I must say, I'm a bit disappointed by how our Presidential Elections went.
@eustaciatan started the ball rolling about how the #NotMyPresident hashtags were totally uncalled for, and she raises some fantastic questions about race and what it means in today's world. I urge you to head over to her Dayre and read them.
But you know what REALLY disappointed me? It wasn't those hashtag, or how many Singaporeans complained about losing a public holiday.
It was the fact that we were robbed of the chance to celebrate.
To celebrate the milestone of us electing a female President into office, and achieving what America has not #hilaryclinton
To celebrate that, even as Islamophobia grows amidst the terrorism conflicts today, we had the confidence and voted for a Muslim anyway, because one's religious affiliation does not negate their capabilities.
I can imagine that in an alternate world, Singapore would have been celebrating this week. News headlines will scream, Singaporeans voted for their first female President in the nation's history!
"People feel muzzled and angry because they could not vote" (CNA)
"PAP prepared to pay political price for reserved Presidential Election" (Mothership)
"How Singapore elected a president without a vote" (CNN)
"Why Singaporeans aren't all glad to get the President they wanted" (BBC)
We could have had the chance to celebrate another successful Singaporean story spurred by our system of meritocracy, and how any Singaporean daughter or son (even if you're born from a poor family with no connections), can rise up the ranks to become the nation's symbol of power.
It would have been SUCH a big and joyous celebratory affair. The internet would have been abuzz with tweets and Facebook updates of "omg we really elected our first female President! TAKE THAT AMERICA!" / "big breakthrough for feminism! Female power FTW"! / "WOOHOO I'M SO PROUD OF MY COUNTRY", etc.
Instead, what we see trending is #NotMyPresident , as a result of how our government chose to hold the elections.
I wish our government trusted us enough to vote in our first female (Malay) President, although I can understand if they were afraid to do so, given the prior survey results that probably wasn't representative of the general populace voting inclinations. Call me idealistic, but I choose to believe that Singaporeans have enough brains to pick the most qualified candidate for the job, and Halimah stands out among the 3 who qualified, for obvious reasons.
My friend sourced and wrote this piece, and while the scenario is mostly fictional, it is worth a read!
"As I have mentioned before, this reserved EP process is not a form of affirmative action. Candidates must qualify; there is no lowering of the bar. If we weaken the criteria for those taking part in a reserved election, then we are compromising meritocracy for representation. We cannot do that."
(It really is a brilliant piece of fan fiction and I would have LOVED to see it happening in real life. Can a YouTuber please reenact this? Heh)
I like Halimah, but I think I actually like this fictional version of her even more 😅 Having said that, I do think the fan fiction (and Cherian George's belief echoing the same fictional outcome) is a little too optimistic - if it was left to an open election, I have a feeling Dr Tan Cheng Bock would win over Halimah this time.
You may throw apples at me for this unpopular opinion, but I'm all for a minority election. I loved S R Nathan and I'm sure I'm gonna love Halimah as President. (can't say the same for Tony Tan cos his term was just...forgettable imo.)
Did having a reserved election violate the notion of meritocracy? Yes. Did it steal our right to vote as citizens of a democracy? Indeed (but come on, we live in an authoritarian democracy anyway.)
Before you protest, let us realise that the government had to contend with balancing multi-racialism, democracy AND meritocracy. Sometimes trade-offs have to be made.
(I'm not saying I support how they conducted the elections, but I'm trying to understand why they did what they did.)
I just wish we had been given the chance to vote Halimah in, over Salleh and Farid.
But now there's little cause for celebration, people are protesting, and Singaporeans are lashing out at the PAP.
What a waste of what it could have been.
Should a President be elected, or selected?
This is the question I've set for my GP students this week HAHAHA. I'm quite excited to read what my students have to argue!
P.S. I still don't understand why Wee Kim Wee is now the state's first elected President though. Weren't we taught in history class that it was Ong Teng Cheong? If anyone has the slightest clue, please enlighten me!
P.P.S. If Mdm Halimah's NRIC states that she's Indian, is it technically right to say we now have a Malay President? What defines a Malay anyway? (that's a debate for another day...or on @eustaciatan's Dayre!)
Saturday, 16 Sep 2017
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