President to be appointed by Parliament?
I refer to the article “Let’s talk about policy failures and the elected presidency” (Straits Times, Jan 18).
It states that “While we worried about a rogue government in the past, we did not consider the possibility that a rogue president could be elected.
It is true that our elected presidency does not allow the president to open the coffers with his single key. Yet, the election of a figure who is opposed to the responsible government in power can create painful political tensions.
We can go back to the old practice of having the Parliament elect the president.”
This may be a huge step backwards for democracy in Singapore.
Such a change should be decided by a referendum of the people, instead of simply an act in Parliament.
Also, the timing now may be seen as controversial, given that the last presidential election was won by a hair’s breath.
We want an “elected President”?
I believe Singaporeans still want an elected President who will “voice out”.
Let’s look at history for some examples.
Reserves used more than 27 times, but nobody knows?
For example, “President Nathan revealed just before he left the presidency (August, 2011), that the past reserves have been used more than 27 times since 2002, for projects like land reclamation and the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers)”. (“President guards Reserves: Really?“, Aug 24, 2011; “How much of the Reserves has been really used?“, Aug 10, 2011)
Reserves actually used 55 times?
Subsequently, if not for NCMP Mrs Lina Chiam’s question in Parliament in July 2013 – no one would have known that the Reserves had actually been used 55 times, instead of the 27 times disclosed by our former President.
Govt’s assets – 56 man-years to get information?
Another example is when the late President Ong Teng Cheong asked how much assets the Government had – he never got an answer because he was told that it would take 56 man-years to obtain the information for him.
I re-publish former President Ong Teng Cheong’s interview with AsiaWeek (10 March 2000) where he revealed the obstacles he faced when he asked for the copies of the government’s accounts on the reserves and investments.
President Ong Teng Cheong’s political career spanned 21 years. He was Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, before he resigned to become Elected President in 1993. And it was as Communications Minister that Ong pushed for the development of the MRT system, the largest construction project in Singapore’s history. His next challenge came on the labour front, when he became NTUC Secretary-General in 1983. Ong was diagnosed with lymphoma-cancer of the lymphatic system in 1992. But this did not dampen his desire to continue serving. He became Singapore’s first Elected President a year later, and it was a presidency marked by many charitable projects, which touched the lives of many Singaporeans. Ong stepped down as President at the age of 63.
“Strike” without telling cabinet?
As chairman of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, Ong was considered a firm Lee Kuan Yew loyalist. In January 1986, he sanctioned a strike in the shipping industry, the first for about a decade in Singapore, without telling the cabinet. He said that he did not inform the cabinet or the government because they would probably stop him from going ahead with the strike. There was a major corporate and Cabinet backlash against his decision; however, the strike lasted only two days, and a deal was struck. He was also a former Minister of National Development.”
Leong Sze Hian