George Goh defends his eligibility to run for president, says he formed team to gauge qualifications

Mr George Goh (with his wife Lysa Sumali) said his team advised him that the "stable of companies which he manages, taken together, would enable him to qualify". ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE – Presidential hopeful George Goh has defended his eligibility to run for president, stating that he formed a team of professionals to gauge his qualifications.

In a statement on Thursday, the 63-year-old’s media team said the group included lawyers and advised that “the stable of companies which he manages, taken together, would enable him to qualify under Article 19(4)(b)” of the Constitution.

“Mr Goh did not enter the contest on a whim. It was a decision made seven years ago after he saw that changes to the Constitution stacked the chances against a private-sector candidate, especially businessmen, contesting the election,” Mr Goh’s media team said.

It added: “Mr Goh is mindful that it is up to the PEC (Presidential Elections Committee) to decide his eligibility and he will not publicly disclose further details of his case beyond the comments above.”

Questions over Mr Goh’s eligibility to run for president have been raised since the group executive chairman of Ossia International threw his hat into the ring and announced his intention to run for president on Monday.

To fulfil the private-sector requirement, a person must have served as chief executive of a company for at least three years, during which time the company must, on average, have at least $500 million in shareholders’ equity and made a profit after tax throughout. The three-year period has to be the most recent such period.

Some political observers had earlier suggested that Mr Goh might use the “private-sector deliberative track” to prove his eligibility.

Under Article 19(4)(b), the PEC must be satisfied that the candidate has the experience and ability – having regard to the nature of the office, the size and complexity of the private-sector organisation, and the person’s performance in the office – that is comparable to a chief executive of a company with shareholders’ equity of at least $500 million or more, among other factors.

It must also be satisfied, “having regard to any other factors it sees fit to consider”, that the person has the experience and ability to effectively carry out the functions and duties of the office of president”.

According to market data from The Wall Street Journal, Ossia International, which distributes and retails consumer products, averaged about $50 million in shareholders’ equity from 2021 to 2023.

Mr Goh’s team said on Monday that he has owned more than 100 companies over the past four decades, including five that he listed on the stock exchanges of Singapore and Britain.

He also acquired two other companies, which were publicly listed as well. In all, they have a collective market capitalisation value of $3.15 billion.

Separately on Wednesday, Mr Goh clarified that he was not the Mr George Goh referred to in a WhatsApp image being circulated, who was the chairman of Kampong Ubi Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC).

“We have checked and believe this refers to Mr George Goh Tiong Yong and not Mr George Goh Ching Wah.

“Mr George Goh Ching Wah was never a CCC member let alone chairman and has no political affiliations – past or present,” said his media team in a statement.

Mr Goh is the second person to announce his intention to run for president.

On June 8, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 66, said he was stepping down from his positions in Government and leaving the People’s Action Party on July 7 to contest the election.

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