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PAP-dominated Parliament approves bill to allow President and ministers’ global roles in personal capacity, amid WP and PSP opposition

Singapore’s Parliament, with a PAP super-majority, has approved a bill that enables the President and ministers to engage in global roles personally, a decision faced with opposition from the WP and PSP.

While the bill is said to aim to enhance Singapore’s international influence by balancing official duties with global contributions, the opposition has raised concerns over potential conflicts and the implications of retroactive laws.

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On Wednesday, Singapore’s Parliament approved a legal framework allowing the President and ministers to take up roles in global organizations in their private capacities, provided it serves the national interest.

This move, encapsulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No. 3) Bill, garnered 75 votes from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and faced opposition from eight lawmakers from the Workers’ Party (WP) and Progress Singapore Party (PSP).

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong presented the bill, outlining its intention to harness the “expertise, experience, and personal standing” of elected officials for Singapore’s benefit on the global stage.

“In this way, we can make the most of the expertise, experience, and personal standing of the individuals we elect to office, so as to advance Singapore’s interests and reinforce our value to the world,” Mr Wong explained.

President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a central figure in this discussion, currently holds notable international positions, such as the chairmanship of the Group of Thirty (G30) and the Global Commission on the Economics of Water.

Mr Wong emphasized the Cabinet’s view that it is in the national interest for Mr Tharman to continue in these roles, albeit in a private capacity, to contribute to global discussions and initiatives beneficial to Singapore.

Addressing potential concerns, Mr Wong clarified that these roles do not conflict with the President’s duties, noting, “If the President were to serve in these international bodies purely in his official capacity, then he would be limited to representing the official Singapore position in everything he says.”

He further assured that the President and ministers would not be permitted to keep any remuneration from these appointments.

Opposition members, however, raised significant concerns. WP’s Mr Gerald Giam questioned the impact of these international roles on the President’s primary responsibilities, given the substantial taxpayer investment in the President’s office.

“It is only reasonable for Singaporeans to expect that he dedicates all his time and energy in his official capacity to meeting his promises to the people,” Mr Giam argued.

Allowing the President to take up external appointments in his private capacity could detract from his substantial public duties,” added Mr Giam. He concluded that, for this reason, WP is voting against the Bill.

Echoing this sentiment, Mr Dennis Tan (WP-Hougang) expressed concerns about the President’s capacity to fully attend to his national duties if engaged in international roles.

He noted, “However, the time spent on serving foreign and international organizations, no matter how fruitful they can be for our President and even for Singapore, equates to time not spent on his presidential responsibilities including the roles he had campaigned on.”

The debate also touched on the retroactive application of the amendments to 14 September, the day President Tharman assumed office, which raised eyebrows among opposition MPs like Associate Professor Jamus Lim (WP-Sengkang) and PSP’s Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai.

Highlighting that Parliament was convened specifically for this bill, Mr Leong noted it was only shared with MPs three weeks prior. He questioned the urgency of rushing through the Bill and asked why there had been no similar rush to create this framework previously.

“The retrospective amendment of any law should not be taken lightly. The speed with which these constitutional amendments are being enacted, as well as the fact that they are being backdated, has created unnecessary unease among Singaporeans,” said Mr Leong.

“A segment of Singaporeans now perceive that the Constitution is being specially amended to enable President Tharman to continue serving in international organizations despite taking up his new office as President of Singapore.”

Assoc Prof Lim questioned, “Does this House regard the use of retroactive lawmaking in this Bill—which would retrospectively allow the President and Ministers to take on positions in their private capacity, if it serves the national interest—as sufficiently grave to justify deviating from the general principles of prospective lawmaking? Or does it border on an abuse of the Parliamentary supermajority to enact constitutional amendments of this nature at will?”

Mr Christopher De Souza (PAP-Holland-Bukit Timah) countered these arguments, suggesting that global engagement in areas like arts, sports, and inclusivity aligns with Singapore’s goals and doesn’t necessarily lead to divided attention.

He argued that Singapore’s situation isn’t binary and that it’s possible to balance international engagements with domestic responsibilities. He pointed out that private bodies see President Tharman’s head-of-state status as advantageous, seeking his personal views rather than just the government’s official stance. Mr. de Souza defended the Cabinet’s decision to allow private memberships, constrained by Cabinet guidelines, as a cautious approach.

Mr Giam countered that President Tharman, even in his official capacity, has been expressing independent views in these organizations, questioning the necessity of the new arrangement.

Mr de Souza argued that Mr Tharman’s elevation to head of state necessitates a structured framework for handling international engagements. He suggested that this approach allows Singaporean leaders to contribute their insights globally without hindering national interests.

Responding to Mr de Souza’s comments, Assoc Prof Lim then questioned the rationale behind amending the nation’s highest law to accommodate international organizations, implying it could undermine Singapore’s sovereignty.

In response, Mr de Souza sidestepped the point and went on to emphasize the importance of participating in global dialogues, arguing that it enhances Singapore’s international standing and is not pandering but rather an honor, provided it aligns with national interests and clear engagement rules.

 

In his closing remarks, Mr Wong stood firm against the opposition’s criticisms, asserting that the amendments were not only constitutional but also crucial for Singapore’s international standing.

He remarked, “This will enable our little red dot to shine brightly on the international stage. It’s a plus for Singapore.”

Mr Wong further addressed the opposition MPs’ accusations that the Bill was “not proper,” “unconstitutional,” or in “violation of established principles.”

He countered, “This is completely unfounded. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s not use this language, technical language, to camouflage political grandstanding.”

Mr Wong also took a jab at the objections raised by the opposition MPs, stating, “There is no need to oppose something that will clearly advance Singapore’s interests and bring benefits to Singapore and Singaporeans.”

He urged a consideration of the Bill’s actual impact, adding, “We have to ask ourselves – do the substance of these provisions further the interest of Singapore? Do they bring benefit to Singapore and Singaporeans?”

In response to a question from Mr Leong about the necessity of the amendment, considering that Ministers have previously taken up international roles in their personal capacities, Mr Wong explained that, in the case of Ministers, the Prime Minister can give permission for them to accept such appointments.

However, in the case of the President, the Prime Minister cannot grant this permission. He added that it is not ideal for the Singapore President to serve in an official capacity in foreign organizations while simultaneously being given the latitude to express private views, as advised by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

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It’s a known fact the CCP China has been filling many UN agencies with their “warriors”. Just hope that Pappy’s amendments to our”Constitution” to allow for The independent thinking President and out Group thinking Ministers to assume responsible positions in world bodies including WHO,UN,UNSC,WEF,ect is not an act to collaborate with the powers to be to help influence world public opinions.This may not be always be good for Singapore 🇸🇬 whichever ways one views the issued.So sad to witness such uncalled for act being unfolded in our once Sunny Singapore.Let’s see how many more GRCs the incumbent will loose comes… Read more »

For Transparency’s sake: Lawrence Wong
Can you & Mini stars & MPs:
All declare your directorships
Income Declared
Net Worth
Each Year or Term also can!!!
Then we can have a clearer view of how much richer, each one of you are getting & of course progressing.
We as citizens, can follow to do the same.
Enriching ourselves with Riches as Good Capitalist.

LW will pay a huge price for this bill if he becomes PM as he has allowed any elected President who becomes “foreign,” owned to be able to manipulate the State. The passing of the bill also shows the inability of the PAP to understand the dire consequences they have exposed the State to, to accommodate one single person. The State has no win in this bill as someone else should have been assigned to take over all of Tharman’s appointments. The person taking over may have performed better than Tharman. The Constitution should be treated as sacred by all.… Read more »

Classic example of one party dominant greatness. Having those oppose sick of oppose jocker bunch who knows how to say No to everything good or bad will halt Singapore progress. Glad that it was passed.

Big Brother is coming for All of You, Jamus. That’s why rushing ??? Hahaha

Civil liberties, decencies, rationality, come uppance of Singaporeans has LONG BEEN DEAD, KILLED by a bunch of liars, crooks, disguised as benevolent Millionaire Politicians, claimed always, for U, they love Singapore.

Shockingly 6/10 Voters love this bunch of rogues.

We ALREADY have part-time PAP MPs. Now, they want to enshrine it in the law to also allow part-time ministers. Ministers who have ALREADY paid themselves millions of dollars to do their primary public service duty. Anyone who has to use their brain in their work knows that there is no such thing as 9 to 5 job. It is a 24/7 job as your brain is always thinking about the tasks and responsibilities of the job. There is no such thing as “private capacity”. Sure, Tharman has some international roles and we hope he can fulfill them without compromising… Read more »

Pappy of course cannot say yes, else pineapple king cannot be papsident.

leegally always right.

Tharman resign from PAP already right.

Yes, the smarter 70% endorsed this, okay and understand? You remaining outcast can only accept the fact and suck thumb, and continue to kpkb. And also don’t smlj also oppose, this is so obviously beneficial for Singapore. Go learn how to be smarter, continue staying here and cry baby don’t serve any good. If not take a pole to screw yourself or bend down to suck to learn, not being smart to continue to be a moron.

Mind you. This is not Tharman’s Bill, but ISWARAN’S !!!
He will be a free man after GE2024 …
Unless we vote wisely

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With this new law, Mr Iswaran is now a FREE man. He can be restrospectively appointed CEO Singapore Grand Prix. With this appointment (oversight according to audit observation), Iswaran can be feted by colleagues and peers, dine, fly business, receive presents, moon cakes, Christmas and new year hampers. And off course stay in the most luxurious hotels or watch whatever concerts or shows he desires. The PMo and Ag does not need to CRACK their heads on what charge to level on Iswaran anymore. As good as today, Iswaran should be able to return to work and his full pay… Read more »

70 Cheers !

Elites have their own dictionary than millions of ordinary citizens can envy upon. They pay themselves handsomely, praise themselves so very often using controlled media and bend rules when corruption cases like Keppel bribery that is detrimental to their namesake.

In simple term, flipping a coin, head they win, tail we lose

C’mon, … was it ever in doubt !!!

The debate, any debate in fact, over any bill, … is but a bleedin farce, it’s but a prelude to the inevitable.

They were given the majority by the muppets and morons, … and this is one of the ways to abuse it outrightly !!!

C’mon, … was it ever in doubt !!!

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