21 April 2016

New Elected Presidency for Singapore: Update, Rethink, or Clown Show?

In the matter of the changes to the elected presidency, it has taken less than 4 months from Lee Hsien Loong's proposals in his speech at the opening of the 13th parliament of Singapore for us to arrive at the constitutional commission's public hearings at the Supreme Court. And if Minilee has his way, the commission will present its findings by 2016Q3, following which the Prime Minister's Office will likely draft the changes it accepts from the commission, the bill read twice in parliament and passed "within the year", and the presidential election take place with the new rules in 2017, less than 18 months away from now.

The last constitutional commission took 8 months and 10 hearings to present a new constitution for the republic adopt most of the original crown colony and federation legislation for Singapore's use. The original timeline to set up the office of the Elected Presidency took more than 5 years, from Papalee's speech in parliament about needing to curb a "rogue government" from "raiding the reserves" to the passing of the EP bill - which took 2 years between its 2 readings.

In light of this, Minilee's changes to the Elected Presidency is marked with unseemly haste.

Oh, would that it were so simple

Unlike his father before him, Minilee is no political genius. The timeline that he has set is wrought with complications, much of them self-inflicted. That is despite the fact that the constitution commission is charged with merely finding solutions to achieve the three main goals of the charter change (to wit: update the criteria of eligibility to reflect the inflation rates and growth in Singapore's economy since 1991, "build up" the role of the council of presidential advisors, and "ensure minority Presidents periodically").

The mainstream press in Singapore would have us believe that the constitutional commission hearings are business as usual; that it is of no great import outside of a narrow sphere of constitutional experts giving their testimonies, and politicians weighing in from both sides.

That is to say, the approved narrative by the powers that be are to cast the charter changes as merely a commonsense update to outdated criteria.

Now, changing the rules to ensure that minority presidents get elected from time to time is in itself a radical change. Just look at the creative solutions proposed: Zaqy Mohamad mooted a new post of Vice President; others even more creatively and anti-democratically proposing limiting the election to minority candidates in certain years; specify a rotating race for candidates; requiring any candidate to clear a minimum percentage of minority voters - thus violating the basic principles that in a democracy, anyone can run and everyone's vote is equal. As other academics have pointed out elsewhere: the idea that the elected presidency also fulfill representational roles is itself a major rethink of the post.

Can a single post be made to harbour such contradicting principles? Listen to the experts giving testimony. Read between their lines. It's not just a major rethink, but a muddled rethink!

Hence the mainstream media's whitewashing of this most difficult portion of the commission's hearings with headlines like "Important that minorities have a chance to be elected", "Participants at hearing agree on need for minority president", manufacturing a consensus when none actually existed, and especially when most experts giving testimony were not asked one simple question: Do Singaporeans think it is important that the Elected President be from a minority race in certain years?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Minilee's Elected Presidency Charter Change Clown Show!


Anonymous said...

Every single citizen knows the real reason for this constitutional review of the elected President. The only thing is that after 50 years of subjugation no one dares say it openly. The simple fact is that there is a serious fear that someone who is not a party affiliated clown will get elected and than the government will be busted. Once he starts questioning about the reserves and the performance and loses of GIC, than they are screwed. Simple as ABC

Anonymous said...

If its a democratically elected post, who the hack cares what race the person is going to be? Its the people who decide and if they chose to elect a clown, so be it.
Otherwise suggest to drop the whole facade of an EP and revert to the appointed post.
That way Minilee can appoint who he wants.
He cannot have his cake and eat it too.

Anonymous said...

The usual wayang we have come to expect from the Lees. Having a president 'elected' based on his 'minority' race and at the same time expects the president to fulfill the corporate experience part of the deal is akin to wanting to have the cake and eating it at the same time as well.

Let's call a spade a spade, it is an open secret that LHL is manipulating through the commission, using the Chief Justice no less, to achieve his purpose of excluding Tan Cheng Bok from the next presidential race next year. This is very clear to all and sundry notwithstanding the reasons given to justify the review.

Anonymous said...

The Emperor is not only naked, he is bending over to expose even more!!!