Amid furore over the Government’s decision and the High Court’s backing that President Wee Kim Wee is considered Singapore’s first elected president even though he was appointed to his position, Government records have surfaced confirming that President Wee’s successor President Ong Teng Cheong is Singapore’s first elected president as he was elected after the Elected Presidency Scheme was introduced in 1991.
The question over who can be counted as Singapore’s First Elected President attracted hot debate after the Government announced that the next Presidential Election, to be held this year, will be a reserved one since there has not been an elected President from the Malay community for five consecutive terms. In counting the consecutive terms, they included President Wee although he was an appointed President.
Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a former Member of Parliament and 2011 Presidential Candidate who lost by 0.35% to the incumbent, challenged the decision to include President Wee in an application to the High Court.
The Court rejected his application and supported Parliament’s authority in the matter stating, “Parliament’s choice of (the first elected President) is a policy decision which falls outside the remit of the courts.”
Records from the National Library Board, HistorySG (a government-run portal filled with recommended resources on the country’s history), Our National Archives and the Istana website refer to President Ong as Singapore’s First Elected President.
A letter from former Prime Minister, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also hailed President Ong as the nation’s “first elected President.”
Even international media has covered President Ong as the first to be elected into the position in the nation:
So which is it? Is President Wee or President Ong Singapore’s first head of state? If President Wee’s term is counted as the first elected term, will Government records be altered to suit the assertion that he, not President Ong, was the first elected President?