DPM Teo clarifies presidential advisers' role
After three days and 38 MPs joining the debate, the Constitution (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament yesterday.
Six MPs from The Workers' Party (WP) voted "no".
With the Bill passed, the eligibility criteria for the elected president will be tightened and there will be a "five-term hiatus" rule to ensure that minority groups will be elected.
In his closing speech, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the Elected Presidency is not a perfect system, but the Government is trying to improve its institutions and strengthen them for the Singapore of the future.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean
He also attacked WP's proposals to have an appointed president and an elected senate.
Here are some of the points he brought up.
DPM Teo said WP's suggestion of a senate was a "marked departure" from its manifesto at the 2015 General Election as well as its submissions to the Constitution Commission in March.
He also criticised WP for putting out its proposal to the House in a "non-transparent, non-consultative way" less than 30 hours ago and then calling for a referendum on the issue.
He said: "The proposal has the benefit of brevity but, unfortunately, not of clarity."
POOL OF CANDIDATES
The People's Action Party MPs Saktiandi Supaat and Louis Ng asked about the impact of tightened criteria on the pool of qualified candidates.
In response, DPM Teo said he did not have a precise figure as companies do not publicise the racial background of their public officers.
"There will always be qualified minority candidates from both the public and private sectors," he said.
"Every community should aspire towards producing leaders who may one day represent the nation in her highest office and to encourage those leaders to come forward to serve in that office.
"The pool will grow over time as our country progresses."
ROLE OF CPA
DPM Teo said WP fundamentally misunderstood the role of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) and accuses it of "misleading" the House.
He explained that the CPA's role is relevant only when the President vetoes a proposal from the Government. And if the President exercises his veto, but the CPA agrees with the Government's proposal, the CPA's agreement serves to moderate the weight of the President's veto by referring the issue to Parliament.
DPM Teo added that it was "disappointing" that WP had suggested that the CPA is a "politicised body".
MP Yee Chia Hsing asked whether a gap of five terms would be too long for the hiatus safeguard mechanism.
DPM Teo said that five terms strikes the right balance between ensuring minority representation without being too invasive or prescriptive.
"A gap that is too short would create a rotation that could impede our progress towards the ideal of a society where race is no longer a significant issue," he said.
"Every community should aspire towards producing leaders who may one day represent the nation in her highest office and to encourage those leaders to come forward to serve in that office."
- Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean