SINGAPORE - The Elections Department (ELD) has proposed raising the fine quantum that will result in an MP losing his or her parliamentary seat, from $2,000 to $10,000, as part of a move to update the disqualification criteria in a broader review of Singapore's electoral processes and legislation.
This was among proposed changes to the Constitution that were introduced in Parliament on Monday (April 4) by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is also Minister-in-charge of the Public Service.
The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend Article 45 of the Constitution, which sets out the criteria for the disqualification of an MP. The Bill also proposes similar changes to Article 37E relating to the disqualification of members of the Council of Presidential Advisers and Article 72 relating to the disqualification of the members of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.
Currently, under Article 45, an MP who has committed an offence and is fined "not less than $2,000" for it will lose his or her seat.
The Bill proposes to revise this to "not less than $10,000" to account for inflation and to ensure that the amount corresponds with sentences handed down by the courts today for relevant offences.
In a statement on Monday, the ELD said: "The fine quantum of 'not less than $2,000' has not been revised since Singapore's independence.
"Revising the fine quantum from 'not less than $2,000' to 'not less than $10,000' would ensure that the fine quantum is commensurate with fines meted out for offences which are relevant to the integrity of the person, such as tax evasion, corruption, et cetera."
The Bill also proposes expanding the criterion to cover MPs who are convicted in any foreign country. Currently, it covers only convictions in a court of law in Singapore or Malaysia.
"With more Singaporeans living, travelling and doing business in other countries besides Malaysia, convictions in other countries should be included in the disqualification criteria," said the ELD, which comes under the Prime Minister's Office.
These changes will also apply to the disqualification of the President set out in Article 19 of the Constitution.
Article 19 refers to Article 45 and states that a person can be elected as President if he or she "is not subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 45".
Another change the Bill proposes has to do with an outdated clause that has to do with disqualification when a person acquires foreign citizenship.
The clause provides an exception for people who have voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland, but this is no longer relevant, since a Singapore citizen who voluntarily acquires a foreign citizenship will be disqualified as an MP, said the ELD.
The department added that the updates to the disqualification criteria are meant to keep them relevant, so that they ensure MPs are "persons with integrity and who adhere to high standards of conduct".
The amendments will apply to convictions by a court of law in Singapore or elsewhere before, on or after the date of that the amendments take effect.
This means that those who were fined at least $2,000 but less than $10,000 and are currently disqualified, will cease to be disqualified once the amendments come into operation, said the ELD.