Chan Chun Sing In Parliament
It was a momentous day in Parliament on Monday (Feb 6). Some changes to the way the coming presidential election will be carried out were announced, including the month it will be held (September) and changes to campaign rules to discourage divisive electioneering, reported The Straits Times.
However, these important changes were overshadowed by a slip of the tongue from Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing, when he presented the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill for debate.
Slip Of The Tongue
During the debate, the member of parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC referred to Speaker of the House Halimah Yacob as “Madam President”, instead of “Madam Speaker”. And he did this twice.
His “slip of the tongue” elicited laughs from the other parliamentarians, prompting Mr Chan to bashfully shake his head.
Watch the video of what happened here:
Madam Halimah Yacob is being seen as a potential candidate for the upcoming presidential election, which is being reserved for Malay candidates. (Read our story on how Singaporeans feel about that.)
She definitely would be a very strong candidate, if she is running. (Read our story on Madam Halimah Yacob and why she would be a strong candidate.)
But what would possibly not sit well with voters is that the scales seem to be tipped in Madam Halimah’s favour, as the presidency is being reserved for Malays this year, and the fact that she is from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) as its MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.
All this makes Mr Chan’s “slip” seem to be a Freudian one — in his mind, he may already be seeing Madam Halimah as the future president of Singapore. At least, we know whom his vote is going to, should she run.
We wonder what the other potential candidates would think of this. (Read our story on the potential candidates for the presidential election.)
Mr Chan’s slip frustrated many netizens, who felt that he was not taking the debate at all seriously, especially for someone touted to be a future choice for prime minister.
Some also saw his slip as one that revealed the anointed president, and questioned the worth of having elections at all:
Were Mr Chan’s actions in parliament on Monday a genuine slip, an attempt at humour or a Freudian slip?
That’s up to Singaporeans to decide.
Debate With Sylvia Lim
Another moment that shone a spotlight on Mr Chan was his debate with Ms Sylvia Lim, the Workers’ Party member of parliament for Aljunied GRC.
Ms Lim questioned the government’s decision to count the terms from President Wee Kim Wee as the first elected president, instead of from President Ong Teng Cheong, who was the actual first elected president.
Why not count from the first elected president, Mr Ong Teng Cheong? Is it because if President Ong was the first one to be counted, we would have to go through this year’s election as an open election and risk the contest by Chinese or Indian candidates who may not be to the government’s liking?
In response, Mr Chan asked:
Are you suggesting the Attorney-General did not give the government the appropriate advice? Or that the Prime Minister has not been truthful with the Attorney-General’s advice?
If it’s the first, then I think Miss Lim, as suggested by DPM Teo (Chee Hean), can challenge this in the courts. But if it’s the second, then I’m afraid it’s a very serious issue to cast aspersions on the integrity of our Prime Minister.
Depending on whose side you are taking in this debate, you would come to a different conclusion. If you thought that Ms Lim’s question was a legitimate one, it does seem that Mr Chan’s reply was an overreaction. However, if you thought that Ms Lim was casting aspersions on the integrity of the Attorney-General or Prime Minister, then Mr Chan may have been justified in defending them.
Here’s a video of the exchange:
We look forward to the upcoming presidential election as a chance to exercise our democratic rights as a citizen and getting the best person for the job.
And no matter what you feel about the election and the process that led us to that point, let’s vote for who we think deserves the role the most, for the sake of Singapore’s future.