Constitutional Commission on elected presidency: Brian Chang's submission

Law firm intern Brian Chang speaking at the Constitutional Commission's first public hearing on April 18, 2016.
Law firm intern Brian Chang speaking at the Constitutional Commission's first public hearing on April 18, 2016. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - Law firm intern Brian Chang took a perspective of international law, arguing that changes to the presidential system should not contravene its treaty obligations on human rights and racial equality at the first public hearing on changes to the elected presidency on Monday (April 18).

He also raised case studies of countries with systems reserving particular political positions for certain ethnicities.

Mr Chang, 26, said such approaches ended up giving rise to race-based politics and parties. He added that if there were conditions to ensure a minority member becomes president, it may lead to calls for the same approach to be applied to other key offices such as the prime minister and Speaker of Parliament.

But Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who heads the Constitutional Commission, said the presidency is unique as the president is the "physical embodiment of the state", unlike other officials. Hence, it might merit special consideration that does not apply to other institutions. "This slippery slope argument may be more frightening than it needs to be."