It is common knowledge to Singaporeans that the first elected President was Ong Teng Cheong. However, the government has called this simple fact into question by claiming that President Wee Kim Wee, who was elected into the presidency by parliament, had exercised the powers of the Elected President.
The government’s view has now been called into question after netizens unearthed an excerpt from former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s letter of condolence to President Ong’s son when the former president passed away.
“As the first elected President, Teng Cheong had to work the new two-key system of safeguarding our reserves and key appointments in the public sector. We had no precedents to fall back on. When issues arose, we did not always hold the same views, as was to be expected because of our different responsibilities under the Constitution. But Teng Cheong applied himself diligently and worked with the Government to come up with the rules and procedures. His efforts helped to put the two-key system through its paces, and made the job of future Presidents that much easier.”
This letter argues that President Ong was the first to exercise the powers of an Elected President, which shows that the government does not hold water.
The government will now have to explain accountability from the government on why it chose President Wee as a reference point. Presidential Candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock has explored the possibility of taking up the issue in Court. Dr Tan can propose such a challenge under the Constitutional Tribunal under Article 100 of the Constitution.