The report by the Constitutional Commission headed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon on the Elected Presidency review has been released on last Wednesday (7 September) .
The review that was initiated by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took six months of deliberation based on feedback from four public hearings and more than 100 written submissions.
One of the key recommendations offered by the commission is that it 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.
Only if there is no representative from the racial group would the election be opened to all, and the reserved election will be brought forward to the next election.
Channel News Asia (CNA) in a collaboration with the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) had earlier conducted a survey and posted an article on 18 August on race relations which resulted, according to the media, that most Singaporeans prefer someone of the same race to hold the nation’s highest position.
The survey, was conducted between June and July, on a nationwide survey of 2,000 citizens and permanent residents on their views on relations between the country’s four major races.
However, more than 90 percent of the readers who commented on the article disagree with what the research had said.
Speaking in an interview with MediaCorp which was aired on 4 September, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated that the proposed changes are not tokenism, but the right step for Singapore’s future, as under the current system, minority candidates would find it hard to be elected.
He said, “It is a very necessary symbolism of what we are as a multiracial society – what Singapore means, stands for and what we aspire to be.”
However, this recommendation also raised people’s disbelief on the issue and spurred them to comment that the ruling party, People’s Action Party has double standards on the Presidential Candidacy and its own choice of Prime Minister:
- Tan Desmond wrote, “Mr PM Lee. Why not hold a national referendum asking Singapore citizen if we want a minority president by force or let us choose the best man available that day. Are we so childish even after 50 years of nation building?”
- Terence Sim wrote, “So it is not just ‘if a(ny) minority president is not elected’ but ‘if a president is not from a particular racial group for so and so terms’. It’s worst than I thought.
How many ‘Official’ minorities is the Government going to acknowledge for this program. We will have Indians and Malays. How about Eurasians, Arabs or other minor groups? Will we end up with a Presidential office which rotates in a round-robin style among all the ethnic groups? It does not seem to serve much purpose except to parade our minorities for minority’s sake.
It’s not a very bad idea but the proposed execution is terrible and instead promises to further divide Singaporeans along our ethnic lines. If the system already believes that we will be biased in our voting and attempts to preemptively compensate for it, we will most likely follow suit. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
- Kumar Pillay, “My question is so much hype that Singapore cannot have a Chinese president all the time thus this new initiative. What about becoming a PM? To me it’s silly. I am a Singaporean and it does not matter who becomes the president or PM. Why are we selecting by race and not a Singaporean.”
- Thorsten Oliver Marquardt wrote, “What if more than one race has not been “represented” after five terms? This is a very like scenario considering all the different races that exist.”
- Lee Harry wrote, “Why PM candidate cannot be minority – totally unethical move.”
- 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.”
- Guo Xiongwei wrote, “Why dun we have that rule for DPM & PM? Anyone knows if we ever had a Malay for DPM…. or PAP thinks Malays are not suitable for those 2 positions?”
- Bruce Lim wrote, “Let’s do this for the prime minister as well.”
- Dominic Goh wrote, “Ensuring minority races gets a chance to be President. Why not start with the PM position first.”