Prof Tan Ser Kiat for Elected President (expanded version)


There is a time when your country needs you. To preserve and protect your countrymen from the tyrannies of disunity, fear and oppression. To battle evil, envy and aggression.


Oops. Wrong subject. We are not talking about Captain America, Thor or Hal Jordan and his ring shooting out green goo.


We are of course talking about the Elected Presidency and the President’s role to safeguard our country’s reserves; approve key government appointments which surprisingly does not include the Director of Medical Services (sigh); and, according to a speech given by the honorable Law Minister, to perform all public acts (including giving public speeches) according to the advice of the Cabinet which the Elected President is obliged to follow and cannot reject, except for powers specifically vested in the office of the Elected President. [1]


Now the Hobbit understands why we need to be careful about how we choose our Elected President and why he needs a relatively big paycheck. It is obligated that the poor chap does everything publicly on the advice of the Cabinet, advice which cannot be rejected. That’s a real tough job. I may be wrong but I think some SAF recruits in Tekong, apprentice sushi chefs in Ginza or adolescent orcs in Mordor may have more liberties publicly than the Elected President.


This recent Presidential race has thrown up several interesting if not exciting candidates. I think the field can be widened to include another doctor as well, other than the well-known six-term MP and SMA Honorary Member Dr Tan Cheng Bock.


The Hobbit thinks the very respected Prof Tan Ser Kiat should run for the elected presidency as well for the following compelling reasons:

  • He has run SingHealth for some 11 years as Group CEO – which owns SGH, KKH, CGH, several national centres and many polyclinics – surely that must be >100M in terms of paid up capital
  • He’s older than 45
  • He is a “Tan”, like Dr Tony Tan, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Kim Lian and Tan Jee Say
  • He is from RI – like Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Kim Lian and Tan Jee Say
  • It’s been a long time since we had a doctor for President – 30 years to be exact, since the passing of President Sheares in 1981
  •  It’s a money-saving President – all the government offices only need ONE photo and not two. On top of that, he doesn’t need an accompanying physician to follow him when he makes overseas trips – he can heal himself.
  • He’s already got one hospital named after him – Sengkang General Hospital (i.e. SKGH)
  • He doesn’t have worry about his political adversaries raising questions about his son’s NS record
  • Salma Khalik can hopefully finally leave the health beat and move on to do the Istana beat in The Straits Times.
  • No more bad Hokkien jokes about insane canines from Prof Tan’s old classmates and colleagues


One wise guy suggested to me in my original facebook note that it is not a good thing to have only Prof SK Tan’s photograph alone in government offices. It’s kind of lonely being so. That’s not really a problem. Since Prof Tan is an orthopaedic surgeon in body, soul and spirit, this hobbit suggests that the accompany photograph would be that of a vertebral column. After all, he has a stiff spine to stand up to the Cabinet when the occasion requires. Note: it’s a whole vertebral column and not just the coccyx to sit through 6 years.


Yet another doctor who has been proffered as a possible candidate for the job of Elected President is Prof Chee Yam Cheng. But this Hobbit thinks Prof Chee is not quite as suitable as Prof Tan due to the following considerations:


  • He’s been Group CEO of NHG for less than 3 years
  • He looks like 44 although he is way more than 45 years old
  • He’s obviously not a “Tan”
  • He’s from (oh dear) ACS and not RI
  • He will make all civil servants wear a tie. What the heck, he will buy a tie for the civil servant who doesn’t (like what he did for his housemen and MOs)
  • All the Istana’s speechwriters will resign or commit suicide because if elected, Prof Chee’s public speeches will have an average of 54 words. The televised opening of Parliament will last only 40 seconds with no time for commercials.
  • His autobiography post-presidency will be longer than the Harry Potter series, Winston Churchill’s Nobel Prize-winning six-volume Second World War or past-PM Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs. Just look at Prof Chee’s voluminous writings on SARS in SMA News and you’ll get the picture
  • Like Prof Tan Ser Kiat, he can heal himself. But the problem is, if Prof Chee ever becomes Elected President, no doctor would want to be his personal physician. It would be like going through mock MRCP every two weeks. Imagine the Elected President Prof Chee looking at you with that look of his as you palpate his abdomen. Damn stressful…
  • Prof Chee is really quite politically incorrect in this day and age. Imagine how are the smart cookies in MOH promoting ACGME-I Residency going to explain to our final year medical students it’s perfectly OK to apply for a residency even before they take their MBBS finals when the Elected President decided on his choice of specialty ONLY after passing Part 1 of FRCS, MRCOG and MRCP.
  • Finally, Any hospital named after him will sound like it’s been donated by a famous tailor and Dr Tan Cheng Bock may just object again.


Finally some wise doctor actually suggested that this Hobbit run for President. That’s a very bad suggestion: –


  • This hobbit will look absolutely ridiculous reviewing the National Day Parade and especially when he walks down the line posted by Guard of Honour with the Chief of Defense Force. I haven’t learnt how to walk on stilts yet.
  • I have always (perhaps erroneously) thought that advice is discretionary, command is compelling. I have never taken a job whereby I cannot reject advice from someone who is not my boss. So being an elected president, whose job description includes being unable to reject the Cabinet’s advice (unless for powers specifically vested in the office of the elected presidency) is definitely not a job I want.


Anyway, Prof Tan, go for it!!!!!




[1]; accessed 8 Aug 2011

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