All eyes are now on the President Election Council where three wise men are supposed to pass an edict on who are the presidential hopefuls that will get their blessings to receive a COE. What they have to fall back on is a list of criteria in an Act to make their godly decisions. The terms are public knowledge today, but though everyone thinks they know what they meant, everyone is also at a lost as to what they meant. Everyone is having an opinion as to who will qualify and who will not.
Some of the criteria are quite specific, a permanent secretary or equivalent, CEO of a public company with a paid up capital of $100m and at least three years in the job. With these conditions, some have already pronounced that only Tony Tan qualifies while the rest are doubtful starters if the PEC applies them stringently. It seems quite an easy task if one is to act like an unthinking robot and goes by the letters in the legislation. And if that be the case, only Tony will qualify. Anyone with any objections can be asked to read the Act themselves. See, must be a permanent secretary or a CEO of a public listed company with $100m paid up capital. Anything else is outside the law.
The PEC can also attempt to try to read the spirit of the Act, as to what was the intention of the provision. As in all legislations, the words are limited and cannot cover all conditions, variations or exceptions. What was the intent of the people who passed the Act? Do they really mean that only those few people as indicated qualify to stand as a candidate, or is the provision meant to cover a wider area to include more able people for the Presidency? To many laymen, that must be the case and the provisions are just guidelines to ensure that people of good character, with sufficient intellect and abilities to decide on the use of the nation’s reserve be allowed to stand. The Act cannot be so rigid, a straight jacket, that will rule out anyone that do not fit its brief descriptions to the T.
The four/five candidates, with their qualifications and experiences, are good and able men that would have no problem in performing the duties of the Elected President. They are more than the average men on the street. They have good credentials and no one is saying that they are not good enough unless it can be proven that they have character flaws or did anything that is unbecoming of the office of the President.
The job of the PEC should be quite easy actually if it is just the interpretation of the Act. Unfortunately there are other political considerations and complications that will affect their final edict. The people all knows what the considerations are. There are the interests of the ruling party and also the interests of the country and people to take note of. We have heard comments about a neutral President that is not beholden to any political party. A President that has the courage and stature and toughness to take a stand against the ruling govt. After all he is to check on the govt when the use of the reserves is placed on his table. He is also expected and some say good, to be able to work closely with the ruling govt while able to say no if necessary.
See, things start to get messy here, to be friendly, pally, to be nice but also to be able to stand up to the govt. Or to be not so friendly and to be not so nice and glad to have the opportunity to say no. As far as the govt is concerned, they would want someone nice and pally, someone that would give them the least annoyance. Maybe someone that will say yes when the govt wants to dip into the reserves. In this case, an ex party member with close ties would be ideal. Strange relationship huh?
On the other hand, the people would want a President to be really, truly, and strongly independent minded, independent of the govt, and happy to be objective and ready to say no to the govt. In this case, a non ruling party member, someone who has never slept in the same bed before must be the chosen one.
So, how would the PEC decide then, given the unspoken interests of the ruling govt to take care of and the interests of the people who are more comfortable with a really independent President, not just by words alone, or personal claims, but to be able to act independently of the ruling govt? Would the spirit of the Act hold sway and a broader interpretation be used by the PEC? Or would a different kind of spirit takes an upper hand and every letter in the Act is taken literally with no rooms for exception, leading to the disqualification of several candidates?
What kind of spirits would rule the day and lead the PEC to go about their work? I can see that people are praying everywhere in the streets for good blessings from the spirits. The govt can be angry, the spirits too. And there is the wrath of the people to consider. This is a non political appointment, a non political President and the election must be devoid of politics. So some wise men would say. Non political? Can that be?
The least that the people can expect is that this election is done with great respect, decorum, honour and decency. And it starts from the moment the application for a COE is submitted. This election must be clean and free from all the ugly accusations of a GE where all kinds of perceptions were present to discredit or cast doubt to the whole affair. The PEC and its three wise men have a very vital role to play to set the tone for the election of a President that is not tainted with political undertones.