I am getting very concerned that those who call on George Yeo to stand for election to the post of president, and most of those who support Dr Tan Chin Bok’s and Tan Kin Lian’s plans to stand at the presidential election, do not know the role of the president.
Based on their media and online comments, I get the impression that they think that the president has the power to act as a check on the government of the day.
As Siew Kum Hong blogged many moons ago, the role of the president is very circumscribed. The president has some veto powers over executive decisions. But on all other matters, the president is bound by the advice of the Cabinet.
This means he is not a check on the government of the day on matters where he is bound by the decisions of the ruling party.
If he goes against the government of the day (or even speaks out against it) on matters where he must listen to the government’s advice, there will be a constitutional crisis.
He also cannot use the office of president as a bully pulpit to advocate policies that he would like the government to adopt. He also has to avoid talking on “controversial” matters.
So, if for example Tan Kin Lian becomes president, he cannot speak out on of the need for a minimum wage, on the honesty and integrity of financial advisers, or whether lawyers, doctors and architects overcharge for certain services. He definitely cannot publicly ask the AG to look into prosecuting financial institutions or land bank businesses for “cheating” the public.
These things are not done, and if done will cause constitutional problems, if not crises.
For the record, I helped out when TKL was fighting for the rights of minibonders etc. I never bot these instruments but if my mum had banked with any one of those financial institutions selling these products, there was a gd chance that she would have been persuaded to try these products. Fortunately, she banked with OCBC and POSB. The main reason why I helped out was because it could have happened to my mum.