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Indian, Pakistani lineage of S'pore's next president debated

by July 29, 2017 General

The identity of candidates seeking nominations for the post of Singapore’s next president has come under the scanner with a debate swirling around whether they are “Malay enough” as the two likely contenders are of Indian and Pakistani descent.

The favourite for the ceremonial head of the state post is Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob but according to media reports her father was Indian and mother Malay.

The election, to be held in September this year, will be the first reserved for Malay Muslim candidates following changes passed by the Parliament last November to ensure multiracialism of the office.

But Halimah, 62, said that she is still mulling over whether to run in September’s presidential election, which she first told local reporters two weeks ago.

She pointed out that she had been certified as a member of the Malay community four times in the past general elections: in 2015, 2011, 2006 and 2001.

If Halimah decides to stand for president, she will have to resign from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

A debate has swirled around whether the hopefuls who have put their names up for election are “Malay enough”.

Online critics have said Halimah should be considered an Indian, reported local media.

The critics also took aim at aspirant Salleh Marican, who also has Indian heritage and struggled to speak in Malay.

A third aspiring candidate, Farid Khan, has Pakistani heritage.

Salleh has said he is taking Malay lessons.

Farid said that though his identity card indicates his race as Pakistani, he and his family practise Malay culture and speak Malay, and so he is part of the community.

Meanwhile, Tan Cheng Bok, a former PAP Member of the Parliament, is challenging the decision to reserve the appointment of the next president.

Tan stood against current President Tony Tan Keng Yam in 2011.

Five judges, instead of the usual three, will hear Tan’s appeal on Monday the upcoming presidential election.

The panel will include Indian-origin Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who chaired the Constitutional Commission convened last year to update eligibility criteria for the elected presidency and ensure it reflects Singapore’s multiracial society.

The Constitutional Commission had recommended reserving an election for members of a racial group if it had not been represented in the presidency for five continuous terms.

This was accepted by the government and passed by the Parliament, which decided this year’s election should be reserved for Malay candidates.

The government started its count of the five terms from the term of President Wee Kim Wee, who was in office when the elected presidency took effect in 1991.

There have been four other terms since, including that of current President Tony Tan.

Tan had argued this was unconstitutional as Wee was not popularly elected. He said the count should start from President Ong Teng Cheong, so the reserved election should start in 2023 at the earliest.

(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)