House debates WP call for senate and referendum

Sylvia Lim, Workers’ Party (WP) chairman, speaking at the WP rally for Aljunied GRC at Serangoon Stadium.
Sylvia Lim, Workers’ Party (WP) chairman, speaking at the WP rally for Aljunied GRC at Serangoon Stadium. PHOTO: ST FILE

The House saw a spirited debate yesterday after the Workers' Party (WP) proposed a popularly elected senate and called for a referendum on its ideas. Its first major statement on changes to the elected presidency being debated in Parliament came under fire from no less than a dozen People's Action Party MPs.

The WP, which has opposed the elected presidency since it was introduced 25 years ago, wants a return to the old system in which Parliament appoints the president.

The president's current custodial powers over the national reserves and key public sector appointments would instead be vested in an eight-member senate, said WP chairman Sylvia Lim.

Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Education Janil Puthucheary gave the most forceful rebuttal at the end of the sitting: "They did not submit this proposal to the Constitutional Commission, they did not submit it for public scrutiny or public debate. At the last minute, when the vote is tomorrow on this motion before us, we hear of this extraordinarily radical proposal to take apart our president, make it symbolic and elect another eight people who are effectively the custodial presidents."

Danson Cheong

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'House debates WP call for senate and referendum'. Print Edition | Subscribe