• Thursday, June 20, 2024


Shanmugaratnam joins growing list of Indian-origin global leaders

Former deputy prime minister Shanmugaratnam was elected president Friday

By: Pramod Thomas

WITH Tharman Shanmugaratnam winning Singapore’s presidential election, he joins a long list of Indian-origin leaders who are dominating politics at important world capitals.

Shanmugaratnam, 66, received 70.4 per cent of the votes in the presidential election held on Friday (1).

“Singaporeans have chosen Tharman Shanmugaratnam to be our next president by a decisive margin,” prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said as he congratulated Tharman on Saturday (2).

He is among several leaders of Indian heritage who have ascended to the highest echelon of public service globally. His victory signifies the rising influence of Indians across the globe.

Shanmugaratnam acknowledged the “changing and evolving” nature of Singapore, notably its diversity, and said he believes the election was seen as “another milestone in that process of evolution.”

There are stringent requirements for the position, which formally oversees the city’s accumulated financial reserves and holds the power to veto certain measures and approve anti-graft probes.

While the presidency is a non-partisan post under the constitution, political lines had already been drawn ahead of the election to replace incumbent Halimah Yacob, who ran unopposed for her six-year term in 2017.

Shanmugaratnam was widely viewed as the favourite for the position and had resigned as a member of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and as a senior minister in the cabinet ahead of the election as all presidential candidates must be independent.

The veteran economist is perceived as having the government’s backing and was questioned about his independence during the campaign.

The city-state’s government is run by the prime minister, Hsien Loong of the PAP, which has ruled Singapore continuously since 1959.

In the US the growing influence of the Indian-American community can be seen in the success of Kamala Harris, who became the first woman and the first coloured vice president of the country.

In the crucial midterm elections in November, a record five Indian-American lawmakers from the ruling Democrat Party -Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Ami Bera and Shri Thanedar -were elected to the US House of Representatives.

Indian-origin leaders like Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy have launched their bid for the White House in 2024.

Rishi Sunak became Britain’s first Indian-origin prime minister last year. He is the youngest British prime minister in 210 years.

Goan-origin Suella Braverman is serving as his Home Secretary. Claire Coutinho, the new energy security and net zero secretary, is the second Goan-origin minister after Braverman in the Sunak cabinet.

Priti Patel was the home secretary in Boris Johnson’s cabinet. Alok Sharma was the international development secretary in the same cabinet.

Ireland’s prime minister (Taoiseach) Leo Eric Varadkar is also of Indian origin. Varadkar is the third child and only son of Ashok and Miriam Varadkar. His father, a doctor, was born in Mumbai and moved to the UK in the 1960s.

According to the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List, more than 200 leaders of Indian heritage have ascended to the highest echelons of public service in 15 countries across the globe, with over 60 of them holding cabinet positions.

With more than 32 million people of Indian origin (PIOs) globally, according to the ministry of external affairs, Indians are the largest community population in the world.


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