SINGAPORE: The changes to the Elected Presidency (EP) are not targeted at any individuals, said Home Affairs and Law Minister Mr K Shanmugam on Sunday (Sep 19).
Earlier this week, the Singapore Government broadly accepted recommendations on the EP first put forward by the Constitutional Commission a month before. The changes are due to be tabled and debated in Parliament as a Bill, and will become law if passed.
At a dialogue session with some 1,300 participants at ITE College Central, Mr Shanmugam was asked by a member of the audience whether changes to the EP were made to deny potential candidates like Dr Tan Cheng Bock from contesting.
In response, Mr Shanmugam asked the audience whether they feel that having a criteria for the EP is important. The answer was a resounding "Yes". Mr Shanmugam then said that the criteria were recommended by the Constitutional Commission and the Government had agreed to them.
“The starting point at looking at this is the system," Mr Shanmugam said. "We are doing this for the future, for the benefit of Singapore, our children and grandchildren. You don’t look at individuals and then work backwards. You start with a set of logical questions on the system and then you apply it fairly.”
These questions, Mr Shanmugam added, include if a President should have the power to say no to the Government, if the President should be elected and whether the eligibility criteria should be reviewed.
He also answered questions on whether minority races should be rotated with each elected Presidency, and if there should be mechanisms put in place to ensure females are elected as well. The former is not feasible, said Mr Shanmugam, adding that the best option would be to look for a closed election every five terms.
On whether reservations should be made for women, Mr Shanmugam said this was unlikely.
“The looking after of the family and juggling that with a career falls mainly on the lady," he explained. "And men are much freer to go and pursue their career. So we don’t have as many women at the top.”
“We probably won’t go towards making a reservation for women but I think we should change other parts of society and try and change attitudes, particularly of men, so that taking care of the home becomes more equal.”
The dialogue is the first of a series of special talks by Central Singapore Community Development Council.