Do we still want a Nathanesque presidency? Part 1

The presidential election is shaping up as one where the People’s Action Party (PAP) government is trying hard to set to agenda, but to a large degree, failing. Nonetheless, in the process a number of  memes are being pushed out into the public arena, which increasingly irk me. Not only do these memes serve to lend advantage to one candidate, which was why they were propagated in the first place, it is not even as if the validity of these ideas is open and shut; in fact, it is contestable.

In this two-part article I am going to argue my case against them.

All the memes spring from the argument that the presidency is a largely ceremonial office, except that it has blocking powers in a few constitutionally enumerated areas. Hence,

1. there is no case for candidates and voters discussing issues outside of these specific areas, since they are irrelevant;

2. that any candidate continuing to do so is “over-promising”, potentially seeking conflict with the government, leading to a risk of political paralysis and the collapse of Singapore — the usual rhetoric of crisis again;

3. to avoid that dire scenario, voters should decide on a candidate that best “complements” the government — a word that I found the mainstream media using;  and

4. that voters should look at which candidate is suitable for playing a ceremonial role — thus superficial characteristics like looking distinguished when meeting foreign dignitaries are paramount.

I think all the above borders on disinformation. Moreover, I think this kind of lecturing fails to recognise the evolving political sensibility of Singaporeans, particularly younger voters. The argument I am going to make here is that ultimately the political system we will have is not so much determined by what cookie the PAP will want baked, but what Singaporeans want themselves.

And so we have a headline in Yahoo! news, saying “Voters’ expectations could shape President’s role”, by Alicia Wong, 21 August 2011. Guess what? She was quoting from me.

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The talk and the press

I was speaking at an event organised by Maruah about the upcoming presidential election. Law professor Kevin Tan was the first speaker, giving a detailed run-down of the relevant constitutional provisions. This helped to clarify something that few Singaporeans, in the past, had much reason to pay attention to — what exactly the constitution says about the powers of the president.

Partly because of unfamiliarity with the role of the head of state, since our presidents have generally been like puppets on a string, many Singaporeans initially approached this election as a replay of the general election, bringing up issues such as housing, transport, the income gap and the influx of foreigners. Law minister K Shanmugam, in the last month or so, had to sternly tell Singaporeans that the president had no power at all — he was mostly to be a figurehead — except in a few areas where the constitution said he could act in his own discretion. Shanmugam’s attempt to shut Singaporeans up didn’t work as well as he might have hoped; expressions of bread-and-butter frustrations continue.

The mainstream media, taking the cue from the government, has mostly framed their reporting in the same way, but instead of saying that Singaporeans didn’t understand what the presidency was about, put a twist on it:  saying that certain candidates didn’t understand. The slant was that these candidates were “over-promising” and that they will surely fail to deliver and disappoint their supporters. There is also an unspoken slur that these candidates are out to break the law, raising the bogeyman of “confrontational politics”. Sotto Voce: These are bad candidates and you shouldn’t vote for them.

A reporter called me Sunday and asked me questions along those lines again. The thrust of the questions was to try to get me to agree that certain candidates were over-promising, and that they were unrealistic — from which it would be a short hop to saying they were delusional or confrontational. I resisted, reiterating what I said at the Maruah forum.

To which we will now come back. . .

Kevin Tan pointed out at the conclusion of his part of the talk that ultimately, no constitution can be exhaustive. It still leaves a lot of grey areas. For the record, he also said that no one, not even the law minister, has the final word on what the constitution means, except the Supreme Court.

He provided me precisely the starting point I wanted for my half of the talk. Whereas Kevin spoke about the law, for my part, I wanted to talk about the politics of the office, and the politics spring from those grey areas. This article is not a reprise of that talk. Instead, as I noted at the top, I want to contest several ideas that are meant to restrict our proper understanding of the politics. In this Part 1, I will deal with three.

* * * * *

“In accordance with the advice”

Except for those areas where the constitution explicitly gives discretion to the president, Article 21 (1) is the catch-all provision that says:

21 (1) Except as provided by this Constitution, the President shall, in the exercise of his functions under this Constitution or any other written law, act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet.

Constitutional convention invests into the phrase “in accordance with the advice”  the real meaning: “follow the direction of”. So it looks watertight, doesn’t it? Yes, but there is another phrase that needs looking at — “in the exercise of his functions”. What constitutes an exercise of his functions?

When a president is making an appearance at an official function and he has to choose what to wear, must he refer to “advice”  from the cabinet? If he is asked to make a short impromptu speech at a casual occasion, which he happens to find himself in, must he refuse and say “I have to ask the cabinet for permission”? If he wants to consult some leading academics or civil society leaders whom he has known for years over their views on some policy area in order to advance his own thoughts on the matter, must he ask the Prime Minister’s Office for the green light before he can invite his old friends over for coffee?

These are examples of grey areas, and the difference between one president and another will be in how the man chooses to use them. One candidate may signal to Singaporeans that he has absolutely no intention to use such opportunities in any constructive way. Another candidate may, quite validly, say yes, I intend to use these possibilities in creative ways to advance or spotlight certain important concerns of the times.

Ultimately, I explained at the talk, whether and how such grey areas are used, will likely depend on five factors:

1. The temperament and personality of the person occupying the office himself;

2. His political acuity, meaning his ability to choose his issues strategically, and his gestures and timing effectively for optimum impact;

3. The resistance of the cabinet;

4. The parliamentary majority commanded by the government of the day — which will surely impact the president’s political calculations of what he can get away with; and most importantly,

5. Public opinion.

Singaporeans need a more sophisticated understanding of how politics work. When candidates promise to do all they can within the confines of the office, this is exactly what it means — using the grey areas where there is some freedom of manoeuvre. To label it as “over-promising” is to over-simplify.

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Going public

Listen carefully to what all the candidates say and you will hear a certain consensus. They know that the president has full access to cabinet papers, they know they will get opportunities to have a private word with the prime minister or other cabinet ministers. All of them say that if they have concerns on any matter, they intend to raise them privately; they will seek to influence the cabinet by sharing their perspectives and careful reasoning. Even Tony Tan implies the same each time he highlights his long experience in finance and economics, for why else does he think that long experience is an asset? To be used as input into government decisions, of course! In other words, influence.

The difference is that some candidates reserve the right to go public about their concerns if they feel it is a matter of grave principle. Tan Cheng Bock, for example said on 18 August 2011 that if he found he was faced with a “rogue cabinet” he would “speak out” and he would feel “a duty to warn” (video, at about 44 min 30 secs). Another candidate might implicitly tell voters that he has no intention whatsoever of going beyond the private chat even if the government is, in his view, making a huge mistake. That kind of silence, of course, will suit the government just fine.

The government appears to be taking a line that the president can go public if he has something to say to the people in the specific areas where he has discretion, but must not do so on other subjects. In a letter to the Straits Times taking lawyer Harpreet Singh to task, the Law Ministry said that former prime minister Goh Chok Tong had said in 1999:

‘We should not regard it as unusual for the President to publicly acknowledge differences between him and the Government. It shows the independence of the presidency in the two areas in which he is vested with custodial powers, and this will help future presidents.’

[snip]

Mr Goh’s actual position is similar to the Law Minister’s: that the elected president can speak independently on the areas where he has been expressly conferred with authority by the Constitution.

— Straits Times Forum, 22 August 2011, letter by Chong Wan Yieng (Ms), Director, Corporate Communications, Ministry of Law

I disagree. I don’t think it should be limited to just the areas where he has custodial powers. As I discussed above, there are huge grey areas, and anyway, what is not expressly denied by law is considered to be lawful. That we have no laws allowing the wearing of make-up does not mean it is illegal.

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Influence

If, as I pointed out above, trying to influence the government with a private word or two is totally kosher, then Singaporeans deserve to know which direction that influence will be exercised.

For example, at the forum organised by The Online Citizen on 18 August 2011, to a question by a visually handicapped person (Part 1, at 33 min 05 secs) about the lack of transport fare concessions for the disabled, Tan Jee Say said (at 35 min 07 secs):

I believe and it is my philosophy that those with special needs should be given special assistance. And we are no longer a poor country. We are arguing it out [about] safeguarding the reserves. Lots of money in it. And these reserves do not come from nowhere. They come from the people, from land sales, from surpluses in the budget . . . .

I wouldn’t consider this taking money from the reserves as raiding the reserves. These are for needs, for your own people, who cannot, because of circumstances of birth or whatever, accidents, they do not create these problems for themselves and they are victims of accidents, victims of birth or whatever, so they deserve help, and I am very conscious of the fact that not enough has been done.

My philosophy has always been that a society can only progress if everybody progresses, that nobody is left behind, and nobody is disturbed or nobody falls below a certain line, become worse off as a result of other people going up, which is what is happening in the last few years. We have a lot of GDP growth, a lot of people have gone up, have become very rich — millions of dollars in bonuses. But look at those at the bottom. They have become worse off. So as a society, we are worse off.

Compare that to Tony Tan’s views about using the reserves, albeit in answer to a different question (at 28 min 24 secs):

I would be extremely careful about allowing any government of the day to use the [past] reserves. . . . The government should fund these projects from current reserves.

In my view, it is very important that candidates should be informing voters as much as possible of their thinking. It gives voters an idea how they will use their influence whenever circumstances merit it.

Another example I gave at the talk was that of the death penalty.

Shanmugam will say, I’m sure, as did the Supreme Court in a recent decision, that the president has no discretion when it comes to granting clemency; he must sign the execution warrant if the cabinet tells him to. But, I said to the audience, what if death penalty abolitionists manage to make unexpected progress over the next two years, and some time in the middle of the next president’s term, the government changes the law and gives true discretion to the president on appeals for clemency? Wouldn’t it be important that by then we have in place a president who would favourably consider clemency?

Therefore, wouldn’t it be important to know in advance, where each candidate stands on the death penalty?

The government would say that candidates talking about their view on the death penalty is off-topic, because the president has no discretion today, and if any candidate continues to talk about it, he is “over-promising”. The mainstream media would imply the same. But I say: No, that is not the case. Voters have a right to know as much as possible about the candidates in the event that one or other aspect of their personal philosophy becomes important in the future.

In short: Since, within the confines of the constitution, presidents have a little bit of influence, especially when expressed privately, therefore, voters deserve to know how each candidate intends to exercise that influence. So, if candidates talk about income distribution, death penalty, social safety nets — none of that is truly irrelevant, despite what the government would have us believe.

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In Part 2, I will touch on issues of Criticism and conflict, and Moral authority and leadership.

26 Responses to “Do we still want a Nathanesque presidency? Part 1”


  1. 1 Singa 22 August 2011 at 21:30

    Excellent piece, well-articulated.

    For 12 long years and $50 000 000 of taxpayers hard-earned money, the result is N.A.T.H.A.N.

    No
    Action
    To
    Help
    Ailing
    Nation

    Of course S’poreans cannot risk having another nathanesque president!!

  2. 2 Anonymous 22 August 2011 at 21:48

    You articulate your views very well. Unfortunately the mainstream media has already caged the minds of many regarding the powers of an Elected President.

    It would be good of people who reads the mainstream media gets a chance to read your articles to get some enlightenment on the issue before they cast their votes.

  3. 3 K Das 22 August 2011 at 22:13

    The heat is being unfairly turrned on TJS.

    If (as suggested by a blogger elsewhere) TJS gets no access to cabinet papers, it will not make an iota of difference to him. In the long run the loser will probably be the Government and not he. One should not interpret the constitution too literally and narrowly to reduce the President to a yes man to be controlled by the PM and cabinet. Those who do, do so, perhaps, to look and sound good and to undermine the chances of the non or anti establishment presidential candidates.

    A presidential hopeful, worth his salt, should have a non-partisan agenda and vision as to what and how he can serve and protect the larger interests of Singaporeans and Singapore working in tandem with the Government. He should articulate his views on policies and policy making, if any, to the PM privately. He has to respect the Government and take extra care not to embarrass the Government openly or subtly.

    It is possible for even TJS to work in co-operation and harmony with the Government. I have seen many fire breathing critics of Government change gradually upon assuming public office. If David Marshall, Tommy Koh and Chang Heng Chee can, why not TJS?

    • 4 yawningbread 23 August 2011 at 00:11

      You wrote: “If (as suggested by a blogger elsewhere) TJS gets no access to cabinet papers”

      The government cannot deny the president access to cabinet papers, since it is explicitly written into the constitution. Article 22F says:
      22F. —(1) In the exercise of his functions under this Constitution, the President shall be entitled, at his request, to any information concerning —
      (a) the Government which is available to the Cabinet;

      • 5 Noobody 2 September 2011 at 17:10

        The constitution was so with the late mr ong. yet he never got what he wanted. despite what the constitution says, they can always create false barriers for the president to fight alone.
        a lone man standing against an army barely stands a chance

  4. 6 Reuben Wong (@rypper) 22 August 2011 at 23:31

    Good analysis of the three stronger candidates

  5. 7 y.h cheong 23 August 2011 at 00:12

    I will only comment on your take on the ministry’s letter. What you appear not to appreciate is that missing quote words directly contradict the official position that the President must always act under the advice of the cabinet. Surely if Mr. Goh acknoledges that the President may speak out with respect to his custodial powers a fortitiori he can do so with respect to other matters.

  6. 8 twasher 23 August 2011 at 00:20

    It’s worth noting that argument (2) conflicts with the claim that the President’s office is largely ceremonial, that s/he does not have real power. If the President really has no power, then there is no risk of political paralysis or collapse—the PAP government can just ignore the President no matter how confrontational s/he is.

  7. 9 AhKowSpeaks@gmail.com 23 August 2011 at 02:44

    Yawningbread,

    You noted “For the record, he [Kelvin Tan] also said that no one, not even the law minister, has the final word on what the constitution means, except the Supreme Court”.

    If my memory did not fail me, I believe the issue about whether the President had discretion over death penalty was supposedly pronounced by a High Court judge rather than the Supreme Court. I think the issue might have centered around whether “advise” from the government constituted obligation imposed on the President or not. My question is, if you do meet Kelvin Tan again, the pronouncement made at a lower circuit court does it mean the discretion on the part of the President on death penalty is still not settled?

    On the point about elected Presidency, a useful model to draw some lesson might be the Irish Presidency. It is directly elected by the people but under the constitution it is strictly a ceremonial post and the post is circumscribed by the constitution. I think because it is largely a ceremonial post the President of Ireland is technically not accorded the status of “Head of State” — needs confirmation. Even so, I think there has been times where the President has not accepted the advise of the government. I think President Mary Robinson choose on her own accord to accept invitation[1] from the Queen of Northern Ireland (i.e. Queen of England) who was not recognised as a sovereign of the land under the Irish constitution.

    So if there is any lesson to be learn, if the President of Singapore is to be any relevant other than some rubber stamp, it is unrealistic to expect there not be any area that will bring into differences between the government and the President!

    [1] My interpretation from my reading the English press but wikipedia might have that as record.

  8. 10 Robox 23 August 2011 at 05:00

    PART 1

    I will write my comments over several posts – and sorry if appears like a long and convoluted way to arrive at one conclusion but I find it necessary. All my comments are directly or indirectly related to this:

    “Kevin Tan pointed out at the conclusion of his part of the talk that ultimately, no constitution can be exhaustive. It still leaves a lot of grey areas. For the record, he also said that no one, not even the law minister, has the final word on what the constitution means, except the Supreme Court.”

    To start off, I go to K Shanmugam’s very latest attempt to mislead. At the Singapore Legal Forum, he is reported to have said: “The rationale [for a strict interpretation of the Constitution] is very simple. [The President speaks] as a voice of the government, whichever government is in power and you represent the State. If you get engaged in politics as a combatant, the institution is demeaned. There are very powerful reasons for this approach.”

    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1148129/1/.htm

    I am sure K Shanmugam was alluding to statements made by some presidential candidates.

    But the first thing I would like to point out is that his statement is only true insofar as the matter the President speaks out on is one that has reached the final stage – usually at her Office – of a legal or political process. For example, if the President has granted assent to a Bill, or an amendment to legislation such as with the Penal Code in 2007, she would speak, if at all, along the same lines as the government to rationalize it, That’s because the President’s signature that signs a Bill into law, or approving legislative amendment, signifies that it has the sanction of the State.

    However, the statements by those presidential candidates clearly refer to irreconcialiable differences between her Office and that of the PM’s midway through a legal or political process; such matters don’t yet have the sanction of State. Traditionally, under the Westminster system, a Head of State would still not go public in such circumstances. (As I explained in a previous discussion here, it’s got to do with the difference between direct and indirect mandates from the people, which as I also said, raises questions for us since the President of Singapore now also has the direct mandate from the people.)

    But we ARE talking about Singapore! A society that is moving towards becoming a normal democracy but remains shackled by a government that continues to act grotesquely abnormally by many standards. (Thanks for those words, Alex.) We continue to have many signals – “a President who will complement the government” – from the government, other retractions notwithstanding, that they could turn out to be an uncooperative one should someone they don’t favour get elected.

    A final comment here about K Shanmugam’s statement is that, in my opinion Singapore’s legal fraternity which includes him is notorious for its “letter of the law” approach to legal interpretation. (I call it pseudo-legalism.)

    K Shanmugam’s statements betray exactly that.

  9. 11 Robox 23 August 2011 at 05:21

    PART 2

    Here, I respond to Kevin Tan’s point that ‘no constitution can be exhaustive’.

    I don’t know what Kevin Tan had in mind when he said that, but that’s also true, at least of Constitutions under the common law system – I don’t know the civil law system – and it is because what we usually mean when we refer to the Constitution is really a reference to the “written Constitution”, what K Shanmugam is referring to. There is also an “unwritten” aspect to the Constitution. (It is not really ‘unwritten’; written records of it exist somewhere, just not in the written Constitution.) The unwritten Constitution comprises:

    1. Legal documents, which include the philosophical underpinnings of the written Constitution and which have the written Constitution as the outcome – Britain relies heavily on this because it has no written Constitution.

    2. Judicial rulings on the Constitution.

    3. Conventions – they cannot be legally, but only politically, enforced.

    Okay, I take back SOME of my allegation of K Shanmugam’s pseudolegalism, but not totally, because I can see that he might have also been referring to “conventions” that circumscribe the President’s powers, roles and functions.

  10. 12 Robox 23 August 2011 at 06:05

    PART 3

    I now quote you in a statement you made with regards to the Chen Show Mao/Hungry Ghost incident:

    “We need a president who will refuse to reappoint present members of the Housing and Development Board, seeing the totally partisan way the HDB behaved in conjunction with the People’s Association in Aljunied constituency.”

    This is DEFINITELY one of the issues that the President has a role in. I’ll lay out the argument, and it is an argument based on the President’s role by “convention” and something that K Shanmugam is either ignorant of – depite stepping up on his “lawyer” credentials lately to bolster his statements as credible – or is deliberately misleading the public with because his arguments tend to point to attempts to usurp the President as the highest office in the land on the PM’s behalf, and entrench the PM in that position instead.

    1. As the Head of State, the President is the symbol of the State and one could think of the State as the collection of all our public institutions. One of those institutions is the law, and for this example specifically, the Constitution; the President is the very embodiment of the State. (If it helps readers for this specific example, when you see the President, you should not see a woman but the Constitution itself: the President equals the Constitution.)

    2. The specific constitutional clause that is relevant here is Article 12 (“equal protection”); in this example, there has been a violation of this Article by the PA, a publicly funded institution. However, this is a violation of the Constitution in SPIRIT, yet another aspect of the Constitution that makes the written Constitution inexhaustive; there is no written law stating an MP must be invited to a Hungry Ghost celebration. However, if the PAP-directed PA was true to the spirit of Constitution, it would have not have ACTED the way it has; it is “actions” that are indicative of conformity to the spirit of the law.

    Simply put, if you – the PA, and the PAP directing it – truly believed in “equal protection”, would you have issued that directive? (“Equal protection” encompasses all eight types of equality, whenever applicable, one of which is “formal equality” aka “equal treatment”.)

  11. 13 Robox 23 August 2011 at 06:06

    PART 4

    3. As the embodiment of the Constitution, any violation of the Constitution is a matter of concern to the President because it is a violation against her office. Again, as I said in a previous discussion here, the mandate that the President receives from the people – and this is true whether that mandate is direct or indirect – includes her role of testing for constitutionality. The President SHOULD be intervening, even if it has to be done behind closed doors, to correct this violation.

    However, similar actions by the rogue PAP government are actually quite rife; this is hardly an isolated case. Thus to what you said about what we need in the next President, I would add, that the next President must understand the grotesquely abnormal political environment that the PAP government has created and work to correct it because we can cite many other violations of the spirit of the law and the corresponding poisoned environment that the PAP has created and is definitely NOT in the national interest.

    By convention, the President who does not condone this trampling on of the Constitution – the demeaning of her Office – would actually order the rogue PAP government to correct the situation.

    That’s the morality derived from the Constitution – the President herself – that you too have written about in reference to the Delhi High Court ruling.

  12. 14 Robox 23 August 2011 at 06:42

    Oops. I forgot the most important conclusion that I was meaning to draw, so this is:

    PART 5

    If in an instance such as the Chen Show Mao/Hungry Ghost incident, and especially compounded by the many other similar incidents that I said we can cite as being contrary to the spirit of the Constitution contributing to a poisoned political environment, the President is frustrated by the rogue PAP government’s refusal to mend its unconstitutional behaviour, and she decides to speak out publicly, I believe that there is really nothing that the rogue PAP government can do legally. All the President would have done is to act contrary to convention – the Constitution – contrary to another of K Shamugam’s statement, a veiled threat, of taking her to court short of chopping her head off.

    As I said earlier, constitutional convention cannot be enforced legally, but only politically. I don’t see any legal way of removing the President from office in such an instance.

    In other words, it is my belief that the President can and should speak out publicly in instances of intractable, irreconciliable differences with the rogue PAP government that she was elected to check on, checks that are hardly confined to what is provided for in the written Constitution.

    I’ll go further. SR Nathan is the current president. Just what is HE doing to correct this?

    If it’s nothing as usual, then, NO, I don’t want another Nathanesque presidency.

    It’s Tan Jee Say for me.

  13. 15 Citizen0734 23 August 2011 at 07:34

    ” he must sign the execution warrant if the cabinet tells him to”

    Why is it necessary for the president to sign something which he has no power to decide?

  14. 16 avoter 23 August 2011 at 09:33

    Since opposition Members of Parliament do not have full access to what the ruling PAP Government is doing, it makes sense to have an elected President who is independent of the ruling party. He should not be tolled along by the Cabinet.

  15. 17 Chanel 23 August 2011 at 13:29

    What is the point of having a distinguished looking president (as Dr Tony Tan is projected by the mainstream media to be) when his thinking would be the same or similar to that of the ruling party? Why go to the trouble of forging 2 keys that must be used concurrently to access the vault of our national reserves, but only to have these 2 keys to the same party???

    Additinally, are we implying that a, say, physically handicapped individual (presumably s/he wouldn’t look “distingusihed”) of great intellect and moral values cannot be our president?

  16. 18 Thor 23 August 2011 at 14:51

    My own perception of the candidates was that TCB strikes me precisely as a chinese Nathan as has been suggested. As an NS man, it will be grievious insult if TT gets elected. It is my hope but unlikely that TJS will become president. I find it increasingly onerous to live with decisions of majority who do not make an effort to find out. Perhaps we will do better elsewhere.

  17. 19 RC 23 August 2011 at 16:43

    This is a great piece and I also commend Alex for making a huge difference in the Face-2-Face forum by asking the right questions, the absence of which makes the forum a rather boring affair. In one stroke, you have exposed TT’s lack of conviction, courage and independent thought.

    In my opinion, the only value advantage a president brings to the table from a normal citizen’s vantage point is his courage in guiding the government on the right path of governing. I am speaking in context here, who, where and what we are as a nation now and 5-10 years down the road.

    Ask yourself these questions… Do you think we have an irresponsible government led by PM Lee that will squander away our reserves Marcos-style? No. Do you believe they will appoint a person to CPIB and ISA so as to cover up their wrong doing and jail their political opponents at will? Not likely. What constitutional role does the president play in weathering economic challenges ahead? Very little and also aided by highly qualified CPA from whom the president must take advice.

    So purely based on what is in the constitution, I would say that the president has no value proposition in the eyes of the people at this time of our nation building. The law is crafted to protect the state, not the people per se. Yet people are asked to vote which makes it hard for people to reconcile.

    I am one who believes that voters will shape the president’s role in due course. The government can continue to be oblivious at their own risk. In this upcoming election, the candidate who can clearly and convincingly articulate how he will make use of his discretionary influence (outside of the constitution) for the good of the people will win. Continually beating up on the constitution is barking up the wrong tree.

    So what is it exactly that the government of today need in terms of guidance? The following are my thoughts:
    1) They need to learn not just what but why the people are unhappy about. Why such cynicism turns into anti-establishment and how anti-establishment can turn into anti-nation. Other than losing all seats in parliament, I don’t believe that the PAP has come to terms with reality yet.
    2) They need to learn how to separate politics from government. The recent HDB, PA, CCC, AHTC fiasco is a great example. Another is the elections department.
    3) They need to come to terms and accept that active citizenry is not just about showing up and clap hands for ministers, it is more about having a part to play in policy formulation and the government must be willing to incorporate.

  18. 20 skponggol 23 August 2011 at 16:54

    The alternative to Nathanesque is Bhumipholesque where the Head of State is being hijacked by people who lost in the election to challenge the government.

    A country cannot have 2 leaders who have 2 differing opposing views.

    Look at France when the Head of State (President) and Head of Government (Prime Minister) are from different political parties during their so-called “Co-habitation” period…It caused confusion and paralysis as both try to use bureacratic machinery to out-manoevre each other.

    • 21 Chanel 24 August 2011 at 17:56

      skponggol,

      The ruling party loves to benchmark ourselves to otehr countries, but not on the aspects of politics. Why? I believe in wisdom of the crowd.

  19. 22 The 23 August 2011 at 17:00

    /// Thor 23 August 2011 at 14:51
    It is my hope but unlikely that TJS will become president. ///

    Have faith Thor? What happened to your godly power – you are supposed to protect mankind.

    It is getting more and more likely by the day. TCB is now showing himself to be Nathanesque. TKL, already the least popular, has almost killed his chances with his “what is section 377A hor?” And TT, in jump in to interrupt TJS on the ISA issue has just confirmed that he’s still wearing the PAP hat. And still issuing veiled threats — that’s a serious charge, you better back it up….

    My prediction – the youngest Tan will be headed for the Istana soon.

  20. 23 Lim Bt 23 August 2011 at 19:19

    Agree with you yarningbread that the candidates should be expressing their views on different subjects from ISA to bread and butter issues. I have mentioned this in other posting : the Dialogue Forum by TOC is one of the platforms for the public to assess the candidates. They should not be bounded by the constitution. After they are elected they should continue to speak out appropriately. If they chose to hide behind the constitution then we will have another Nathanesque. TJS would score highly in this respect. I do not find him confrontational. He is expressing his views forcefully and assertively. Attributes which I would like to see in our President.

  21. 24 useless president 24 August 2011 at 01:02

    Any candidate that treat the Sin Constitution
    like the Ancient Chinese Imperial Edict in our
    Democratic State does not deserve our supports.
    None of the Candidates should behave like eunuch.

  22. 25 Redboy 24 August 2011 at 03:51

    Try as you might but after the election we will see the true reality of the power of president. A country is governed by consituition and chaos will descend if everyone including PAP defies it. We have to understand we follow British parilamentary system. If a person is sincere to fight for people welfare, join a political party and fight in GE. If fail, try again the next GE. Slyvia lim did that, but not TJS. Make me wonder what is his real motive.

  23. 26 The 24 August 2011 at 17:52

    /// Redboy 24 August 2011 at 03:51
    If fail, try again the next GE. Slyvia lim did that, but not TJS. Make me wonder what is his real motive. ///

    I didn’t know the next GE was already here and gone.


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