Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam stated on Thursday (8 September) that a president must be voted by Singaporeans in order for him or her to have real power against the Government.
Mr Shanmugam had a meeting which involved some 600 participants including representatives from voluntary welfare organisation and grassroots leaders from North West Community Development Council held at Chong Pang Community Centre.
The report of Elected Presidency review had been released by The Constitutional Commission headed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon on Wednesday (7 September) after six months of deliberation based on feedback from four public hearings and more than 100 written submissions.
On Wednesday (7 September), the Constitutional Commission set up to review specific aspects of the EP where a panel presented an idea to just appointed a group of experts to handle the custodial functions, then appointed a president to handle the ceremonial roles as unifying symbols.
However, Mr Shanmugam said, "If you look at the commission’s report, the commission recognise that if a person or body is not elected then they cannot really say no and block the Government."
The commission also recommended that before exercising his discretion on all fiscal matters the President must consult the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA). However, with the level of CPA support making a difference to the Parliament majority needed, the Parliament is able to ignore the President's decision.
Mr Shanmugam pointed out that since the body is not elected then it can only delay the decision and the Parliament can still override. "You have to ask yourself, do you want to give real power to an individual or a group. If you want to give real power then they have to be elected," he said.
One of the participants asked him whether the Government would reversed to appointyed the President. Mr Shanmugam responded that the Government would unlikely to do so. He said, "Every single one of you probably voted in the 2011 Presidential Election. If I now come and tell you, you cannot vote any more, would you be happy? You will think the Government is trying to be funny."
Some participants said that this EP were politically moved. Mr Shanmugam rejected the statement by pointing out that the commission was headed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and public hearings were conducted. He said, "All sorts of statements can be made but (I think they should) get back to basics and look at logic."
Some were discomfort by the recommendation that if there is no president from a particular racial group for five continuous terms, the next presidential election should be reserved for candidates from that group.
Responded to this, he said that people would just need sometime to understand its nuances and clear up misunderstandings since the review had just been introduced for less than a week.
He said, "Some people were saying it will affect meritocracy. As the commission made clear, whichever race the candidate is from, they have got to fulfil the same criteria. So there is no question of lowering the criteria for a particular race."
Talking separately in an interview with Channel NewsAsia's Talking Point broadcast on Thursday (Sep 8), Mr Shanmugam said, "I think if you agree that there should be a criteria then the criteria should reflect the state economy."
He said that the Commission's report stated that under the new recommendation that the presidential candidates from the private sector must be at least CEOs of companies, there are more than 2,000 people would qualify.
He also stated that if the shareholders' equity is to be raised to $500 million or more, there would be nearly 700 companies would qualify under this criteria.
He added, "The commission has heard representations, it’s received more than 100 submissions, it held public hearings extensively reported, so there is a considerable… not detailed understanding, but knowledge that these things are happening and I’m sure Singaporeans will pay attention to the Commission’s report, the logic behind the report and the government’s White Paper."