Government should not sweat the small matter of presidential elections

I know who I will vote for in the coming presidential election — whoever promises that he will commute all death sentences to long prison terms.

Quite likely, any president determined to do that will trigger a constitutional crisis, for the convention in a Westminster-type system is that the head of state acts on the advice of the cabinet. But this would be a good constitutional crisis to have if it means one more step towards the end of the death penalty.

Lee Hsien Loong and his government may protest as much as they like about such a president flouting convention, but he and his government have lost all claim to the moral high ground by repeated flouting of legal and constitutional convention themselves. The use of detention without trial, the negation of judicial review over the substance of charges leading to such detention, the suppression of constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and assembly, and the continued defence of Section 377A which flies against constitutional guarantees of equality are just the most obvious.

* * * * *

Now that ex-foreign minister George Yeo has decided against running, the Straits Times is speculating whether former deputy prime minister Tony Tan might be the government’s preferred candidate (Straits Times, 17 June 2011, Tony Tan seen as likely candidate, by Tessa Wong, Elgin Toh & Andrea Ong).

Frankly, I don’t know why the government needs to put up a preferred candidate at all. After all, as Law Minister K Shanmugam made clear last week, the President is largely powerless.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam issued a three-page statement reiterating that Singapore has a parliamentary system of government, not a presidential one.

Under this system, the president has ‘no role to advance his own policy agenda’, as policymaking and the running of government are the preserve of the prime minister and the Cabinet.

‘This is so for all policies, whether they concern security and defence, immigration and population, or housing and social safety nets,’ he said.

The prime minister and the Cabinet are accountable to Parliament, where policies are ‘debated and endorsed’. And ultimately, it is the electorate that decides every five years ‘who to elect to Parliament and to govern Singapore’.

The statement followed remarks on Thursday by former senior minister S. Jayakumar, who said he was ‘surprised and disappointed’ that would-be presidential candidates seemed to think the president was ‘a centre of power unto himself’.


Like Professor Jayakumar, Mr Shanmugam re-stated the president’s constitutionally specified role in the following areas:

  • The protection of past reserves.
  • The appointment of key personnel.
  • Internal Security Act detentions, investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and restraining orders connected to the maintenance of religious harmony.

He dispelled notions that the president has any substantive power outside these narrowly defined areas, saying: ‘On all other matters, under the Constitution, the president must act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet.’

— Straits Times, 11 June 2011, President ‘has no role in policymaking’ , by Elgin Toh

So, if the President’s role is limited, why should the government care who gets elected to the office? They shouldn’t set about trying to control the outcome of the election any more than a British prime minister would want to determine succession to the throne.

Reality of course, has two impulses in play. The first is the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) compulsive need to have total control of all levers of power however minor; to step back and not try to influence the outcome of a presidential election would go against their psyche. The second is the likelihood that many voters would seize the opportunity to send a dissenting signal — something that the PAP would find discomforting.

In the only presidential election ever held, in 1993, a total unknown, Chua Kim Yeow received 43.1 percent of the votes against a well-known former deputy prime minister, Ong Teng Cheong. Given the mood of the electorate, as demonstrated in the recent general election, this tendency is likely to be amplified in 2011. It is quite possible that the candidate who is furthest removed from the government might win, in which case, he might see his mandate as that of being a check on the government to the extent possible.

This would be such irony. When the notion of an elected president was mooted in the early 1990s, the PAP intended it to be a check on any opposition party that might win a future general election, thus forming the next government. Lee Kuan Yew had nightmares about what he termed a “freak” election result producing a spendthrift government ready to distribute the state reserves like confetti to entrench its popularity, so the scheme was hatched to have an elected president holding the “second key” needed to unlock (or, per the plan, refuse to unlock) the reserves.

There’s a morality tale somewhere in this, in the way Singaporeans have turned the tables on the PAP. Today, a possible majority might seize this device of an elected president to keep a check on a PAP government.

* * * * *

The PAP has far bigger electoral problems to worry about than the presidency. The loss of Aljunied Group Representation Constituency in the general election, forcing the exit of two cabinet ministers, George Yeo and Lim Hwee Hua, have forever changed the calculations. The risk of defeat and humiliation is now a notch higher, making it harder to recruit new candidates for the next general election that has to be held no later than 2016.

As it is, few of the 24 new candidates they fielded during the recent general election were from the private sector; the PAP itself admitted that despite trying, they didn’t quite succeed in getting as many as they would have liked from there. In the end, most of the new candidates were from the civil service, the military or the government-controlled trade union, a pattern that brings in train a higher risk of inbreeding and groupthink. It has been remarked that many who do agree to stand for election under the PAP banner see politics as a career move. You have to wonder about passion and beliefs.

Does this mean that in the medium term, the calibre of PAP candidates will decline? We have already seen how public speaking skills — and surely in politics, the ability to engage with and move a crowd is important — are almost non-existent among PAP candidates. This probably accounts for the fact that the PAP can no longer persuade. Increasingly, they have to buy support with all sorts of goodies.

Especially as the party has reached a point where a further six-percentage-point decline in vote share would put it in peril, these two weaknesses are looming large. A party filled with people that were groomed from within the system will find it particularly challenging to reform. Priorities and assumptions are too hard-wired to question. Yet neither is it capable of persuading people that its direction is the right one to take, since its communication skills have atrophied.

See, for example, this comment by Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Minister of State for National Development:

Mr Lee Yi Shyan, an East Coast GRC MP, contrasts the mood within the party to that in 2006: “Then, we were more focused on the programme over the next five years, as part of our continuation of national and societal development.

“But now, there’s a bit of reflection and pausing and looking back and saying, we are running ahead but do we have everybody on board? Which groups are being left out?

— Straits Times, 15 June 2011, PAP takes hard look at election showing, by Li Xueying

You still get the sense that they are convinced the direction is right; you don’t see any element of doubt. The only “reflection” going on is whether they may be moving too fast (“running ahead”), with a possible look at whether some segments of the population might have fallen by the wayside. The only thing in question is execution, not the direction of policies themselves.

Lee Yi Shyan has a profile that is typical of the PAP leadership. His entire career has been in the civil service, starting with the Economic Development Board. Yet, at the rate things are going, the party may have no choice in 2016 but to field more of the same stripe. The danger this presents is far bigger than any president voters might pick to keep an eye on a PAP government.

40 Responses to “Government should not sweat the small matter of presidential elections”

  1. 1 Tan Tai Wei 21 June 2011 at 09:01

    The power to veto “appointments of key personnel” is really very powerful. Jaya and the Law Minister
    think not because they take for granted PAP appointments would never be questioned. Or maybe they know, and that’s why they speak so, in order to discourage those who want to stand for election in order to take that role seriously and check on PAP apppointments.

    Surely, government cannot function without persons appointed to function. So that is power to demolish power!

    • 2 yawningbread 21 June 2011 at 10:30

      Yes another hope I have is that the president would veto certain judicial appointments, including all Judicial Commissioners who serve renewable terms. The fact that they do not have tenure is a significant factor when it comes to impartiality in politically-sensitive cases.

    • 3 Robox 22 June 2011 at 01:27

      As if there hasn’t been enough doubt cast over the legitimacy of the office of the Elected President, this part of the discussion prompted me to study the Constitution for answers to some niggling questions I have been having. And guess what I found?

      These are the “key personnel” whose appointment the President can, in theory, veto, copied directly form Article 22(1) (Appointment of public officers, etc.) of the Constitution:

      (a) the Chief Justice, Judges and Judicial Commissioners of the Supreme Court;
      (b) the Attorney-General;
      (c) the Chairman and members of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights;
      (d) the chairman and members of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony constituted under the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (Cap. 167A);
      (e) the chairman and members of an advisory board constituted for the purposes of Article 151;
      (f) the Chairman and members of the Public Service Commission;
      (fa) a member of the Legal Service Commission, other than an ex-officio member referred to in Article 111 (2) (a), (b) or (c);
      (g) the Chief Valuer;
      (h) the Auditor-General;
      (i) the Accountant-General;
      (j) the Chief of Defence Force;
      (k) the Chiefs of the Air Force, Army and Navy;
      (l) a member (other than an ex-officio member) of the Armed Forces Council established under the Singapore Armed Forces Act (Cap. 295);
      (m) the Commissioner of Police; and
      (n) the Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

      But with anything devised by the PAP government, there’s always a catch, and this is what follows immediately from the above:

      22(2) Where the President, contrary to the recommendation of the Council of Presidential Advisers, refuses to make an appointment or refuses to revoke an appointment under clause (1), Parliament may, by resolution passed by not less than two-thirds of the total number of the elected Members of Parliament referred to in Article 39 (1) (a), overrule the decision of the President.

      Nice, huh?

  2. 4 anon 21 June 2011 at 09:45

    What the 2011GE revealed is that the many if not most of the voters no longer see a minister as a heavy weight that would weigh on their consideration when voting in a GRC. And the irony is that this is of the PAP’s OWN making. Frankly, with very few exceptions during GE2011, the loss of a minister is no longer a valid constraint for the voters because the incumbents themselves have during the course of the five years shown how unworthy they have been of their ministerial posts.

    As of GY, right up to this point, I fail to understand why he is so ‘hot’ with some voters? The only impression I got is his one-on-one with people seems to have impressed. My own impression is that the great majority are unimpressed with him.

    • 5 yawningbread 21 June 2011 at 10:28

      In my view, the notion that people like George Yeo so much — and now, that ex-DPM Tony Tan is considered the favourite in the race for the presidency, even though he has not declared his candidacy — are artificial constructions of the media. People, please see through it.

      • 6 Dy 21 June 2011 at 18:55

        Alex, I couldn’t agree more with this. I fail to fathom how people are suddenly idolizing GY and finding him so merit-able. If he did not fail in the elections, he wouldn’t have captured much of the public’s praise and attention. I for one, do not find him especially impressive or outstanding at all.

  3. 7 What's True 21 June 2011 at 09:57

    This far, what the PAP says about the need for an Elected President is all Motherhood and contradictions:

    0 The Elected President only has Custodial and no Executive powers?
    0 Second set of keys to guard the reserves – yet the PAP is not transparent about it.
    0 Approval needed – Certificate Of Eligibility needed for Candidates – how ridiculous?
    0 The Elected President is virtually toothless and powerless – why pay 4.3 M dollars?
    0 If anything is Elected, cut the Red Tape, open this to the public at large. Certainly
    some rules and conditions are necessary, not he draconian ones which the PAP
    put in place that even the Government favored candidates are not able to meet.
    0 Have a Set Term of Office in place instead of the dubious silence we have now.
    0 If this is something quite serious as the PAP Leaders claims, quit the farce and
    wasting the Public’s time and Tax Payers Money which can be best used for the

    • 8 Xmen 21 June 2011 at 22:00

      I find it ironic that PAP is talking down the prestige of the Presidency. How will they convince one of their very own, e.g. Tony Tan, to be the next paper tiger?

  4. 9 Alan Wong 21 June 2011 at 10:11

    Just like most of the things that PAP do, it is for a purpose. To begin with, the President post is simply just another one of the many political tools that they can manipulate in their favour, nothing less and nothing more.

    The same with their difficulty to recruit candidates from the private sector, it is a fallacy. When the young inexperienced wife of a parliamentary candidate can even qualify, can it be true that the quality of candidates is really that important a criteria to PAP anymore ? Just imagine if more independent minded charismatic candidates like Chen were to be selected, would the balance of power within PAP be threatened one fine day ? And maybe it’s by design also that we do not have really intelligent PAP Ministers to be in charge in the first place.

    The same applies to their statement that our future PM will come from the current batch of candidates which implies that none of his existing Ministers are PM-material yet, it makes one question ourselves how honest or truthful our leaders are ? As to why the PM must come from the current batch, did they ever bother to explain ?

    I think the selection of PAP candidates has more to do with keeping the balance of power within PAP not be usurped or challenged in future by untested individuals, hence the preferred choice of candidates within their inner circle. I suppose in this way the powers that be in PAP can continue to rule and control the govt as long as they want. To such power crazy leaders, what is essentially good for Singapore now becomes secondary.

    • 10 Xmen 21 June 2011 at 22:05

      If one of the young Lee’s is politically inclined, you can be sure that he will be gloomed to be the next PM.

      IMHO, LKY designed the EP office for himself but it did not work out that way.

      • 11 yuen 22 June 2011 at 04:47

        I believe the main reason “it did not work out” was actually GCT; from

        …LKY coming out to declare that he would not be the first elected president. Though his undertaking left later possibilities open, the new Prime Minister, taking office soon after the (1988) election, declared that he preferred to have LKY remain in cabinet as a political person rather than becoming an apolitical president, thus closing the door on the “LKY wants to be president?” issue….

      • 12 The 23 June 2011 at 14:17

        Yes, the EP was designed to keep LKY in the loop. He had declared that he would not be the first EP, as it would be seen to be too self-serving. But that does not preclude him from running for EP subsequently. In any case, his Plan B for staying in power (or at least in the loop) was the new creation of the Senior Minister’s post. Again, just to look prim and proper, he was not the first SM. Rajaratnam was interjected as the first SM. And when GCT was made SM, a new MM position was created. With the 2 new positions to kick used-PMs upstairs, the need for EP to keep an eye on the PM is no longer that cogent.

        The MM position is no longer in use. But if the SM position is going to be a permanent fixture, then maybe it is time to revert (sic) to appointing the President instead of “electing” one.

  5. 13 Tan Tai Wei 21 June 2011 at 10:44

    In addition to my thoughts above, I might also observe that, perhaps, Jaya, Teo and the Law Minister are trying to help PAP to talk us back to a passive, decorative Presidency, after suddenly realising how much power they have subjected themselves to, should the likes of Kim Lian and Cheng Bock (whom they can’t credibly disqualify) stand.

    The elected Presidency had been schemed to cripple a “freak” opposition government. They never envisaged the present scenario where there are presidential contenders they can’t believably discredit who would take the presidential powers seriously even against the PAP, and who pose a real threat to their nominee, and this occurring with the present voters’ mood.

    But “what’s done cannot be undone”, certainly not by talk and propaganda!

    • 14 Poker Player 21 June 2011 at 18:00

      “In addition to my thoughts above, I might also observe that, perhaps, Jaya, Teo and the Law Minister are trying to help PAP to talk us back to a passive, decorative Presidency, after suddenly realising how much power they have subjected themselves to, should the likes of Kim Lian and Cheng Bock (whom they can’t credibly disqualify) stand.”

      This is not recent. Remember when Ong Teng Cheong wanted to contest a second term? We had LKY telling us the constitution had not intended an “activist presidency”. That’s how we ended up with the current very non-activist president.

    • 15 Robox 22 June 2011 at 02:03

      @Tan Tai Wei:

      “…I might also observe that, perhaps, Jaya, Teo and the Law Minister are trying to help PAP to talk us back to a passive, decorative Presidency…”

      If that’s what they are doing, I wouldn’t mind it at all. I wrote the following article published in TRE with my reasons for wanting a return to a titular head, and they are best encapsulated in the following quote from the article:

      “The Elected Presidency (EP) is an institution that the [PAP has devised] which, along with other institutions like the Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) and Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) schemes, were designed to create the false impression in Singaporeans’ minds that there are already sufficient checks and balances in the system; voting in more opposition members would therefore be unnecessary, and even redundant.”

  6. 16 Ben 21 June 2011 at 11:05

    Though the role of elected president is much restricted, Singaporeans have to remember that we need someone independent to account for the reserves and our CPF money.

    From CIA factbook and Eurostat data, our public debt stands at 102.4% of GDP, putting us at no. 9 in rank worldwide. Most of this is debt government owes it’s people through the use of our CPF to buy government bonds, enabling GIC to make big bets.

    We cannot afford a Bernie Madoff incident to befall us. Let’s do the right thing and get someone competent to check our government. The logical choice at the moment would be Mr Tan Kin Lian.

    • 17 Robox 22 June 2011 at 02:07


      “…Singaporeans have to remember that we need someone independent to account for the reserves and our CPF money.”

      Singaporeans need to equally question how is it that other countries under the Westminster system ‘can account for [their] reserves’ and other monies without an elected president but with a purely titular head, even if s/he is not the president.

  7. 18 yuen 21 June 2011 at 11:28

    > I will vote for …whoever promises that he will commute all death sentences

    sorry but I dont think there will be such a candidate; the PAP supported candidate of course not, I doubt a populist like Tan Kin Lian would; Tan Cheng Bock, with his somewhat independent attitude, just might take a mildly anti death sentence stance, but I doubt he would go as far as your desire; unfortunately or not, the perception that the majority favour keeping the death sentence (and 377A) would deter any candidate from taking your stand

    > the party may have no choice in 2016 but to field more of the same stripe.

    well the simple reality is that the PAP leadership is not really heading a “political” party, but a managerial oligarchy – the cabinet is the board of directors of Singapore Inc that want the same kind of people as themselves to rise, and being selected as a parliamentary candidate is like being head hunted for promotion from operational staff into the executive; I discussed this in a 1999 article

    but if PAP’s vote falls below 60%, then it can no longer guarantee that anyone that accepts the invitation will be elected (remember Ong Ye Kung, Aljunied?), and someone who already has a cushy job might hesitate to resign in order to accept the invitation to run, even if he/she can arrange to go back to the old job if unsuccessful – not everyone can handle the loss of face ; that is, the PAP recruitment/regeneration-in-its-own-image process might be disrupted

  8. 19 liew kai khiun 21 June 2011 at 12:15

    the PAP government seems in a rather strange way to be contradicting itself consistently in the Presidential Elections. To begin with, it basically have said that while he/she commands a high salary, the position is basically toothless. The candidate must be a unifying force, but how do you do that if you want to him/she to be detached? With such contradictory claims, it is not surprising that even with the government support, people like George Yeo are not coming into the race, and Tony Tan seems reluctant.. The most incredulous part to me is that the current president does not rule out contesting for the next term. I think at the end of the day, the PAP is only interested of getting a largely ceremonial guy who ritually inspects troops and sign documents.

  9. 20 Rajiv Chaudhry 21 June 2011 at 12:21

    A little examined aspect of the President’s office is that if he is to discharge even his limited responsibilities effectively, he needs adequate and independent support staff ie independent of the government. Currently, the President is advised by a Council of Presidential Advisors with only secretarial support (see He does not have the ability or resources to conduct independent research, which his duties demand, indeed which he is constitutionally bound to discharge.

    For example, when the government recommended the release of $4.9 b from past reserves in February 2009, the President took all of one day (!) to give his approval (see Was a career civil servant really qualified to decide on whether $4.9 b was the correct amount to release, even with advice from such luminaries as J Y Pillay?

    What if there are more tricky questions to deal with, such as investigating the administration for corruption? The CPIB is, at present, directly under the PMO.

    The office of President of Singapore is a half-baked scheme, neither a proper upper house nor a properly funded and set up independent office. No wonder the Late Ong Teng Cheong was so frustrated with the job. It is one of the many institutions that need reform in Singapore.

  10. 21 Arif 21 June 2011 at 13:47

    I will support the abolishment of the death penalty if the death sentence is commuted to a mandatory minimum 10-year imprisonment and 100 strokes of the rotan, with 10 strokes to be administered per year for 10 years.

  11. 22 prettyplace 21 June 2011 at 15:44

    I think having absolute control over the EP is to do with appointments & more so for the reserves and the way its been invested.
    The latest news does not seem to tally well either with regards to STs comments about Ho Ching not stepping down. There might be more to this, which can only be resolved if we get an EP who can account.

  12. 23 Gard 21 June 2011 at 16:16

    If the President has ‘no role to advance his own policy agenda’, why is he making statements like this:

    “However, in building an inclusive society, we must avoid the mistakes other countries have made in pursuing welfare schemes. Starting off well-intentioned, many are now stuck with increased dependency and higher unemployment. The work ethic of their people has been eroded and their motivation sapped. With this heavy burden of welfare, these economies have stagnated.”
    – 2 Nov 2006

    The President could just have easily invited discourse in how we can learn from Norway, for example. It cannot be that the President is just a speech reader or that Singaporeans would tolerate electing a speech reader.

  13. 24 Paul 21 June 2011 at 20:48

    Actually, the British government does care about who ascends to the British throne. A long time ago, Stanley Baldwin the then PM made Edward VII abdicate. More recently, PM Tony Blair had some strong words for the Queen as portrayed by Helen Mirren 🙂 The PAP has a huge vested interest in who is the Head of State

  14. 25 K Das 21 June 2011 at 20:54

    A total removal of death sentence may not serve the larger interests of society.

    A brutal murder committed in the course of committing crime (armed men robbing Jewellery shop and shooting staff resisting them) is vastly different from another committed in self-defense (semi-drunkard A attacking B with broken bottle and B whacking him with a chair resulting in A falling into a drain ending in death with a broken skull) or out of rage (man finding his wife in bed with another man and he killing both with a metal piece). The gravity and motivation of the crime is different in each of these cases and a blanket death sentence or sparring of it may not be desirable.

    There could be a case for abolishing death sentence for drug possession or mere possession of arms or in kidnapping where no death has been caused.

    • 26 ET 22 June 2011 at 07:43

      The murder of criminals is still murder. If you count the legal murder of criminals by the state, Singapore may have one of the highest murder rates in the world, depending what the current execution rate is.

      • 27 jem 22 June 2011 at 15:51

        This doesn’t even begin to counter K Das’ argument.

      • 28 ET 22 June 2011 at 22:19

        Why doesn’t it , Jem?

        Murder is a crime because of the general acceptance of the sanctity of life. If life is sacrosanct, it’s irrational and immoral to kill criminals.

        Killing criminals is still murder, however minor or terrible their crime. It lowers a society to the same level as a murderer, carrying out the same act as a form of revenge. If people want to kill criminals, it is for them to prove an incontrovertible defence that it is an effective deterrent to murder. No one has proved that, which is one reason it’s long been abolished in most developed countries.

        Why not make hangings public and see what it’s really like? Keeping it hidden allows people to avoid seeing what is being done in their name.

        Apart from the totally horrific nature of killing people for alleged crimes, far too many innocent people are convicted of murder around the world, whatever the system. Every system is staffed by fallible human beings. Even the infamous hanged murderer Crippen has recently been shown to have been innocent on new DNA evidence, and many many people who have spent decades in prison, have been shown to have been wrongly convicted after new evidence came to light. At least the ones still alive can be compensated and steps taken to find the real murderer. There’s no possibility of justice for the ones killed by the State.

    • 29 Poker Player 22 June 2011 at 18:11

      The assumption here seems to be law as vengeance.

      From the perspective of keeping crime down, among the safest countries in the world are those that have abolished capital punishment – which is not to say that getting rid of capital punishment makes societies safer, just that the correlation, positive of negative, is weak.

      • 30 ET 23 June 2011 at 00:09

        Exactly, Poker Player, and conversely the most violent places appear to be the ones that have retained it or even use it to excess, such as Texas. It’s as if in reality it sends a message that it’s ok to kill, because the State does it.

      • 31 ET 23 June 2011 at 00:18

        My last sentence was an afterthought which puts an alternative spin on it.

  15. 32 trolling 22 June 2011 at 14:28

    There is the Judiciary(made up of Law Professionals)
    to look into criminal cases.
    Why the need for an untrained president to intervene
    with them?

  16. 34 patrick 22 June 2011 at 20:46

    Groupthink has definitely hurt the PAP and the country in recent years. If that’s your argument for wanting more private sector leaders in politics, I’m all for it. But of course, you fall into the same old trap when you said we should question the passion and beliefs of civil servants-turned-politicians, so naturally I had to speak up.

    I have seen my fair share of duds in the private sector, and it doesn’t stand to reason that they’re necessarily more charismatic, more passionate or more engaged than those from the civil service. If you’ve been chasing money and profits for big corporations your whole life, and suddenly claim to want to serve the people, then I would ask: why haven’t you done so earlier? Why did you spend your entire career chasing money instead of formulating policy for lesser pay? I find it hilarious that you would be less suspicious of their passion and beliefs. Also, these private sector stars could add diversity to our political leadership, but is that the right kind of diversity when we’ve been calling our country Singapore, Inc? You have to wonder if purported Internet intellectuals ever question their own assumptions once in a while.

  17. 35 trolling 22 June 2011 at 23:21


    thank You for the reply.
    I am aware of the Reason, my contention is why a person untrained in Laws is make or assign to deal with a law related matter and there is absolutely no reason to believe or accept that a whole judiciary system is incapable to deal with any criminal case whereas an untrained person can decide on the matter. It is just ridiculous!

    • 36 yawningbread 23 June 2011 at 11:18

      Should laws, or more precisely justice and humanity (which laws are meant to serve) be purely a matter for lawyers? If so, how is it that some societies place faith in juries?

  18. 37 trolling 23 June 2011 at 12:15

    Well, the Laws are in the hands of the state executive and the judiciary.
    They will never accept any knowledgeable person but not paper qualified , to tell them what is reasonable and what is not. And of course there is all the legislations(statutes) and technicality too.
    What about conscience and compassion that most humans do have? Can it be argued that these be applied in deciding criminal cases? Debatable.
    However, no matter how we weigh it, the Chinese has a saying; ‘justice is in everyone’- ‘gong tao zi zai ren xin” and ‘ren tong zi li’-‘most humans reasonably/subconsciously know it’. Collectively(as a specialist/specialized organization), the Judiciary is the ultimate justice body that no single person(the president) even if trained can be compared to.

  19. 38 wongyy 24 June 2011 at 08:11

    When Mr Nathan was asked whether he had decided to run again for the presidency, he said he would be giving an answer in two weeks’ time.

    He added: “You have to wait for that. Everybody’s asking me that question. I’m having sleepless nights trying not to answer. So not before long, you’ll get the answer.”

    – CNA compare with Wikipedia’s description of people with sleepless nights from Death row….

    Death row signifies the place, often a section of a prison, that houses individuals awaiting execution. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution (“being on death row”), even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists. After individuals are found guilty of an offense and sentenced to death, they remain on death row during appeal and habeas corpus procedures, and if those are unsuccessful, until execution. ..

    Opponents of capital punishment claim that a prisoner’s isolation and uncertainty over his or her fate constitute a form of mental cruelty and that especially long-time death row inmates are liable to become mentally ill, if they are not already. This is referred to as the death row phenomenon.

  20. 39 Alf N. Spit 24 June 2011 at 18:37

    What is a bit of mental cruelty and a few or even a lot of deaths, compared to the necessary appearance that justice is being done? Even if some of them turn out to be innocent later on with new evidence, it’s important to maintain faith in the system, right? Stability is the important thing!

  21. 40 K Das 24 June 2011 at 20:32

    @ET 22 June 2011 at 22:19

    I do share the essence of your views.

    Your pointer about sanctity of life and it being sacrosanct is nothing more than a pondificated social construct that is never recognised or observed by all countries irrespective of whether there is death sentence or not in the respective countries.

    Let us take someone caught trafficing or possessing drugs above certain amount that carries death sentence. Why does the State take away his life? Has he killed anyone? No. But he is hanged on the premise that the drug he peddles will be consumed by others who may eventually die because of it. By this argument all habitual smokers should also be hanged because doctors all over the world have said that smoking kills and Governments endorse this view.

    Africa is a continent blessed with bountiful natural resources and foreign powers literally exploit the natives of minerals, oil, gas and agricultural products worth millions through out the year. Yet people here die in thousands of starvation and malnutrision. Does anybody care about the sanctity of these people’s life?

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