Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An interview with S R Nathan

From Yahoo news 6 Dec 2011 :

Former president of Singapore S R Nathan said Tuesday that he does not want to defend himself against people who question the role of the presidency.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Nathan said that the role of Singapore’s president cannot be defined easily or clearly, and it would “take another generation at least” to educate Singaporeans about it.

“A lot of people think the president can do what he likes,” he said. “How to educate them? I don’t think you can.”

He made reference to an accountant from a reputable firm who said that the role of the president in Singapore is “no more than the chairman of a company”.

“The chairman of a company goes to work once a month. He holds a meeting, he finishes his business and he goes on to do something else,” he pointed out. “You know my schedule. It’s not a once-a-month job. And this was said by an accountant, so how can I blame lay people for thinking differently? But that’s beside the point, you do an honest day’s job.”

The former president said it is knowledgeable people, rather than Singaporeans in the heartlands, who are questioning his previous role.

“The people in the heartlands, even though many are not very well educated, they see it as a symbol that is distinct from the government. But knowledgeable people seem to think you can do what you like,” he noted.

“I don’t want to go and defend myself,” he added. “If you think so (that the Presidency is like the role of a chairman in a company), so be it."

Meanwhile, Nathan declined comment on the issue of ministerial pay, saying that it would not be fair for him to speak about it as it is still undergoing a review, the recommendations of which will be made at the end of this year.

Nathan was at NTU to receive an honorary doctorate of letters that was conferred on him by the university on Tuesday morning. The degree was awarded in recognition of his contributions to the university as former founding director and current distinguished senior fellow of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

NTU’s chancellor and current President of Singapore, Tony Tan, oversaw the ceremony, attended by about 1,200 students, faculty and invited guests from the public and private sector.

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