EP’s powers: The silence of two legal academics

In Political governance on 08/08/2011 at 6:12 am

When the minister of law made these comments

— “that all public acts by the president – including public speech – can only be made on the advice of the Cabinet, except for the powers specifically vested in the office”; and

— “The president cannot reject advice given by the Cabinet And he cannot engage in public debate with the government”,

he was speaking at a public forum organised by the Institute of Policy Studies.

The moderator of the forum was one professor Tommy Koh and the other speaker was professor Thio Li-Ann from the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Law. Both are known to speak their own.

Part of what they said were reported in our constructive, nation-building mainstream media and there was no mention of any criticism of the above points made by the law minister. But one would expect that inconvenient facts are not reported by our MSM.

But I understand from someone who attended the seminar that they did not challenge or criticise these points.

I am not surprised as it is the conventional wisdom that what the minister said is an accurate position of the law.

I have blogged thrice on the inability of the president to speak out and no lawyer or legal academic has dared argue against me, despite my promising blog space and anonymity.

The surprise is that Tan Kin Lian found a lawyer who agrees with his radical (but popular with Goh Meng Seng and many netizens) interpretation of the law, “I have looked at the constitution earlier about whether the President can be the voice of the people to bring issues to the Government. I do not find any requirement that the President should be “dumb”. I have also received advice from a lawyer who looked at the constitution and he confirmed my understanding.”

A reward has been offered to anyone who can out this lawyer. Juz joking.

  1. […] remarks (and why I’d NEVER vote for Mr Ooi Boon Ewe) – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: EP’s powers: The silence of two legal academics – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Why the PM should ask Tony Tan to return to active duty – […]

  2. Minister Shanmugam has retracted his words. He nows says the President can express his views freely.

  3. There is one other constitutional lawyer by the name of Kevin Tan who is TLA’s senior, if I am not mistaken. He wrote a book entitled ‘Lee Kuan Yew’s Lieutenant’ which is available in bookshops and the NLB.

    He has so far held his peace.

    I supposed both TK and TLA was doing the ‘politically correct’ thing. Anyway, I don’t see any reason what good would that do, given the all too obvious slant – and it is a very obvious one – that the govt is all out to make sure the eventual EP is one of its own and only one in the present group of 6 fits the bill. Both academics know on which side their bread is buttered. I suspect this goes too for KT.

    Singapore has intellectuals, academics and professionals who have long lost their way and any courage of convictions to stand up for what is right and what’s wrong with the country. Paradoxically, many have actually acquired a reputation OUTSIDE the country for their abilities while in their own home they are mostly suitably deaf and dumb towards the plights of their countrymen. The PAP sure knows how to build magnificently cosy and gilded cages that these people would never want to leave or be left out of.

    • Let’s not make assumptions abt their silence. As I’ve written, minister of law is not making up what he said. His interpretation is the conventional wisdom.

      It’s for those who argue that election makes a difference to argue their case. But they havn’t.

  4. Hey you know what?? tell all the lawyers to go stuff it, ok? The president will be chosen by the people through the electoral process. And if the people choose a president who is ready to question govt policies – then so be it. The people will have their say at the ballot box.

    When Kuan Yew changed the presidency from a ceremonial appointment to an elected official with a direct mandate from the people, he politicised the presidential office. One secondary effect is the possibility of tensions between the PM and the EP especially if the political philosopy of the two differ. The EP in making his opposing views known, be it indirectly or directly, will be perceived as challenging the PM’s policies. Although the EP does not have legislative powers nor can he intervene in the executive processes of govt, except for the areas which call for his attention as defined by the constitution, the potential for a more lively political atmosphere will certainly be a boon for the mass media. Frankly this will be good for Singapore: open debate between the various voices in society will mature us.

    • Tan Jee Say is making this point with his “The presidency is what the president makes it out to be” or sumething like that. But Tan Kin Lian is saying that his view of presidency is within the law.

      The other two are adhering to the PAP view, though Tan Cheng Bock is camoflaging it.

      Kudos to Tan Jee Say and Tony Tan for their intellectual honesty.

  5. Intellectual honesty of TT?

    Here are examples of what is meant to be intellectual dishonest from an online dicky:

    Intellectual dishonesty is dishonesty in performing intellectual activities like thought or communication.
    Examples are:
    the advocacy of a position which the advocate knows or believes to be false or misleading

    the advocacy of a position which the advocate does not know to be true, and has not performed rigorous due diligence to ensure the truthfulness of the position

    the conscious omission of aspects of the truth known or believed to be relevant in the particular context.

  6. If the president can debate with the government freely, Singapore will be a farce. Business confidence will falter. Harmony will erode. We can all kiss Singapore goodbye. Singapore will be thrown into the political chaos of wavering populist policies. The government and the president will try to outdo each other day in and out to the detriment of Singapore’s future.

    Good luck to Singapore if TKL becomes elected. It’s obvious that’s what he wants to do. To bicker with the government to win the short sighted whims of the population.

  7. When LKY changed the role and responsibility of the (elected) presidency, he was likely motivated by the following: 1. Be the president himself; 2. Use the presidency to limit the power of a non-PAP controlled parliament. He even limited the presidential candidates to the rich and powerful elites. There is no reason that he intended the presidency to be lame and dumb. Any talk about a dumb presidency is just talk. If it were true, why would they even bother to send in TT?

  8. oh dear,

    The doomsday bogey man again?

    Good try. The US President, Senate and Congress constantly debate.
    The Malaysian parliament constantly debates. The UK parliamant constantly debate. The world’s democracies constantly debate. End of the world is near?

    In any case, it STUPID to say that the EP would debate with the PM and cabinet at the drop of the hat. If there is an issue, NOT to debate is foolhardy and escapism. It would not go away unless you face it squarely and try to solve it. If not, the only way out for the PAP is OUT OF POWER in a matter of time.

    When the pressure gets too high, guess what would happen? Why do you think there are so many occurrences of EARTHQUAKE recent time?
    Time for PAP to wake up and mend its way, or be swallowed when the BIG ONE comes on ‘fine’ day.

    Chinese saying: Pure gold would not be afraid of the fire. Do I need to explain the meaning?

  9. Let a thousand debates blossom!!

    Singaporeans will not melt like butter at the fury and thunder of open debate in our society – be it in parliament or elsewhere.

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