Public hearings on Elected Presidency begin next week

Dr Tony Tan (centre) taking his oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony as Singapore’s seventh president and third elected president.
Dr Tony Tan (centre) taking his oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony as Singapore’s seventh president and third elected president. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Constitutional Commission tasked with reviewing the Elected Presidency has received a little over 100 written submissions from groups and individuals, and will hold public hearings later this month and next month.

The nine-member commission, which sought views from the public in February, said in a statement yesterday that it carefully considered all submissions and decided to invite a number of contributors to come before it and clarify or elaborate on their written submissions.

The public hearings will be at the Supreme Court auditorium and are scheduled for next Monday; April 22, April 26 and May 6. The commission's secretariat said the public will be informed if additional dates are needed .

The commission expects to complete its report, which will contain its recommendations, by the third quarter of this year.

Headed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, the commission was appointed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Feb 10.

PM Lee said in Parliament in January that the President has to remain elected, but certain aspects of the process have to be reviewed.

The growth in Singapore's reserves, of which the President is custodian, means individuals of character and 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.

The 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 Parliament Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi, Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee, and 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 commission sought views related to its terms of reference.

First, the eligibility criteria. This must consider the President's custodial role over the reserves and public service, a role that needs individuals of character and standing with experience and ability to do the job.

Second, it was to consider provisions for minority candidates to have fair and adequate chance to be elected, given that the President is a unifying figure.

Third, refinements to the Council of Presidential Advisers to ensure decisions are made after careful consideration from those with experience in the public and private sectors.

Among those who wrote in were advocacy groups like the Association of Women for Action and Research and human rights group Maruah, as well as the Workers' Party.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Public hearings on Elected Presidency begin next week'. Print Edition | Subscribe