31 May 2005

The Good President

The month of May opened with the death of former President Wee Kim Wee and the media extravaganza of his state funeral. Eileen Chew remarked that "on camera, everyone kept emphasising his goodness but I see only a handful shed tears at his passing." Johnny Malkavian goes one-up on her: on camera, in front of the entire nation, MiniLee was smiling as he commented on Dr Wee’s passing. Malkavian rants, "Nathan cried, and for goodness sake, even his (i.e. MiniLee's) father wept."

But I digress. The media extravaganza was reminiscent of St Reagan the Good's funeral last year. In both cases, party hacks from the press and the broadcast media invented the mythology of the People's President, to be repeated ad nauseum to the public until they relent and agree. For Wee Kim Wee though, the script was less credible and even more transparent - in short, insincere.

ST readers would've noticed, in the coverage of the lying-in-state (yes, we were bombarded with the coverage of the People's President for a whole week), an unironic piece on how a primary school pupil was made to attend the funeral by their teacher, so as to better understand the greatness and good nature of the man. That, despite the fact that the kid wasn't even born when Dr Wee retired from his post.

I mean, NO ONE called President Wee a People's President during his term in office from 1985 to 1993. Think about that for a moment. Not only do we have party hacks in the ST, they apparently are also staffed with revisionist historians.

Good President, Bad President

It does make rational sense (as much as malevolence is rational), if we consider what ST thinks are the needs of the nation.

1. The nation must be reminded that Devan Nair is a Bad President. There is no better way than to contrast him with the Good President Wee.

2. The Bad President Devan Nair is like Snowball; the threat he represents must be engraved in the minds of all Singaporeans without the need to invoke his name.

3. President Wee is a People's President. President Wee has always been the People's President.

4. President Ong Teng Cheong was a Bad President. As the first Elected President to hold the powers of guardianship over the national reserves, President Ong erred in applying his job description to his own political party and masters, who held 77 out of 81 seats in Parliament. No, you see, the Elected President is expected to function aa a figurehead, like the old President post. It's only in the case of an upset victory by the opposition that the EP is expected to function as the guardian.

By taking his office seriously and challenging Goh Chok Tong's government on the issue of the reserves, President Ong had become an obstructionist. This is why he wasn't given a state funeral or the idolising media treatment upon his death in 2002. He is the only one out of the nation's 4 dead Presidents who has not had a state funeral.

In fact, the incumbent (or should I say outgoing?) President SR Nathan knows what is expected of a Good President. In the words of Devan Nair, who thought it was the silliest job in the world, all you need to do is cut ribbons and attend charity concerts.

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