Presidential hopeful Tan Kin Lian recently addressed reactions to his social media posts about “pretty girls”, following backlash by some netizens and a statement issued by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE).
In AWARE’s statement, they expressed their concerns over Tan’s presidential election participation, citing his “pretty girls” related Facebook posts, and said that the decision to issue him with the certificate of eligibility suggests a “systemic endorsement”.
Following the uproar over his perceived contentious online posts, the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) said on 21 August that they were not aware of his social media posts before they issued the certificate of eligibility (to run for the presidency) to him, according to Channel NewsAsia.
The PEC added that the as a result, the certificate issuance couldn’t have amounted to an endorsement by the PEC of Tan’s online posts.
They also said that they are not legally entitled to revisit their earlier decision once the certificate of eligibility has been issued to a candidate.
PEC also added that “any additional facts regarding a candidate which come to public attention after the candidate’s certificate has been issued, would be for the electorate’s consideration and assessment before casting their votes.”
They also highlighted that the committee doesn’t go through the past social media posts of every applicant before they issue or reject an application.
We share the public’s concerns that a candidate, who has a history of objectifying women, has been cleared to participate in the upcoming Presidential Elections.
Consistently posting about “pretty girls”, recording videos of women in public without their consent, or commenting about their appearance isn’t merely a matter of personal preference or light “amusement”. It’s an act of objectifying women, reducing them solely to their appearances for their personal entertainment. Such behaviour from anyone in or aspiring to a position of influence suggests that it’s acceptable to trivialise women and overlook their myriad abilities and contributions.
But here’s a more systemic worry: The granting of a Certificate of Eligibility to such an individual doesn’t only reflect on him but suggests a systemic endorsement. It signifies that these views and behaviours are not just acceptable, but perhaps even acceptable enough for a potential presidency.
Do we want a society where behaviours that objectify half its population get a tacit nod? Or do we push for a nation that evaluates every individual beyond the surface level, acknowledging their full worth and potential? Our President should embody the values, ethics, and principles that reflect the nation we want to be.
We urge the Presidential Election Commission to thoroughly consider the broader implications of such endorsements in the future. The assessment process should not only take into account financial and management qualifications but also wider societal impacts to ensure our leadership truly upholds the values of respect, equality, and dignity for all Singaporeans.