19 groups and individuals to speak on elected presidency

They will offer views at four public hearings starting next week; WP declined invitation

Dr Tony Tan (centre) taking his oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony as Singapore’s seventh president and third elected president, on Sept 1, 2011.
Dr Tony Tan (centre) taking his oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony as Singapore’s seventh president and third elected president, on Sept 1, 2011. PHOTO: ST FILE

A total of 19 groups and individuals, including former Cabinet minister S. Dhanabalan, will give their views on the proposed changes to the elected presidency at four public hearings that will start next week.

The Workers' Party (WP), which was invited to speak, declined to do so. The Constitutional Commission, formed to review the elected presidency, had invited 20 groups and individuals, who had contributed written submissions on the matter, to speak at the hearings. In a statement yesterday, the commission's secretariat said 19 of them said yes.

Those slated to speak include law academics Kevin Tan, Eugene Tan and Jack Lee, researchers Gillian Koh, Mathew Mathews and Loke Hoe Yeong, and former Nominated MP Loo Choon Yong. There are also groups like the Eurasian Association, Maruah and the Association of Women for Action and Research.

The WP said yesterday on its Facebook page that party chairman Sylvia Lim had written to inform the commission that the party will "debate the matter fully when the Constitutional Amendment Bill is presented in Parliament. This is in keeping with our role as a political party with Members of Parliament".

The WP added that the commission had said it would "consider our written submission nonetheless".

In a two-page submission sent last month, the party had reiterated its call for the elected presidency to be abolished, saying it could be a source of gridlock that could potentially cripple a non-People's Action Party government in its first year.

It added: "WP's view is that the office of the elected president should not be retained, let alone refined."

The commission, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, was appointed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in February to review three aspects of the elected presidency that was instituted in 1991.

In February, it made a public call for submissions on the three areas being studied. These are: the eligibility criteria for candidates; provisions for minority candidates to have a chance of being elected from time to time; and changes to ensure members of the Council of Presidential Advisers have experience in the public and private sectors.

The commission received a little over 100 submissions. It expects to submit its recommendations by the third quarter of this year.

The hearings, to be held at the Supreme Court auditorium, are scheduled for next Monday and Friday, April 26 and May 6, from 9.30am to 5pm. They are open to the public. Those attending must be properly dressed, and should not wear singlets, shorts, bermudas, slippers or any clothing with controversial messages. Photo, video and audio recordings are also not allowed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline '19 groups and individuals to speak on elected presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe