"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."-- Benjamin Franklin.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good Presidents past (the second key is but a mystical dragon that may never require)

Good Presidents past
Published on Aug 10, 2011
NEVER have I seen Singaporeans so confused regarding the elected presidency.
The purpose of converting the presidential selection from a nominated to an elected process was to have a non-partisan, highly qualified elected official who would prevent a renegade political party from winning power and using a populist agenda to plunder the reserves. Hence the elected president had to be unconnected with a political party.
 But if a renegade political party can be voted into power, so too can an elected president who might gladly collaborate in stripping the national reserves bare; the so-called 'second key' person may well then be a partner in crime.
I have good memories of our second president, Dr Benjamin Sheares, who was nominated in 1971. He was the first local professor at Kandang Kerbau Hospital and went into private practice. When he was approached to be president, he was at the peak of his career and the doyen of the obstetrics and gynaecology fraternity. He gave up a flourishing practice to accept his post.
Uncertain of presidential tenure, he entrusted his case files to a trusted colleague instead of destroying them.
A few years later, he wanted to continue teaching and resume his practice, so a clinic was set aside for his use at KK Hospital.
I was his first assistant for one of the three rotational units of his clinic, as well as coordinator for the lectures as warden of the hostel.
His reputation was legendary and his lectures were well attended.
Once he told us that the transition from clinical work to the presidency was not easy. He would always read up on the details of the countries of the foreign dignitaries he met so that he could converse intelligently with them.
He was, therefore, familiar with the economic, geographical, demographic and political details of many countries.
When asked about his salary, he told us he was paid $17,000 a month (a medical officer was paid $2,000), which he donated entirely to charity.
Dr Sheares displayed the qualities of a fine doctor: empathy, dedication, commitment and sacrifice. But he was also a philanthropic person and had an unswerving love for Singapore.
It is befitting that several public structures, including a magnificent bridge, bear his name.
As we move from National Day to polling day, it is good to remember that nominated presidents have done a superb job and that the second key is but a mystical dragon that may never require to be slain.
Dr Chew Shing Chai

11Aug2011: Good Presidents past (the second key is but a mystical dragon that may never require)

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