Indian-origin novelist Meira Chand has been honoured with the Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s most prestigious arts accolade, in support of her artistic pursuits.
Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a prominent figure in Singaporean politics and economics, is set to assume the largely ceremonial role of President of Singapore. However, his decision to enter the presidential race has sparked discussions about his previous controversies and the path not taken. Let us look at some of Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s biggest controversies.
The president’s role in Singapore is primarily symbolic, with limited authority, largely confined to matters concerning the country’s substantial financial reserves. When it comes to public affairs, the government, which holds the power to remove the president, has made it clear that the president’s voice must be restrained, likening the position to that of the British monarch.
Traditionally, this figurehead role is in occupation of individuals who are pleasant and uncontroversial. However, Tharman Shanmugaratnam stands out as more than just a symbolic leader.
This departure from his previous roles has left some of his supporters disheartened. They had hoped for a broader and more influential role in serving the greater good of society, potentially as the Prime Minister. The role of Prime Minister in Singapore carries considerably more weight than that of the President.
On being a non-Chinese:
Tharman’s popularity and competence have led many to believe he could have become Singapore’s first non-Chinese Prime Minister, challenging a long-standing government notion. He possesses the qualities and stature necessary to shatter the perceived glass ceiling in Singaporean politics.
Additionally, Tharman enjoys a strong political alliance with the country’s most influential figure, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Their patron-client relationship dates back to the 1980s when Tharman worked for the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Given his widespread appeal and expertise in economics and public policy, Tharman seemed like the logical successor to Lee. However, in 2008, Lee declared that only a candidate from Singapore’s majority Chinese community would be acceptable. That closed the door on Tharman’s potential candidacy for the role of Prime Minister.