Friday, April 15, 2016

WP declines invite to dialogue, will debate proposed changes in Parliament

By Laura Elizabeth Philomin -

April 15

SINGAPORE – The Workers’ Party (WP) has declined the Constitutional Commission’s invitation to speak at public hearings on the proposed changes to the Elected Presidency (EP), preferring instead to debate the matter when the Constitutional Amendment Bill is presented in Parliament.

The nine-member commission, which was formed to review and make recommendations on certain aspects of the EP, had invited 20 groups and individuals who had contributed written submissions to speak during the hearings, which will be held in April and May.

The WP first informed the commission of its decision last month in its cover letter for the party’s written submission, and repeated in a Facebook post yesterday that it “respectfully declined the invitation”.

“We intend to debate the matter fully when the Constitutional Amendment Bill is presented in Parliament ... The commission ... said it would consider our written submission nonetheless,” the party said.

In its written submission, the WP reiterated its call for the EP to be abolished. It noted that the concerns expressed by the Prime Minister about the EP office, such as the potential for political gridlock due to an uncooperative President, are largely of the Government’s own making.

“Should the day come when a non-PAP (People’s Action Party) government is elected, the EP will represent the PAP’s legacy ... A newly elected non-PAP Government might need to replace some of the key appointment holders ... The EP could block such appointments and cripple the new administration,” the WP said.

The significant veto powers given to the EP could potentially lead to the President becoming an alternative power centre, it added.

As for protecting the nation’s reserves, the WP believes that Parliament serves as a sufficient safeguard, and the party is open to “additional parliamentary safeguards”.

The WP also noted that expanding the powers of the Council of Presidential Advisers, comprising eight appointed members with no mandate from Singaporeans, may add another layer of gridlock between the President and the Council.

On concerns about the lack of minority representation, the WP said reverting to the former system of appointed, ceremonial Presidents would nullify the Government’s concerns.

“The WP is therefore of the view that the office of the EP should not be refined, and should be abolished,” it said. 


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