Friday, 16 September 2016

White Paper on Elected Presidency scheme

The Presidential Chair flanked by the State Flag & the Presidential Flag is seen at the Istana.TODAY file foto

Proposed changes to the Elected Presidency (EP) gathered pace on Thu (Sep 15), after the Government released a 49-page White Paper on the recommendations by a commission tasked to review specific aspects of the scheme.

The Government has broadly accepted the recommendations - which were released last week - but it disagreed on some of the nuts and bolts, such as the minimum tenure in qualifying office for public sector candidates, the threshold for Parliamentary override on President’s decisions & when the President’s opinion should be published in the event that he exercises his veto.

The Government also detailed its reasons in rejecting a return to the previous system of having Parliament appoint the Head of State – a recommendation which was beyond the commission’s terms of reference. Among other reasons, it reiterated that a President who is elected, with direct mandate from Singaporeans, would ensure that the office has the moral authority and mandate to disagree with an elected Government. The EP scheme remains the “most workable and effective solution” for Singapore at this moment, the Government said.

related:
Gov White Paper: Proposed changes to elected presidency scheme
Gov will adopt 'hiatus-triggered' model to ensure minority representation
The history of Singapore's presidential system
No going back to old system of Parliament appointing President: Govt
Gov agrees to raise eligibility criteria for private sector candidates
Gov White Paper: Proposed changes to elected presidency scheme
Gov look at entrenching Elected Presidency & certain powers in Constitution


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Singapore Reviews Elected Presidency

A minority-only presidential election might be a possibility as Singapore reviews changes to the elected presidency.

Speaking in Parliament earlier this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for a review of Elected Presidency law, kickstarting close to eight months of robust discussion and debate. In his National Day Rally Speech on August 21, Lee announced that he had, “in principle,” accepted the recommendations submitted by the Constitutional Commission, which had been tasked with reviewing the Presidency Constitution. How the government intends to translate the recommendations into legislation will be revealed in a soon-to-be released White Paper.

The Commission has made recommendations to raise the qualifying criteria for presidential candidates and introduce special provisions to ensure that ethnic minorities are elected into office from time to time. It will also strengthen the role of the Council of Presidential Advisors, whom the President is obliged to consult when exercising his executive powers.

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Singapore government modifies elected presidency proposals in white paper
WHEN it comes to how long one must have served in a qualifying office in order to run for President, the Singapore government is opting to retain the existing eligibility criteria of three years. FOTO: SPH

When it comes to how long one must have served in a qualifying office in order to run for President, the Singapore government is opting to retain the existing eligibility criteria of 3 years.

This is instead of the doubled duration of 6 years originally proposed by the Constitutional Commission tasked with reviewing the elected presidency.

Releasing its white paper on Thursday, the government said while it "accepts in principle" the Commission's main recommendations, there are areas where it disagrees. In some instances, it has accepted the Commission's proposals with modifications.

related:
Major changes proposed to elected president system
Threshold increased for candidates from private sector
'Reserved' elections to guarantee a minority president
Commission calls for bigger CPA - 8 members, up from 6
EP review: Safeguard needed if no minority president after five terms
A grand send-off for one of Singapore's greatest sons


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Govt accepts most of Constitutional Commission’s proposals on Elected Presidency
This change is to reflect the growth of the economy and the reserves

The government has accepted most of the Constitutional Commission’s (CC) recommendations on changes to the Elected Presidency (EP), with the changes expected to be put in place before the next election in 2017, according to local media reports.

In a 48-page White Paper issued on Thursday (15 September), the government said that it favours a “cautious approach” in implementing the changes, in order to maintain a broader pool of potential candidates.

Candidates from the private sector are now required to be top executives from companies with $500 million in shareholders’ equity. Currently, candidates can qualify as chairmen or chief executives of a company with at least $100 million in paid-up capital. 

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Elected Presidency White Paper: President must be elected; suggestion for appointed president rejected
Dr Tony Tan (centre) taking his oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony as Singapore’s seventh president and third elected president in the State Room of the Istana on Sept 1, 2011.FOTO: ST FILE

A custodial president who is democratically elected remains the "most workable & effective solution for Singapore for the present", the Government said on Thu (Sep 15).

It rejected the Constitutional Commission's suggestion of reverting to an appointed head of state who would focus on the historic role of being a unifying figure for the nation.

As for the custodial role of safeguarding the reserves and the integrity of the public service, the panel said, in its report made public last week, that this could be assumed by a group of appointed experts.

related: EP White Paper: Reserved race for minorities will 'strike right balance'

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Elected Presidency review: Govt accepts proposals for multiracial representation

The Government has agreed with the recommendations of the Constitutional Commission for ensuring multi-racial representation in the Elected Presidency.

In its White Paper released on Thu (Sep 15), the Government said multiracialism is an “integral part of Singapore’s social fabric” & is “fundamental to Singapore’s cohesion and survival”. It added that as head of state, the President is the “foremost unifying figure who represents our multi-racial society”, and Singapore “loses an important element of multi-racialism if particular racial minorities are never represented in the office of President”.

The Commission’s report, which was released to the public on Sep 7, had recommended that racial minorities must have the opportunity to be periodically elected to the President’s Office. It also proposed a mechanism by which a reserved election would be triggered if no candidate from a particular racial group has held the office of President for 30 years (5 terms) or more.

related:
EP review: More heft to Council of Presidential Advisers given nod
EP review: Eligibility criteria suggestions largely accepted


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Govt makes 2 key modifications to eligibility proposals

The government has wholly accepted the Constitutional Commission's recommendation to ensure representation of all races in the presidency, it said in a 49-page White Paper released on Thursday evening.

It has also agreed to update the eligibility criteria for applicants - albeit with certain modifications that depart from the Commission's proposals.

2 key differences in eligibility requirements have to do with how long one must have served in a qualifying office, and how recent that experience must have been. For one, the government is opting to retain the existing eligibility criteria of three years, instead of the doubled duration of six years as recommended by the panel.

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Government releases White Paper on Elected Presidency scheme

The Government has issued a White Paper in response to the Constitutional Commission’s Report. A White Paper is a formal policy document issued by the Government to explain or discuss certain matters. This White Paper sets out the Government’s response to the Commission’s recommendations.

At a future sitting of Parliament, the Government will table a Bill containing the necessary Constitutional amendments as proposed in the White Paper.

The changes to the Elected Presidency scheme will be debated in Parliament during the Second Reading of the Bill.

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White Paper on EP changes: The short version

THE G worked as quickly as it said it would. The White Paper on its response to the Constitutional Commission’s proposals on changes to the elected presidency is out, one week after the nine-member commission’s report was made public.

The paper is 48 pages long but you can skip reading most of it because it’s a cut-and-paste job with chunks from the commission’s report. The recommendations were accepted but the G wants some tweaks to some aspects. It prefers a “cautious approach”.

Here’s a run-down and some things you, the citizen, might want to think about.

related:
White Paper on EP changes: A bigger presidential pool
White Paper on EP changes: Not cast in stone
EP changes: Council of (powerful and private) Presidential Advisers
EP changes: When to stop clipping the President’s wings
EP changes: Is shareholder equity the best way to judge a potential President?
EP changes: Are Presidential elections ‘meritocratic’ in the first place?

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'Reserved' elections to guarantee a minority president

THERE must be a mechanism that can be triggered if Singapore has not had a minority president after five consecutive full terms, said the constitutional commission set up to review the elected presidency in its report.

As each presidential term here lasts up to six years, a period of five full terms will span 30 years.

Even as the group noted the "strong justifications" to ensure minority representation by Singapore's head of state, it also made two key points: Having such a safeguard in place would not undermine meritocracy, and that the eligibility criteria for prospective candidates from any race should never be lowered.

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REVIEW OF SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF THE ELECTED PRESIDENCY

In February 2016, the Government appointed a Constitutional Commission (“the Commission”) to study and make recommendations on specific aspects of the Elected Presidency.

The Commission submitted its report (“the Report”) in August 2016, after a nationwide consultation process.

Part II of this White Paper provides the background to the Commission’s review. Part III summarises the Commission’s recommendations, and sets out the Government’s response. The Government has studied the Report, and accepts in principle the Commission’s main recommendations. In some areas the Government has decided not to accept the Commission’s recommendations, or to accept them with modifications.

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Law minister K Shanmugam singles out Tan Cheng Bock’s disqualification from presidency

Poor Tan Cheng Bock.

Without being explicitly mentioned in any official communication (and rightfully so) regarding the impending changes to the Elected Presidency, he was on Thursday singled out as clearly being “disqualified” from it under the potential updated criteria.

According to reporting by Channel NewsAsia, straight-talking law minister K Shanmugam volunteered Tan’s name on the topic, which was the subject of a community forum on the proposed changes outlined in the government’s White Paper on:

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“Sorry, Dr Tan Cheng Bock you are disqualified to stand in PE 2017” – Did Law Minister Shanmugam say that?

Referring to the comments of Law Minister K Shanmugam at a dialogue on the pending constitutional changes to the Elected Presidency, the 2011 presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock asked if the Minister had decided ahead of debate in parliament that the White Paper is law.

Channel NewsAsia reported on the dialogue and quoted the Minister answering to a question: “How will the Government respond to the view that all these changes are just to ensure that some individuals will not get elected?”

The Minister (as reported) said: “You might as well mention the name of Tan Cheng Bock… Dr Tan won’t qualify (under the new eligibility rules) because he didn’t actually run a company. He was (a) non-executive. And of course the company is not S$500m shareholders’ equity. So I think the key thing in this is to really, first leave aside the individual and look at the system. And ask yourself logically, whether… do we, as a Government, do what is right, based on the system, or do we worry (that) some people are going to say this is to knock out people we don’t like? You know, more than 1,000 people will qualify from the private sector. Do you think we know who they are and we can make sure that they are all going to be OK? It’s not possible.”

related: Cheng Bock and Shanmugam crossed swords once before in another debate on affirmative action

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Dr Tan Cheng Bock FB September 17 at 6:40pm

"Sorry, Dr Tan Cheng Bock you are disqualified to stand in PE 2017", says Minister Shanmugam

At a dialogue session on 15 September, a question was asked if the White Paper was directed at preventing certain individuals from running for the PE, Minister Shanmugam quoted my name.

He told the participants and singularly identified me although my name was not mentioned by the audience, that l cannot qualify under the new rule change.

Has he decided that the White Paper is law ahead of parliament debate? Is there some truth after all that the changes in the rules was to make sure l would not be eligible? It would be a sad day for Singaporeans if a Constitutional change was made because of an individual.

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On Tan Cheng Bock, mixed-race candidates: Singaporeans ask tough questions on the Elected Presidency review
Is the Government raising the qualifying criteria for presidential candidates to block certain individuals from contesting? In a reserved election for Malay candidates, would someone who is half-Malay qualify? These were among the questions Singaporeans asked at dialogue session on Thursday (Sep 15).

The dialogue, helmed by Law & Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, is the 1st to be held after the Government released its White Paper on Thursday evening. It was attended by around 300 to 400 people in South East CDC. Here is a sample of what they wanted to know about the changes to the Elected Presidency scheme:
  • Q: How will the Government respond to the view that all these changes are just to ensure that some individuals will not get elected?
  • Mr Shanmugam: You might as well mention the name of Tan Cheng Bock .… Dr Tan won’t qualify (under the new eligibility rules) because he didn’t actually run a company. He was (a) non-executive. And of course the company is not S$500m shareholders' equity. So I think the key thing in this is to really, first leave aside the individual and look at the system. And ask yourself logically, whether... do we, as a Government, do what is right, based on the system, or do we worry (that) some people are going to say this is to knock out people we don't like? You know, more than 1,000 people will qualify from the private sector. Do you think we know who they are & we can make sure that they are all going to be OK? It’s not possible.
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A Perspective of the Elected President Scheme

Dr. Tan Cheng Bock is a hardy politician and had been mentally prepared for such political adversity which he has to his credit gracefully accepted. He knows that he will never qualify to stand with the $500 million company equity requirement and will only be an exercise in futility to pursue it.

The Commission Report with some slight modification has been incorporated in a Government White Paper which will be debated in Parliament. It will just be an eyewash as with the Government's overwhelming majority in Parliament there is no question that it will not receive approval.

The minority Presidential concession is no doubt a subtle move to appease the minority Malay Community which would otherwise feel marginalised. It may be apparent that they may regard this a a gesture of tokenism.

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Why no women on the Presidential scene? AWARE asks Constitutional Commission

Women’s rights group AWARE took issue with the glaring lack of women on the Presidential scene as public hearings held by the Constitutional Commission on the Elected Presidency got underway on Mon (Apr 18).

AWARE kicked off its presentation with an image captioned “All the President’s men”, showing current President Tony Tan Keng Yam surrounded by the 6-member Council of Presidential Advisers – all of which are men.

Executive director of AWARE, Ms Corinna Lim, pointed out that this was the case despite there being “many highly qualified women (and) female talent at the highest levels”.

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AWARE on the elected presidency
The following letter is by AWARE on the elected presidency:

We agree that the representation of diverse races in political leadership is important, and welcome the greater recognition that racism and prejudice are urgent and enduring problems that require proactive solutions.

Members of minority groups need to see people like themselves being represented meaningfully in important public institutions.

This applies to women, too. Singapore has not reached a stage where we are free from gender biases—some unconsciously held—that limit women's chances to participate fully in the political sphere. For example, some still believe that mothers do not belong in politics because of childcare.

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PM Lee quote his father to fix the Presidential election

“This is not a Malay Singapore, not an Indian Singapore, not a Chinese Singapore. This is for everyone.”

Quoting his father Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that it is necessary to fix the upcoming Presidential election and allow only the Malay race to contest this round because it is their turn. PM Lee Hsien Loong then went on to explain using unrelated reasonings why he is re-writing the country’s Constitution:

“The symbolism of the President must ring true with the day to day experience of Singaporeans living in our multi-racial society. In many other societies, multi-racialism are celebrated on stage during occasions such as independence days but they are “not a reality”. “But in Singapore, (the racial relations we experience) in real life have to match and do match what we celebrate on National Day. When people incite division and misunderstanding between different races or religions, we have to act firmly against them…This is one of the areas where we are hypersensitive and it is a no-go.”

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Elected Presidency: Symbolism must ring true in S'poreans' daily experience, says PM Lee

In a White Paper put up last week, the Government broadly accepted recommendations put up by the Constitutional Committee tasked to review various aspects of the EP scheme, including a "hiatus triggered" mechanism where presidential elections will be reserved for a particular race which has not been represented in the office for five consecutive terms.

Mr Lee said: "Racial harmony is one of the major motivations for us to make changes to the Elected Presidency... Every citizen must feel that one of his community can become President and regularly does become President because that is a symbol representing all of us."

He quoted the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's words on the Republic's first national day in 1965: "This is not a Malay Singapore, not an Indian Singapore, not a Chinese Singapore. This is for everyone." The symbolism of the President "must ring true with the day to day experience of Singaporeans living in our multi-racial society", stressed Mr Lee.

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UN General Assembly Opening Session

UN chief delivered hard-hitting final Speech warning leaders not to rewrite Constitution
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivered a hard-hitting Speech in his tenth and final speech at the U.N. General Assembly. His Speech was directed against a host of world leaders from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to South Sudan’s Salva Kiir Mayardit

In the Speech filled with frustration, Ban charged that: “In too many places, we see leaders rewriting constitutions, manipulating elections and taking other desperate steps to cling to power.”

Adding: “My message to all is clear: serve your people. Do not subvert democracy; do not pilfer your country’s resources; do not imprison and torture your critics.”


Although the Government of Singapore has changed the Republic’s Constitution a few times (including a pending change to the Elected Presidency scheme); although the ruling party has been accused of gerrymandering elections to give itself an unfair advantage to cling onto power; although citizens who have been detained without trial allege torture; it is highly unlikely that Ban was targeting Singapore in his Speech.

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Full Coverage:
Elected presidency report: Reserve elections to ensure minority
'Reserved' elections to guarantee a minority president
Proposed amendments to ensure President from minority race and
Reserved election: Boost for multiracialism?
Ensuring Minority President Not Tokenism | REACH
Reserved Race Election Strikes 'Right Balance'
Need To Ensure Minority President Periodically
A Chance for All Races to be Elected President
Safeguards to Allow For Minority President
Review of Elected Presidency: Commission proposes mechanism
Singaporean starts petition to urge parliament to reject reserved
Race: Will reserved elections have desired effect? - News - AsiaOne
When Should the “Reserved Election” Provision Kick in?
Elected presidency: Why five terms? | The New Paper
EP review: Government lays out position in White Paper
EP review: Eligibility criteria suggestions largely accepted
EP review: Govt accepts proposals for multiracial representation
Changes to law on entrenching powers of the elected president
Govt puts up White Paper on Elected Presidency scheme
S'pore govt modifies elected presidency proposals in white paper
White Paper: Council of (powerful and private) Presidential Advisers
White Paper on EP changes: The short version
White Paper on EP changes: A bigger presidential pool
Gov accepts most of Constitutional Commission's proposals on EP
Gov White Paper: Proposed changes to elected presidency scheme
Higher thresholds for eligibility, but no to longer qualifying terms
President must be elected; suggestion for appointed president rejected
White Paper: Reserved race for minorities will 'strike right balance'
Gov agrees to raise eligibility criteria for private sector candidates
Gov to look at entrenching EP & certain powers in Constitution
No going back to old system of Parliament appointing President
Gov will adopt 'hiatus-triggered' model to ensure minority representation
After historic process, participants take stock of EP panel's proposals
Elected Presidency review: MPs respond to proposed changes
Netizens voice their concerns on the Elected Presdiency White Paper
Stronger voice for council, more members
EP review: More heft to Council of Presidential Advisers given nod
Singapore Reviews Elected Presidency
When the President says 'no', what happens next?
EP changes: Council of (powerful and private) Presidential Advisers
Council of Presidential Advisers to wield more clout



Spore pushes for a minority race President but is not ready for a non-Chinese PM

The Republic has come a long way in building a nation where everyone is equal, but the country is not colour-blind.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave this assessment in an exclusive 1-hour interview with Channel NewsAsia, which was broadcast on Sun (Sep 4).

“I think we have come a long way. It’s not a Chinese or Malay or an Indian nation. Everybody has his place, everybody is equal. Treated equally, equal standing, equal rights and status,” Mr Lee said.

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Changes to the Elected Presidency Scheme

Significant changes are set to be made to the elected presidency to ensure candidates are amply qualified & representative of Singapore's multi-racial society.

A Constitutional Commission has suggested that the bar to contest presidential elections be updated to reflect the growth of the economy & the national reserves.

Candidates from the private sector should have been the top executive of a company with at least $500 million in shareholders' equity, a change from the current rule requiring the person to have been chairman or chief executive of a company with paid-up capital of at least $100 million.


A Tribute to Singapore’s First Elected President
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SM Emeritus Goh Chok Tong recognisd Ong Teng Cheong as Spore's 1st Elected President

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The National Library Board calls Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first president to be elected into office

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HistorySG, a government-run portal called Ong Teng Cheong the first elected president

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Our National Archives shows that Ong took part in and won Singapore’s first presidential election

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Then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong also called Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first elected president in a condolence letter to to Ong Teng Cheong’s wife on his passing in 2002

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The Istana website calls Ong Teng Cheong the first president to be popularly elected by the people

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Even international news calls Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first elected president

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So, government records say Ong Teng Cheong is Singapore’s first elected president

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