Friday, 8th February 2002
Mr Ong Teng Cheong, Singapore’s fifth President and the first President to be popularly elected by the people, died. He is also the first President in Singapore not to have an artillery carriage at his funeral that was normally according to prominent statesmen in Singapore. During his term as President, he questioned his role and responsibilities. And also openly queried the national reserve in order to protect it.
The key changes were to grant the president veto power over the use of the country's reserves as well as over key government positions. But by Ong's own account, his job was not an easy one. Of his encounters with the bureaucracy, Ong said: "I suspect [some ministers and officials] consider the elected president a nuisance - checking on them, looking over their shoulder."
Soon after his was elected, Ong was tangled in a dispute over the access of information regarding Singapore's financial reserves. The government said it would take 56 man-years to produce a dollar-and-cents value of the immovable assets. Ong discussed this with the accountant general and the auditor general and eventually conceded that the government only had to declare all of its properties, a list which took a few months to produce. Even then, the list was not complete.
In the last year of his presidency, President Ong found out through the newspapers that the government aimed to submit a bill to Parliament to sell the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB). However, as this was a statutory board whose reserves were under the president’s protection, this move was procedurally inappropriate and did not regard Ong’s significance as the guardian of the reserves.
Photo Credit: Flickr
Update: Ong Teng Cheong, the fifth President of Singapore, ashes was placed in a niche at Mandai Crematorium along with those of ordinary citizens,.