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Second presidential hopeful announced

Farid Khan Kaim Khan is chairman of marine firm Bourbon Offshore Asia Pac

Potential presidential candidate Mr Farid Khan mingling with supporters at a reception on Tuesday at the Civil Service Club in Changi Village.


CHAIRMAN of marine service provider Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific Farid Khan Kaim Khan, 62, announced on Tuesday his candidacy for the upcoming Presidential Election (PE), the second person to do so.

Speaking in English and Malay, Mr Farid said he wished to "serve this nation, which I feel capable of doing so to the best of my knowledge and ability".

But there could be a snag - he is of Pakistani descent.

The PE, slated for September, has been reserved for Malay candidates following amendments made to the Presidential Elections Act earlier this year.

"I am of Pakistani descent and my wife is of Arabic descent. Yet, I was born in Geylang Serai. Our family and relatives speak Malay and practise the Malay culture. So I am part of the Malay community," he told reporters at a press conference held at the Village Hotel Changi on Tuesday.

Prospective candidates must submit one form to the Presidential Elections Committee to get a certificate of eligibility, and another form to a newly set-up Community Committee, to declare that they are part of the Malay community and get a Community Certificate.

Mr Farid's associates Borhan Saini, Sukumaran, Rahman Kamin and Jimmie Wee had, on June 16, collected the application form for the 2017 Presidential Election certificates on his behalf but declined to identify him to reporters then.

Married to Naeemah Shaikh Abu Bakar, 61, he has two children - daughter Raeesah, 23, and son Yusuf, 18.

In June, Second Chance Properties chief executive officer Mohamed Salleh Marican, 67, announced his intention to run.

Another name widely mentioned for the presidential bid is Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob but she has yet to make her decision known.

One of the changes to the Presidential Elections Act states that private-sector candidates must have run a company with at least S$500 million in shareholder equity.

Mr Farid has been working at Singapore-based Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific for more than 10 years. The firm, with about 800 workers in the region, is part of French company Bourbon, which has about 10,000 employees.

He is also director of several other companies, including Greenship Holdings, also in the marine sector.

A check on the companies' websites showed that the shareholder equity of Greenship Holdings is about US$200 million (S$277 million), and that of Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific is over US$300 million.

Mr Farid lost his father at the age of 14 and worked his way up in the maritime industry from a captain's steward. Today, he heads Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific, the world's largest offshore fleet sails and founded "a state of the art undersea operation firm Bumi Subsea".

Bumi Subsea specialises in remotely operated underwater vehicles and diving units for the offshore oil and gas and construction industries.

In his speech, Mr Farid said he is very concerned with the growing threat of radicalism.

"If elected, I will work closely with the government and various organisations to resolve the issue," he said.

He added that he would like to strengthen the trust among Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion.

"Let us enhance our efforts in helping the needy, including troubled youths, to strengthen our social fabric . . . enhance our prosperity by creating more opportunities, including jobs, from the maritime sector to other sectors in the economy."

When asked why is announcing his bid only now, Mr Farid said: "For 48 years, I've worked very hard for this country, I've worked very hard for my community. I'm now 62, I can do two things - live comfortably and retire or make use of what I've learnt in the past 48 years to serve the country, which is what I've decided to do," he said, adding that he would run even if this were not a reserved PE.

His daughter Raeesah told The Business Times that she is proud of her father's decision.

"He is a very caring and encouraging father. With these traits, he would make a good president," she said.

Meanwhile, the High Court on Friday dismissed former presidential hopeful Tan Cheng Bock's May application contesting the legitimacy of the upcoming reserved PE.

Dr Tan had challenged the government's decision to reserve the PE for Malay candidates, saying that it is unconstitutional and called for it to be an "open" one.

In an affidavit, he questioned the government's decision to count former president Wee Kim Wee as Singapore's first elected president when Mr Wee was appointed in 1985. He added that the first popularly elected president was Ong Teng Cheong and if the government had started counting from president Ong's term, this PE would not have to be a reserved one.

Justice Quentin Loh's decision was in favour of the government and maintains that only Malay candidates are eligible to stand in the upcoming PE.

Dr Tan has until Wednesday to file a notice of appeal.