K Shanmugam defends Tharman’s presidential campaign despite political pluralism worries 2023

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has mentioned Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s presidential bid in response to diversity concerns.

At Monday’s Institute of Policy Studies 35th anniversary conference, Shanmugam vigorously defended Tharman’s decision-making authority.

“If Mr. Tharman… does anybody think that he is anyone’s patsy or if someone asks him to stand in his stance, he is his own man,” said Mr. Shanmugam.

He decides. He decides. That makes him a strong candidate. Does his strong candidacy make the PAP responsible? I believe certain things are our responsibility and others are not. Great candidate. Pluralism, then. Singapore has other good candidates.”

All presidents since 1993, whether elected by contest or walkover, have been tied to the PAP and helped by its apparatus throughout their campaigns. Private sector candidates who did not match the strict standards were rejected.

Mr Shanmugam and Mr Tharman are longtime PAP comrades.

Mr Shanmugam countered the suggestion that Mr Tharman’s candidacy, supported by the government, may indicate the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) desire for lower political pluralism by arguing that citizens decide political diversity.

“I am yet to come across outside of Scandinavia any country that has successfully made political pluralism work for its citizens, particularly when you factor in the fact that we are extremely small and have more variety of natural insecurities, leave us, like whether it’s me or somebody else or in PAP or whatever, this is Singapore, This is what you have.”

Mr. Tharman stated last Thursday that he will run for president and resign from PAP and other positions.

Mr. Tharman has downplayed worries about potential conflicts of interest due to his broad government duties in his local media statements, advocating for a robust presidential election.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Reform Party Secretary General, has criticized Mr. Tharman’s nomination. Given Mr Tharman’s several government duties, including Finance Minister, Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and Deputy Chairman of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, Jeyaretnam worried about a conflict of interest.

“Ownself Check Ownself,” Mr. Jeyaretnam wrote in a recent blog post, denouncing Tharman’s proposed audit of the state’s reserves, which he previously managed as a government official.

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