Nine-member panel to review Elected Presidency

Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre) opening the first session of the 13th Parliament, flanked by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (left) and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob (right).
Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre) opening the first session of the 13th Parliament, flanked by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (left) and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob (right). ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Constitutional Commission includes public, private sector leaders, and will consult people

Nine prominent Singaporeans have been named to a committee to study the Elected Presidency and recommend how it can be updated.

Their appointment comes two weeks after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament that the President had to remain elected, but certain aspects of the process had to be reviewed.

The growth in Singapore's reserves, of which the President is custodian, means that individuals with character as well as competence are needed.

Another consideration is the need for candidates from the minority races to get a chance at being elected from time to time.

Leading the group of eight men and one woman is Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon. They will hold their first meeting next week.

This Constitutional Commission includes Public Service Commission chairman Eddie Teo, who helmed the Presidential Elections Committee that vetted potential candidates in 2011.

Also on the panel are Supreme Court judge Tay Yong Kwang, former Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi and Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee.

The rest are business leaders Chua Thian Poh of Ho Bee Land, Philip Ng of Far East Organization, Peter Seah of DBS Bank, and Wong Ngit Liong of Venture Corp.

The names were announced by the Prime Minister's Office yesterday, which also set out the panel's terms of reference. People will be invited to give their views.

CJ Menon said yesterday that the members of the committee "bring with them the valuable perspectives of their diverse backgrounds and experience". "We will undertake and complete our work with due care and expedition," he said.

Although no timeline was given, PM Lee told Parliament he hoped the Commission could make its recommendations by the third quarter of the year. This would pave the way for changes to be made ahead of the next presidential election, which is due by August next year.

Mr Lee had said the Elected President is above politics and acts as a "stabiliser in our political system", but three areas had to be reviewed.

These were spelt out in the committee's terms of reference.

First, review the criteria for who is eligible to stand. This must consider the President's custodial role over the reserves and public service - a role that requires "individuals of character and standing" with experience and ability to do the job "with dignity and distinction".

Second, consider provisions for minority candidates to have "fair and adequate opportunity" to be elected, given the President's status as a unifying figure who represents a multiracial Singapore.

Third, consider refinements to the role and composition of the Council of Presidential Advisers, to ensure that key decisions are made after careful consideration from people with substantial suitable experience in the public and private sectors.

Mr Seah said: "I hope that my years of experience will help me contribute to the very important task of the Commission."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Nine-member panel to review Elected Presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe