The Constitutional Commission headed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon has released its report Elected Presidency review on Wednesday (7 September) after six months of deliberation based on feedback from four public hearings and more than 100 written submissions.
The commission led by CJ Sundaresh was tasked by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to review three aspects of the Elected Presidency, which are introducing safeguards to ensure a president from a minority race, reviewing the qualifying criteria for presidential candidates and addressing the role of a council that advises the president on key decisions.
The Commission has recommended that the presidential candidates from the private sector must be at least CEOs of companies with $500 million or more of shareholders' equiity. It has also suggested safeguards to ensure a minority president can be elected from time to time, by reserving a Presidential Election for a racial group if it is not represented for 5 terms, which is likely to be the next Election since it has been six terms since the last Malay President, Yusof Ishak was appointed.
If the proposed amendments were to be adopted by the Parliament and enforced in the upcoming Presidential Election (PE), then Dr Tan Cheng Bock, the candidate in the last PE2011 with the second highest votes,, will not be eligible to contest in the next PE.
In light of the announcement, many Singaporeans took to the comments section of the mainstream media outlets to voice their displeasure against the recommendations of the Elected Presidency. Here are some of what members of the public have written:
- James Tan wrote, "It's pretty obvious what is happening actually, PAP knows they are gonna lose power due to the president that gets elected next would probably be someone that is not from their team and probably also won't be supportive to their ideologies.
That's the reason for so much hassle on trying to say "need for minority to be president" etc. We all know deep inside we will support any race that is strong at face value to be president, Singaporeans are not racists, we only do not support certain countries on their behavior."
Barry Smith wrote, "I don't understand the logic of this. Either the person is the right person for the job or they are not. Why are we bringing race into it?. The one thing I love about Singapore is the very fact that there is so much racial harmony. In my opinion, this move undermines the words from our national pledge .... regardless of race .... and puts race as the reason for a person to be elected to a government post. Isn't whoever is elected suppose to represent the people of Singapore and not the interests of a specific race? If this logic is permitted shouldn't the same logic apply to every single government post? In my opinion, this is totally stupid."
- Padmini Srimn wrote, "So in short we are to have a Malay president next who will most probably be appointed and with reduced authoritative powers?"
- Sangha Vandana wrote, "Do we really need a President at the expense of taxpayers' money? I don't see any in most countries - the leader is either a prime minister or president by title and not must have both in office."
- Lloyd Sam wrote, "Wow. Are we returning to an appointed presidency soon? Then parliament needs just a appoint a yes man to be president!"
- Johari Johar wrote, "Sorry i don't understand. Why do us taxpayers have to fork out money to pay for the president's exorbitant salary if his role is just purely ceremonial?"
- Justin Choo wrote, "Ridiculous. If the council has overriding powers might as well just do away with the presidency altogether and follow the advice of the Council."
- Zhou Hongjie wrote, "I am trying my best not to appear rude but what sort of expertise and experience are required for a potential President of Singapore who as far as the public is concerned is responsible for only turning up at national and charity events to smile and wave at people like a stringed puppet?
It is understandable if the proposed criteria are for the Prime Minister's position; the role of the President seems more like a ceremonial figurehead, like Queen Elizabeth II."
- Shawn Yee wrote, "When a Malay president gets elected, he/she will not earn any ounce of respect from the masses. He/she will be known as the token president, even if he/she was fully qualified. This is what happens when affirmative action is introduced. Candidates get discredited and racial tensions are fueled. Also, this changes the voting mechanism. Why is there not a referendum held so that the public can decide for themselves. It's always a case of Lee Hsien Loong decreeing regardless of public opinion."
- Abdul Rashidin wrote, "So much talk of minority rights. You don't even allow a Malay boy in the navy sial."
- Dare Chia wrote, "Also, if the role of the President follows LKY's original proposition as a person who
'has the moral authority to say no to an elected Government that might wish to spend previously built-up reserves'. How does that translate to the criteria of being 'the most senior executive of a company with at least $500 million in shareholders' equity to be eligible to contest'. How does being the CEO of a firm with MORE money than the previous criteria translate to having Moral Authority? If equity value is the sole measure, perhaps Donald Trump can be our President."
- Ho Hsin Chun wrote, "How is this fair if it's the parliament that elects? Everyone know the parliament is made up of 70% pap the rest opposition.. Whitewash."
- Patrick Yuin wrot, "What's next? PM step down and becomes Mentor Minister? Who are we to oppose what the government's decision?"
- Siah Jin Kim wrote, "Isn't it obvious that next President will be a Malay?"
- Guo Xiongwei wrote, "It's plain that NEW PAP fears Tan Cheng Bock getting into Istana & didn't want a repeat of President Ong Teng Cheong checking the books on national wealth."