A round up of what's brewing online

Singapolitics: Elected presidency and NCMP seat, lots to talk about as Parliament prepares for sitting next week

The 13th Parliament at its opening session on Jan 15, 2016.
The 13th Parliament at its opening session on Jan 15, 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - Are changes in store for the elected presidency?

President Tony Tan Keng Yam may not have specified which part of the political system needs refreshing, when he revealed that the Government is studying the matter to see if tweaks are in order.

But much of the chatter has centred on the elected presidency.

Not a few commentators have proposed changes to the policy, or called for it to be scrapped, lamenting that holding elections for the post have led to politicising of the office.

Dean of the LKY School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Mr Kishore Mahbubani, suggested in a Straits Times commentary that Parliament should elect the president instead and said:

"If we can admit that even a 'sacred cow' policy such as the elected presidency may have been a failure, we will open the doors for others to speak out about other possible failures in the first 50 years of our independence."

Also commenting was The Middle Ground editor Bertha Henson, who said: "The EP hasn't failed as much as backfired on the People's Action Party (PAP), because the electorate viewed the post in a rather different light than what the PAP had conceptualised or what has been stated in the Constitution."

Among writers to The Straits Times' Forum page, were those who felt it would be elitist to let Parliament elect the president and unwise to abolish the elected presidency.

There were also those who called for the elected president to be given a larger role and to "depoliticise the presidency and politicise Parliament".

In a statement on Tuesday, Singapore People's Party Chairman Lina Chiam asked if there is "really a serious need to keep tweaking the political framework".

So far, only one of three losing candidates in the 2011 presidential election has commented publicly on the matter. Former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian said in a Facebook post: "My reading: there will be no more direct election for the President."


Will sparks fly over seat in Parliament?

Even before Parliament sits for its first debate, sparks have flown on a topic that is set to be discussed: whether the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament seat, declined by one Workers' Party candidate, should be offered to another of the party's candidates.

WP Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian, who received 48.2 per cent of votes at the Sept 11 general election last year, was the best-performing losing opposition candidate and was offered the seat on that account.

But Ms Lee, 37, announced shortly after the results were out that she would not take it up.

Her decision was backed by the party leadership, who then wanted National University of Singapore sociology don Daniel Goh, who was one of the WP's candidates in East Coast GRC, to take the seat.

On Sunday (Jan 17), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, in her capacity as Leader of the House, said the WP would have to file a motion in Parliament to kick off debate on the issue.

In her statement, issued in response to media queries, she also said that the 15,800 voters in Punggol East who voted for Ms Lee, along with many other Singaporeans, "would want to understand the basis of her decision".

The WP responded a day later with a statement of its own, in which party chairman and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim said that WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang had already filed a motion on Friday (Jan 15). 

Ms Lee, sharing her party's statement on her Facebook page, said her decision was not taken lightly. 

She had said earlier that she respects the voters' decision. She wrote in a Facebook post following the election: "I should give this chance to my other WP colleagues. We really have some good people who deserves the slot." 

Ms Lee said she is deciding whether to find a job or be a full time mother.

Meanwhile, People's Power Party leader Goh Meng Seng criticised the WP's moves and asked Mr Low why he was trying so hard to get one of his party's members an NCMP seat when the party was opposed to the NCMP scheme in the first place.

Snap shot or pot shot?

Many pictures were snapped and posted online after the opening of the new term of Parliament on Jan 15 . But one particular picture has attracted some compliments and comment.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who spotted the Workers' Party MPs taking a group shot in Parliament House, snapped a photograph from another angle and shared it on his Facebook page with a light-hearted caption and a smiley face emoticon.

The WP responded in the same spirit when it shared his picture on Facebook and thanked him for the "classy" picture.

But some netizens seemed to have read more into it, asking why the photograph was in black and white. Facebook user Niki Ng, in a comment on the WP's page said: "Why the photograph in black and white and his other photographs in colour? Just because WP is the Opposition Party."

To which another Facebook user Wilson Lim said, referring to PM Lee's penchant for photography: "This is just a black and white candid (picture) of the opposition MPs taking photo taken by PM Lee. Why must bring politics into this? Mr Lee was just enjoying himself, doing his favourite hobby."

Netizen Jun Yuan Lim, posted a comment on Mr Lee's Facebook page saying: "I look forward to seeing both PAP and WP MPs and NCMPs working hand in hand together in Parliament in the next 5 years to move Singapore forward ... As well as improve the lives of Singaporeans."