I Voted For Ng Kok Song Because He Focused On Youths
With the 2023 Presidential Elections (PE2023) now over, everyone involved from the candidates’ teams to journalists can heave a sigh of relief as the madness has ended.
Some journalists in particular, including myself, had the privilege of getting to know the candidates better than the average person. Marking ‘X’ next to the symbol of a palm with a heart in the middle was thus a conscious decision for me.
In case you can’t recall, the symbol was for Mr Ng Kok Song, the 75-year-old ex-GIC chief investment officer and current chairman of Avanda Investment Management.
I decided to vote for Mr Ng because a small part of me knew that ex-Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has the hearts of most Singaporeans. However, the bigger reason my ballot went to Mr Ng was simply because I truly believed in his cause — specifically the importance he placed on Singapore’s youths.
No doubt that Tharman would win, but I didn’t resonate with his messages
Firstly, let me get this out of the way: We all knew Mr Tharman was going to win. I did not for a moment think otherwise.
Mr Ng and former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian both had strong reasons to contest for the presidency. But, the popularity of Mr Tharman over his decades in public service is a behemoth to beat compared to Mr Ng and Mr Tan’s time in both the private and public sectors.
We do not have to look further than the speculations and calls for Mr Tharman to become Singapore’s next Prime Minister to get a sense of that. Although he has publicly declined the premiership multiple times, he is, to his good merit, unable to brush off the public’s adoration of him.
So, as certain as I was about most Singaporeans’ opinions of him, I did not think that it was a necessity for me to vote for him. Sure, I resonated with his messages of unity and respect for all, but those are easy values for someone to say they believe in.
I was also not sure about the fact that he had resigned from his role as a Cabinet Minister mere months before nomination. I have to disclaim that I do not lean to any political side in particular, but I was uncertain about how one can so quickly distance themselves from a role that they have held for over 20 years to then claim to be impartial.
There was no one clear reason why my vote, as a young Singaporean who is just finding my way around the world, would make a difference. Contrarily, it was obvious that my age group was not his target audience.
Ng Kok Song seemed to understand my concerns as a young voter
On the other hand, Mr Ng and his campaign seemed more tailored to me, and people like me.
I must confess that I had absolutely zero clue who Mr Ng was when he suddenly showed up at the Elections Department and announced that he would contest in the elections. But, as he started opening up to Singaporeans, I felt that he got me. It felt like how a grandfather would understand a troubled young adult.
The causes he championed also resonated strongly with me, especially his intention to focus on the youth.
He understood that young people such as myself may be sceptical about Mr Tharman’s prior associations in politics, and recognised the imperativeness of a president who is distant from the executive governance.
In terms of qualifications to guard the nation’s past reserves, Mr Ng is arguably on par with Mr Tharman, if not more. While the latter was a former finance minister, the former had his hands in the investments of these reserves since before Mr Tharman actively engaged in politics.
As such, I didn’t think there was a better person to hold the second key to the money that could make or break the country.
Trusted youths & social media-savvy citizens to spread his message
Mr Ng’s approach to campaigning was probably what sealed the deal for me — it was not just words but actions that I have witnessed with my own eyes and ears.
My working experience and interactions during this period came in handy when it was time for me to make my decision. It convinced me that his target audience is me and my peers, and not a “general public” approach.
During this time, Mr Ng did not put up posters or banners to raise awareness. The most he did was to give out some flyers during his walkabouts in the heartlands, due to resource and environmental concerns.
Instead, he poured most of his energy and resources into social media and targeting young Singaporeans like me, many of whom were voting for the first time.
I once asked during a media doorstop whether he thinks such an approach would alienate the older segment of voters. His answer was that the older generation must not be underestimated when it comes to the use of social media.
Mr Ng was banking on the younger generation and the social media-savvy to help spread his message. He wanted the youth to enlighten the older citizens who would be able to learn from them.
It is his act of putting his trust in youths that made me want to invest my vote in him.
Ng Kok Song was a candidate unafraid of being vulnerable, so I voted for him
I also had the privilege of sitting down with Mr Ng one-on-one for a feature, during which he opened his heart to my questions.
He readily fielded questions about his first wife that most widowers would avoid or might even be uncomfortable with. In fact, his eyes started to well with tears at some points, which in turn tugged at my heartstrings.
Call me biased, but the transparency and courage to be vulnerable about personal trials and tribulations show that he is human.
Through his actions, he essentially declared: To hell with traditional views of a “strong” masculine and a polished “public relations” persona, I will share my story so that Singaporeans know I am a being of flesh yet unafraid of challenges and pains.
Thus, from one storyteller to another, I much preferred the ideological and emotional closeness to this candidate over the distance I felt from the others. So, I ultimately voted for Mr Ng Kok Song.
Note: The views expressed within this article are the author’s own.
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