SINGAPORE - It is not enough for Singapore to have good institutions; it needs to have good people too.
And the role of the president is to scrutinise the people who occupy important positions in the public service, so that they meet the standards Singaporeans expect of those key appointments, said presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song on Saturday.
He was responding to the media’s questions on how he views the role of the president, in the light of the recent string of political scandals that have rocked Singapore.
These include Transport Minister S. Iswaran being arrested as part of a corruption probe, and People’s Action Party MP Cheng Li Hui and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin – as well as two members of the main opposition Workers’ Party, Mr Leon Perera and Ms Nicole Seah – resigning over extramarital affairs.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the Asia Cat Expo, Mr Ng said:
"“One of the very significant roles of the president is to safeguard the integrity of key appointments in the public service."
“This is extremely important because no matter how good our institutions are, if bad people get into our institutions, they will corrupt our institutions.”
Mr Ng said that should he become the president, he would inquire more about the background of those who have been put forth to take on public appointments, to satisfy himself that the people who are proposing these appointments have done a thorough job of examining the person’s past and track record.
He added that he would also be interested to find out who the people who are being groomed to take over are, should a public official vacate his position.
“Those are very important functions – the president and his Council of Presidential Advisers should... scrutinise and ensure the integrity of our public service,” said Mr Ng.
The 75-year-old former GIC chief investment officer was accompanied by his fiancee, Ms Sybil Lau, 45, at the event at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, where he interacted with felines and cat lovers. The couple have an 18-month-old British shorthair cat named Max.
Mr Ng also painted three different scenarios in which he, or his two other potential competitors – former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and businessman George Goh – might qualify for and win the election.
He argued that the scenario where he wins would be the best outcome for Singaporeans.
He said that in this scenario, Mr Goh, the founder of Harvey Norman Ossia, would be able to go back to grow and develop his businesses, and contribute to Singapore’s “thriving private sector to create jobs and grow our economy”, while Mr Tharman can go back to the Government, “which will be a good thing because the Government is going through a difficult time”.
“In that scenario, we can have the best of three worlds: Mr Tharman continues to serve our country and the Government in the way that he has done in the past 22 years. Mr George Goh goes back to building his business to support our Government’s efforts in building our economy.
“And I would be so honoured to serve the people of Singapore,” said Mr Ng.