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Singapore presidential hopeful says he can help nation weather crisis

(Xinhua)

07:58, August 25, 2011

SINGAPORE, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Singapore's former deputy prime minister and presidential hopeful Tony Tan said on Wednesday that he could help the nation weather the next financial and economic crisis if he gets elected.

Tan was one of the four candidates still in the race for presidency, a position that is largely ceremonial and has only custodial powers. It is now the eighth day into their campaigning period since their nominations were confirmed on Aug. 17.

Voters will go to the polls on Aug. 27, after a cooling-off day during which no campaigning is allowed.

Tony Tan, the obvious forerunner in the race, said in a campaign rally in the central business district that there is no need for Singaporeans to fear for the future if they have the right leadership.

Tan stressed that the president has to be a president for all Singaporeans, working with all political parties and civil society for Singapore's future.

"Our president has access to the prime minister and the cabinet ministers. Our president has access to all cabinet ministers. So a wise, experienced and steady president will be able to make a contribution to help Singapore get through the next financial and economic crisis," he said.

Tan said the economic problems in some economies were the result of wrong decisions.

Tan, 71, is extremely experienced on the economic and financial front as he used to head government ministries such as the finance ministry and the ministry of trade and ministry. He was also once the chairman and chief executive of United Overseas Bank (UOB), one of the largest local banks in Singapore.

He was most recently the deputy chairman and executive director of sovereign wealth fund the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

Tan asked voters to think who would best represent Singapore, at home and abroad, and who would have the right temperament, character and courage to remain calm at times of turbulence.

He also distanced himself from candidates who campaigned on the role of the president as a balance to check the government.

"But our president is not a member of parliament. The president is not a super member of parliament as some candidates appear to believe. Our president represents our country at home and abroad. Our president wields important powers to protect our reserves," he said.

Tan has the backing of many organizations in the country, including unions, business associations as well as some government ministers.

Tan was running against three other candidates. The other candidates were Tan Cheng Bock, 71, a doctor and former lawmaker known for being outspoken on important issues; Tan Kin Lian, 63, a former chief of an insurance co-operative run by a labor organization; and Tan Jee Say, 57, who used to a senior civil servant.

The four man were invited to take questions on Wednesday in a session moderated by Debra Soon, managing director of local Channel NewsAsia.

Tan Cheng Bock said the president has to be independent.

"You have to be independent, got to speak your mind. You've got to believe in what you're doing and do it if you really want to go for it," he said.

Tan Jee Say, who has campaigned on the role of the president as a balance to check the government, said he would not be adopting a strong-headed demeanour in engaging world leaders.

"In the campaign you have to be strong, you have to give the impression that you have certain views, and it's fair to tell the voters that you have certain clear and strong views on issues," he said.

Tan Kin Lian said he decided to run to make sure that there is a contest.

"I didn't expect it to be a four-party contest," he said.

The presidential polls would be the first since 1999, when incumbent President S R Nathan won the election in a walkover as there was no qualified candidate. He won uncontested again in 2005.


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