on Nomination Day, he said
At an event hosted by a Teochew association, Mr Ng talked about Singapore's reserves as its "financial defence" and explained why
He also responded to comments made earlier by potential contestant Tan Kin Lian
SINGAPORE — Presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song said that he had listed former Cabinet minister George Yeo as one of three character references when applying on Wednesday (Aug 2) for a certificate of eligibility at the Elections Department of Singapore.
He was asked about it during an interview with reporters on Thursday night, when he visited the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan on Tank Road near River Valley.
Mr Ng, 75, was formerly the investment head at sovereign wealth fund GIC.
He is seeking to contest in the upcoming Presidential Election with former Cabinet minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, businessman George Goh, and possibly Mr Tan Kin Lian, former head of insurance cooperative NTUC Income who also made a run for the 2011 Presidential Election.
Mr Ng declined to disclose the names of his remaining two character references when asked.
“I would not have revealed the names except that Mr George Yeo himself said so on his Facebook. So I’m just confirming what Mr George Yeo said.”
Around midnight on Thursday, Mr Yeo published on Facebook a picture of himself and his wife seated with Mr Ng and his fiancee Sybil Lau, with a message: “Hosted to a pleasant dinner by old friend and colleague, Ng Kok Song, and his fiancee Sybil Lau. I told him earlier that I would not be involved in campaigning for the coming Presidential Election but would be honoured to be one of his character references.”
Mr Ng later published an Instagram post on Thursday morning with the caption: “So glad that Sybil and I could chat with George Yeo and his wife Jennifer about the future of Singapore. Means so much to me to have George as my character reference!”
Mr Yeo last held the post of foreign affairs minister before his 23-year political career came to halt after the 2011 General Election, when he and his team from the People’s Action Party lost their constituency in Aljunied to the Workers’ Party.
Mr Ng reminded reporters that character references are different from assenters, adding that he would reveal his team of proposer, seconder and assenters on Nomination Day, which is yet to be announced.
“You must understand that character references are different from assenters.
“When a prospective candidate makes an application to the Presidential Elections Committee for a certificate of eligibility, the candidate is required to have three character references. So Mr George Yeo is one of my character references — different from assenters.”
In addition, each potential presidential candidate has to complete a Nomination Paper detailing a team of a proposer, seconder and between four and eight assenters, who will have to sign this form to be submitted on Nomination Day.
During his visit on Thursday night to the building that houses a clan association for Singapore’s Teochew community, Mr Ng spent time speaking with the association’s board members and delivered an opening address on the “strategic importance” of Singapore’s reserves.
He then presented a painting of a horse done by his fiancee to the hosts, before spending about an hour fielding questions posed by the board members on Singapore’s reserves and the President’s role.
ON TAN KIN LIAN AND INFLUENCING POLICYMAKERS
Speaking to reporters after the event, Mr Ng was asked to respond to earlier comments made by Mr Tan Kin Lian, who said that he plans to use the President’s veto powers to “ensure that government policies align with (his) vision and goals” if he were elected.
Mr Ng said: “I don’t think it’s correct to say that the President will have the executive powers to, for example, ask the Government to reduce the cost of living.
“But what the President can do in regard to the cost of living is to make sure that we safeguard our reserves so that the Singapore dollar will remain strong.
“And when the Singapore dollar is strong, it helps to reduce the cost of living.
"So indirectly, by safeguarding the reserves, the President will be able to contribute to keeping down the cost of living in that way.”
"For Singapore to survive as a country in times of war, we must have our financial defence, and our financial defence is our reserves." Ng Kok Song
Mr Ng also said that he had submitted his application for the certificate of eligibility based on the “public sector deliberative track”.
“In other words, it is based on my experience and my duration of service at the GIC as the group chief investment officer.”
ON SINGAPORE'S RESERVES AS 'FINANCIAL DEFENCE'
Speaking at the event on the role of the President and the frequent link to the country’s reserves, Mr Ng said that the reserves are important because they represent Singapore’s “financial defence”, can be used in times of “very difficult economic circumstances”, and are associated with a strong Singapore dollar.
“In other words, for Singapore to survive as a country in times of war, we must have our financial defence, and our financial defence is our reserves.”
He added that he realised the importance when “Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded Kuwait” with the intention of seizing Kuwait’s oil and financial reserves. This was in 1990.
“Fortunately, Kuwait had a lot of reserves, financial reserves — over US$100 billion of reserves (around S$180 billion in 1990),” Mr Ng continued, adding that the reserves could be used to pay for American military equipment to liberate the country and later rebuild the country after liberation.
He hopes that Singapore would never have to go to war. “But if that sad day comes, we will have to depend on our reserves for the financial defence and survival of Singapore.”
Financial defence is also needed when “very difficult economic circumstances” emerge such as the global financial crisis and the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, he said.
“In times of economic crisis, when our economy goes down, we have to save jobs and we have to help low-income people. How do we do that? The Government has to go to the President and say we need to use our savings, our past reserves.
“In 2020, our finance minister (then), Mr Heng Swee Keat, had to go to Parliament and then he had to go to the President to use almost S$100 billion of our reserves.”
As for the third vital role of the reserves, Mr Ng said that the Singapore dollar is “very strong, because people know that we have a lot of reserves to back our currency”.
A strong Singapore dollar is important because the nation has to buy and import multiple goods from overseas, including its food, oil and manufacturing equipment.
“The stronger the Singapore dollar, the more it helps us to reduce the cost. So a very strong Singapore dollar helps to keep our inflation down in Singapore.
“That is why we need to save money, we have to increase our reserves, so that our currency will remain strong, and it will help us keep down the cost of living in Singapore.”
He added that having spent 30 years at GIC to help “increase our reserves by investing them properly” and after helping “to build up GIC as one of the leading sovereign wealth funds in the world”, he did not want the reserves to be “squandered” or “wasted”.