Elected presidency

Political neutrality should apply to council of advisers

Former Cabinet minister S. Dhanabalan (seated, with back to camera) speaking at the Constitutional Commission hearing on elected presidency with (back row, from left) Constitutional Commission members Mr Chua Thian Poh, Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, Mr Wong N
Former Cabinet minister S. Dhanabalan (seated, with back to camera) speaking at the Constitutional Commission hearing on elected presidency with (back row, from left) Constitutional Commission members Mr Chua Thian Poh, Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, Mr Wong Ngit Liong, Justice Tay Yong Kwang, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Mr Eddie Teo, Mr Peter Seah, Professor Chan Heng Chee and Mr Philip Ng Chee Tat. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The Constitutional Commission's recommendations regarding the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) essentially give the CPA greater scope and weight to counterbalance the elected president's veto power ("Greater weight urged for council of advisers"; Thursday).

This is not without merit, especially since the commission has also called for an enlarged council comprising people of "integrity, good character and reputation" with a diversity of relevant experience.

I suggest that the Government consider adding political neutrality to this set of qualities.

The requirement that the elected president should not be a member of any political party should apply likewise to those appointed to the CPA. This would further assure citizens that the collective wisdom behind the exercise of the president's powers is not coloured by partisan politics.

The important role played by the CPA also lends support to the commission's idea of letting the president's custodial role be assumed by a group of appointed experts ("Panel floats idea of returning to an appointed president"; Thursday).

This idea, and the absolute necessity, or otherwise, of having an elected president, should be considered seriously.

Doing away with elections and having Parliament appoint the head of state has one major advantage. It would mean the office of the president need not be reserved mainly for top leaders in the corporate and government sectors.

Certainly, the person selected must be of good reputation and character, with the competence and temperament to fulfil the duties of the office.

Beyond that, why shouldn't our head of state be chosen from among achievers in diverse fields - such as academia, medicine, science, sports, diplomacy, social work and the arts - who more fully represent the values and aspirations of Singaporeans?

Sng Siew Ping (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Political neutrality should apply to council of advisers'. Print Edition | Subscribe