SDP says go ahead with presidential voting

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's statement that the "president cannot act independently of the government other than to block it" further complicates the issue of the elected presidency. How is the President going to block the government if he doesn't act independently? The Senior Minister's views on the role of the elected president have stirred up much confusion and controversy. Is the President an elected one with his own set of powers, limited as they maybe, or is he a ceremonial one where he cannot act independently? Whatever he is, he cannot be both.

With the Government throwing its support behind Mr S R Nathan for the presidency, and Mr Lee's latest remarks about the role of the president, it is of paramount importance that the nominee tell Singaporeans to what degree of independence he is going to maintain from this Government. If this presidency is going to be one elected by the people, then he must be accountable to the people and not the Government of the day.

To do this, the Government should go ahead and hold the presidential election even though there is only one candidate. This will give Mr Nathan the opportunity to tell the people why he deserves to become the President and for Singaporeans to see how independent he is going to be. Singaporeans can then vote 'Yes' if they so wish Mr Nathan to be the President or cast a 'No' if they feel otherwise.

If the people reject Mr Nathan, the result will reflect the people's views on the way the President is presently chosen.

This will also decide once and for all what kind of president Singapore should have. This is because Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had said that the elected presidency is akin to the government clipping its own wings. Mr Lee, however, completedly rejected this notion: "No, if you've to clip the wings, then you are in for trouble, you cannot govern...I cannot remember it but I would not have used that phrase because the executive powers of the Government should not be clipped."

As the head of government will the Prime Minister clarify what Mr Lee, a minister in his cabinet, said? The contradiction only serves to exacerbate the muddle this Government is in over the issue of the elected presidency.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's statement that the "president cannot act independently of the government other than to block it" further complicates the issue of the elected presidency. How is the President going to block the government if he doesn't act independently? The Senior Minister's views on the role of the elected president have stirred up much confusion and controversy. Is the President an elected one with his own set of powers, limited as they maybe, or is he a ceremonial one where he cannot act independently? Whatever he is, he cannot be both.

With the Government throwing its support behind Mr S R Nathan for the presidency, and Mr Lee's latest remarks about the role of the president, it is of paramount importance that the nominee tell Singaporeans to what degree of independence he is going to maintain from this Government. If this presidency is going to be one elected by the people, then he must be accountable to the people and not the Government of the day.

To do this, the Government should go ahead and hold the presidential election even though there is only one candidate. This will give Mr Nathan the opportunity to tell the people why he deserves to become the President and for Singaporeans to see how independent he is going to be. Singaporeans can then vote 'Yes' if they so wish Mr Nathan to be the President or cast a 'No' if they feel otherwise.

If the people reject Mr Nathan, the result will reflect the people's views on the way the President is presently chosen.

This will also decide once and for all what kind of president Singapore should have. This is because Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had said that the elected presidency is akin to the government clipping its own wings. Mr Lee, however, completedly rejected this notion: "No, if you've to clip the wings, then you are in for trouble, you cannot govern...I cannot remember it but I would not have used that phrase because the executive powers of the Government should not be clipped."

As the head of government will the Prime Minister clarify what Mr Lee, a minister in his cabinet, said? The contradiction only serves to exacerbate the muddle this Government is in over the issue of the elected presidency.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General

Media Release Friday, 13 August 1999 SingaporeDemocrats Print

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