Singapore ready for non-Chinese head of state, says presidential candidate Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Singaporeans today, unlike 40 or 50 years ago, look at all factors and not just race, said 66-year-old Tharman, a Singaporean of Indian origin.

Published: 26th August 2023 11:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th August 2023 11:50 AM   |  A+A-

Presidential candidate Tharman Shanmugaratnam waves after a speech at the nomination centre for the presidential election in Singapore on August 22, 2023. (Photo | AFP)


SINGAPORE: Singapore is ready for a non-Chinese prime minister at any time, presidential candidate Tharman Shanmugaratnam has said ahead of the September 1 election, calling it a marker of the society's progress in the country dominated by Chinese-origin population.

Race is a factor in politics everywhere, he said on Friday, citing former US president Barack Obama, who has spoken and written about it. However, Singaporeans today, unlike 40 or 50 years ago, look at all factors and not just race, said 66-year-old Tharman, a Singaporean of Indian origin.

"They look at people in totality...Singapore is ready at any time. If someone comes up who is a superior candidate for prime minister, the person can be made the prime minister. I believe they can," he said during an election meeting to share his vision for the presidency.

It is a marker of Singapore's progress as a society, added the former senior minister, who resigned from the ruling People's Action Party in July to contest for the presidency.

"Singapore is ready any time for a non-Chinese prime minister," The Straits Times quoted Tharman, who goes by his popular first name, as saying.

Singaporeans are to vote for the 9th President on September 1.

Tharman, an economist, also said that as important as they are, only government policies cannot make Singapore a fairer and better place.

Instead, things must go much deeper, and the next phase of Singapore's development is to pay attention to things that cannot be measured, he said.

Noting that there are many people who are doing meaningful jobs that are not visible, he said, "Every skill and every job deserves respect. Better pay for the low-paid, but (also) respect and dignity."

Chinese-origin Singaporeans Tan Kin Lian and Ng Kok Song, are also contesting the presidential election.

Tan, 75, is a former trade union-related insurance group NTUC Income's chief executive while NG, also 75, is the former chief investment officer at the state-owned GIC.

Chinese people account for about 75 per cent of Singapore's multi-racial population. An estimated 13.5 per cent are Malays and about nine per cent are Indians, with others making up the remainder.

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