Parliament: WP calls for national referendum on future of elected presidency

An appointed president would "take care of any concerns" of minority representation and would not be regressive, Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim told Parliament. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM TV

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party (WP), in rejecting the proposed changes to the elected presidency, wants a return to the old system in which Parliament appoints the president.

An appointed president would "take care of any concerns" of minority representation and would not be regressive, said its chairman Sylvia Lim in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 8).

Ms Lim also called for a national referendum to be held to let people vote for the change they want made to the elected presidency.

She suggested two options for the vote.

One, the current system of an elected president playing the dual role of being a unifying head of state and custodian of the nation's reserves; and two, for the president to be appointed and not vested with powers over the national reserves.

The responsibility over the reserves would be vested in an elected senate instead, said Ms Lim (Aljunied GRC) during the debate on the constitutional amendments to the elected presidency.

The WP has opposed the elected presidency since it was introduced about 25 years ago.

One of its arguments is that such a president, elected under a People's Action Party government, would be pro-PAP and could potentially cripple a non-PAP government in its first term.

Ms Lim, however, acknowledged that Singapore's accumulated past reserves were "worthy of strong safeguards".

These safeguards, she suggested, could be vested in a second chamber in the legislature.

Called the senate, its members would be elected in a national poll and initially, would have eight members.

"We see the election of the senate members as critical to make the membership process open and not susceptible to political interference. This will also give the senate the necessary mandate for the important decisions it makes," she said.

Ms Lim also asked why the Government was "rushing" the amendments through Parliament, saying her residents had posed the question to her.

"Surely there is still time for any change to be carefully considered for implementation in the following presidential election in 2023 rather than the one next year," she said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the proposed amendments would take effect in next year's presidential election.

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