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The Straits Times
Aug 21, 2023
Presidential hopeful Tan Kin Lian, 75, has dismissed criticisms of his Facebook posts that mention pretty girls, saying only a small minority are uncomfortable with them.
On Monday, Mr Tan addressed the issue after a TikTok video compiling several of such posts went viral over the weekend. It has been viewed more than 225,000 times as of Monday evening.
The former NTUC Income chief executive has occasionally made references to “pretty girls”, “pretty joggers” and “pretty slim girls” on his public Facebook page. There have been at least 18 such posts since 2022, and five since the start of 2023.
Most visitors to his page found such posts “quite light (and) quite enjoyable”, Mr Tan told reporters during a walkabout at West Coast Market Square.
“There will be a few people who feel uncomfortable, but that is a very small minority,” he said in response to a question about these posts.
“(The) majority actually find that to be quite okay – quite fun.”
Mr Tan said such posts are how he builds his online audience, and that he has other posts, such as those about his meals “that bring in 100,000 people, half a million people... simple posts”.
This aspect of Mr Tan’s social media activity has raised eyebrows in recent days, particularly since he was deemed eligible by the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) on Aug 18 to contest the presidency.
A thread on online forum Reddit about Mr Tan’s more colourful posts has drawn over 1,600 upvotes since it was started on Friday.
Some commenters on both the TikTok video and the Reddit thread asked how the PEC decided that Mr Tan qualifies to run in the election. In the certificates of eligibility issued to Mr Tan and the other eligible candidates, the PEC said it is “satisfied that you are a man of integrity, good character and reputation”.
This pretty girl asked me to take the video and share on Facebook. Hehehe
On Monday, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) said it shared the public’s concerns that a candidate who has a history of objectifying women has been cleared to participate in the presidential election.
The gender equality group said that consistently posting about “pretty girls”, recording videos of women in public without their consent or commenting about their appearance reduces them solely to their appearances for personal entertainment, and suggests that it is acceptable to trivialise women.
“Yet 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 said in a Facebook post that linked a news article about the TikTok video.
This signifies that such behaviour is not just acceptable, but perhaps even agreeable enough for a potential president to have, said Aware. It urged the PEC to consider the broader implications of such endorsements in the future.
“The president should embody the values, ethics, and principles that reflect the nation we want to be,” it added.
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.
— AWARE Singapore (@awarenews) August 21, 2023
The Straits Times has contacted the Elections Department and the PEC for comment on the concerns raised by Aware and the public.
On Monday, Mr Tan said people who dislike his posts and “pass nasty comments” should stay away from his Facebook page.
“Some of the people actually do it because they are malicious; they just want to make me look bad,” he said.
“So I ignore malicious people who are out to create trouble for me, so long as the majority of the people find that those (posts) are quite harmless.”