With the elections for the next Singapore president due any day now, my decision making process will include the following considerations:
- That the candidate opposes the death penalty and that he would do something about it in office
- That the candidate will appreciate the need for a Freedom of Information Act and that the candidate will lend the prestige of the President’s office to this.
While I am fully cognizant that under the Singapore Constitution, the president’s powers are restricted to only three areas (drawing down of government reserves, barring of religious extremists and appointment of the prime minister), the fact that the person is directly elected should be used as a good enough reason to force the issue. Yes, the government of the day will oppose it and would even start a process of removing the elected president, but if it happens, we will able to make a far more vibrant and relevant executive and parliament. The government of the day might even want to remove the notion of elected president entirely. The fact that the elected president was introduced without a referendum – basically the typical PAP style of “we know best” process – means that little thought went into it in the first place. Then when President Ong Teng Cheong tried to exert his rights as defined by the constitution, the government of the day stonewalled him to the extent that he did not seek re-election, thoroughly frustrated by the PAP-led government.
So, now that we have an office of the elected President, I think we should make full use of that position to check the government.