Report on Presidenti​al Election 2011 television debate

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 24 Aug 2011 report “Candidates split on protecting reserves”

It was reported that Mr Tan Jee Say and Mr Tan Kin Lian did not readily agree to sanctioning the use of reserves under circumstances similar to those in 2008 and 2009 while Dr Tony Tan and Dr Tan Cheng Bock said “yes”. I find that report inaccurate.

While Dr Tan Cheng Bock said “yes” he also added that there must be good reasons given. Similarly, Mr Tan Jee Say said “I will do the same as President Nathan” and added that he will ask more questions on Job Credit. So the responses from these two candidates seem quite similar and yet Straits Times depicts the former as giving a “yes” readily and the latter as not agreeing so readily.

I refer to the 24 Aug 2011 report “Making difficult and unpopular decisions”

Dr Tony Tan claimed that he made a difficult and unpopular decision when he scrapped the Graduate Mothers scheme that had caused public discontent that swelled over in 1985. If the scheme had been so unpopular, surely scrapping it must be a popular rather than unpopular amongst the people? Dr Tan said the scheme was not working anyway. In that case, wouldn’t scrapping it be easy since it was not working anyway? So this seemed to be an easy and popular decision rather than a difficult and unpopular one.

Dr Tony Tan said it was difficult because it meant admitting that a mistake had been made. But which is more difficult? Continuing with the mistake and letting public discontent swell even more or scrapping the scheme to quell public discontent? MM Lee recently announced that he stood corrected after a ground swell of discontent for his insensitive remark on the Malay community. So it seems that admitting a mistake is not so difficult after all compared to losing the ground to discontent.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock claimed that the one difficult and unpopular decision he had to make was to vote against the party on the issue of nominated MPs despite the whip not being lifted. Of the many occasions prior to this one difficult decision, was there never once when he too felt compelled to go against the whip but didn’t? After he got a stern warning for this one difficult decision, was there never another occasion where he again felt compelled to go against the whip but didn’t? Just once out of 26 long years when Dr Tan voted country above party, hardly an impressive record to convince Singaporeans that when push comes to shove, Dr Tan will put country above party.

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