Depoliticise presidency, politicise Parliament

The transformation of our (relatively) fledgling political system is a serious yet inevitable process as Singapore moves towards First World democracy ("MPs, analysts offer ideas on how political system can be changed"; Sunday).

To do so, we must not lose sight of the ultimate purpose for such a solemn exercise - the reinvention of an impartial system that is politicised where it should be, and non-politicised where it ought not to be.

This involves the constitutional roles of the president and Parliament.

It is well and good to suggest a higher calibre of presidential hopefuls, and current requirements are already quite onerous to ensure only the right candidates present themselves before the nation.

But, also important is whether the candidate is inclined, if not beholden, towards a certain political party which he draws support or sympathy from.

The current law does not go far enough to require the president to keep political parties at arm's length - beyond not being a member of any political party on the day of his nomination for president. Thus far, all our elected presidents have either canvassed for political party support and/or have been assured of it.

The elected president must be a depoliticised supreme custodian of the reserves of the land.

He can play such a critical role only if he does not need to take into account the background and obligations of his ascendency to the post.

He must be above reproach and rise above party politics.

The institution of Parliament, on the other hand, has to be fully party-politicised, as it carries the voice of the people (the objective) through popular mandate (the process).

The integrity of the Constitution is to devise a system that adheres to the "voice of the voter".

Voters get the government that they deserve based on thepolitical party candidates they endorse.

In this regard, a properly politicised system should not include the Nominated MP or Non-Constituency MP by-products in order to add alternative voices or representativeness, simplybecause these so-called parliamentarians are not chosen by the people.

These respected Singaporeans could surface themselves and their views through civil society via candid discourse and an open media.

In short, we should depoliticise the presidency and politicise Parliament as we revamp our electoral politics for the good of the people.

Sunny Goh (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Depoliticise presidency, politicise Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe