Singapore

PM's words spur Second Chance CEO Salleh Marican to make presidential bid

Businessman Mohamed Salleh Marican said yesterday, when collecting the application forms for the coming presidential election, that he was spurred to make a bid by the words of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Last November, Mr Lee had told a group of Muslim professionals that he hoped to see qualified Malay candidates step up to serve in the highest office in the land and represent all Singaporeans.

Mr Salleh, 67, said that his business experience puts him in good stead to be Singapore's president as it has cultivated in him such traits as good judgment and strong emotional intelligence (EQ).

"In business, one bad mistake can set you back many years or even wipe you out. So good judgment is important," the chief executive of listed Second Chance Properties told The Straits Times.

This is especially so when the president has to decide whether to approve the Government's request to use the national reserves for the people's well-being, he added.

Another quality Mr Salleh identified as crucial in a president is "high EQ", as he or she has to interact with Singaporeans from all walks of life as well as deal with foreign dignitaries.

"In business, you are used to dealing with different types of people, whether they're your customers, employees, bankers or suppliers."

Mr Salleh, a father of four, acknowledges that he does not automatically qualify as a presidential candidate as the Constitution requires private-sector candidates to have run a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity.

OPTIMISTIC

Second Chance Properties, the first Malay-owned company to be listed on the Singapore Exchange, had a shareholder equity of between $254.3 million and $263.25 million in the past three financial years.

Still, Mr Salleh is "optimistic" about convincing the Presidential Elections Committee that he has the necessary experience and ability for presidential duties.

"Whether it's a $2 million or $20 million shop, my thinking process and how I evaluate the purchase is the same.

"It does not mean I must have 10 times the ability (to buy a $20 million shop)," he told reporters outside the Elections Department.

Mr Salleh's name is among several that have been mentioned as potential candidates since the announcement that the September presidential election will be reserved for Malays.

The list of likely candidates also includes Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.

Last week, after Mr Salleh announced his intention to contest the election, he reportedly praised Madam Halimah in an interview, saying she would be a "good candidate" as she is popular and has a good reputation.

He also said that her gender could be a "comparative advantage" as women may vote for her.

Asked why he had praised a possible rival, he said he believed that all presidential candidates must behave "in a manner that is in keeping with the dignity of the president".

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