Commentary by: A Citizen
7th May 2016
This year in Singapore, there are two important (and highly significant) issues that warrant greater attention by its citizens. One is the Future Economy (or Economy Transformation); the other is the review of Elected Presidency (Constitutional commission hearing on elected presidency).
The extracted news report is on the Straits Times today (7 May 2016).
Of all the public hearing group and individual propopsals and arguments so far, ex minister Mr. Dhanabalan’s proposal remains the most interesting one.
He advocates that, hard criteria remains essential for elected presidency. This is what he says,
One of the public hearing group from NUS is uncomfortable about Dhanabalan’s proposal; they say this,
The NUS law undergraduates group apparently raised pretty sound argument about whether affirmative action should be the way forward. Their central idea of “the law should be amended to ensure a candidate is able to unify Singapore’s different races and represent multiracialism, instead of needing the person to come from a minority community.” should be commended for having the essence of why Singapore needs an elected presidency.
To closely examine the issue of elected presidency review, we should be mindful of the following,
~ should not allow the word Minority to take centre stage of the whole review. Otherwise, we tend to construct a highly rigid mechanism built around the election criteria. And, focus on minority candidates has nothing to do with Unifying The Nation. The logic does not work this way. Also, in Singapore we do not have the slightest evidence of if the president is non–minority, the interest and well being of minority community would be compromised. The legislative and administrative power remain with the government in power. Singapore is making progress in Inclusiveness, Community spirit and highly sensible political scene unlike in the long past years. We are talking about bringing the notion of One People, One Nation to the next level instead of going backward. Anyway, minority representation has already long been safeguarded in parliamentary election via the GRC system.
~ Singapore is at a historical juncture (ie. Post Lee Kuan Yew era) as well as at crucial timing, to actively participate in a new world economic and political environment. The issues involve regional security, TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), terrorism threats, China’s trade initiative (一帶一路) and, how does Singapore able to dovetail with those initiatives that can help us to regain regional competitiveness as well as economy transformation; and to bypass or minimise impact of those issues that will destroy our strengths. Hence, more strategic thinking and new insights should prevail.
It is therefore highly detrimental for the nation to develop itself into a fixed mindset and engrossed in Hard Criteria and that such approach becomes the Only prevailing principle. Elected Presidency review should not easily fall for such syndrome and easy way out.
~ should not turn a relatively simple election system into a complex one. Currently the elected presidency system is supported by Council of Presidential Advisors, Presidential Council for Minority Rights and various governmental agencies when the needs arise. The president is not a Superman operates on his own or making his judgement within a box. Therefore, to try add on more “super-waterproof” or hard criteria that ensure an elected president will do a “perfectly” good job is unnecessary.
This has nothing to do with essence of pragmatism as our founding father who took it at heart. This approach is more of a mentality driven by fear of failure and hence, trying to “lock-in” and safeguard all possibilities.
~ should not be overly excited to jump into conclusion of focusing on ‘Right Experience’ (for elected presidency). This notion carries tons of idealistic and wishful thinking but we all should know that it won’t work in the real world unless the elected presidency job is simply a plumber or car mechanic or airline pilot captain etc. etc.
What’s Right Experience? A heavyweight CV and corporate job that manage billions of dollars worth of asset?
I quote what Mr. Dhanabalan’s caution about this, he says, “… but warn that an impressive CV may not be a good reflection of a person’s experience.”
If truly there’s this so called ‘Right Experience’ magic stuff for high political or national office, then Nelson Mandela would never become the most respected president of South Africa and the world. His experience (including 27 years in prison) and CV would not even qualify him to be called up for first round of interview by the Presidential Election Committee!
We should not be driven by fear (and trying to cover all sides and be perfectly safe); but rather look beyond the horizon. Because that’s where Singapore Dream lies.