Accept EP’s role or don’t stand

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 30 Jul 2011 letter by Mr Daniel Chia.

Mr Chia says that the office of the elected president is not the office for the voice of the people. But the so-called office for the voice of the people represents only 60% of popular votes. Even PM Lee has admitted that he will not speak for all Singaporeans equally, preferring to disadvantage voters in opposition wards when it comes to HDB upgrading. Since, the so-called office for the voice of the people doesn’t speak for all Singaporeans equally, there is a need for other avenues through which the voice of the people can be heard. The Straits Times forum is another avenue through which the voice of Mr Chia has been heard. If the people’s voice can be heard through the Straits Times, why can’t it be heard through the president?

Mr Chia says championing public issues is the work of the MPs. But anybody can champion public issues, including the elected president. Because public issues are everyone’s issues including those of the elected president’s.

Mr Chia says if the elected president doesn’t comply with the duties of the constitution, conflict may arise between him and the government. But compliance with the duties of the constitution doesn’t mean compliance on issues concerning the people. No one should let potential conflict with the government stifle him or her from championing public issues. During the Third Reich, the German people didn’t speak up for justice because they feared conflict with the government. The result is that no one dared rein in a run away Nazi government that brought Germany to utter ruins. So history tells us never to be afraid of conflict with the government. It is our right as well as our duty to speak up and to champion the right causes for the public regardless of whether they are in conflict with the government or not. It is better to be right in conflict with the government than to be wrong in compliance with the government.

Mr Chia says that just as there are distinct responsibilities between the president and the CEO of a company, so too must there be distinct responsibilities between the elected president and the government. But the CEO has no right to tell the president of the company to shut up. Similarly, the government has no right to ask the elected president to shut up. The CEO reports to the president of the company. Does the government report to the elected president? Hardly.

Mr Chia warns Mr Tan Kin Lian not to step out of his boundary and interfere with the government’s operational duties. But why in the first place should the boundary of the elected president include gagging him?

Mr Chia reminds Mr Tan Kin Kian to leave day to day running of the country to the government. But leaving the running of the country to the government doesn’t mean that Mr Tan should remain silent about how things are run. The government is the servant to us all. Not interfering with how the government does its job doesn’t mean we can’t give feedback on how it is performing. ‘We’ includes everyone including the president.

Mr Chia cautions Mr Tan and Dr Tan not to run for office if they cannot accept the elected president’s role. But the elected president’s role doesn’t include being dumb. Accepting the elected president’s role doesn’t exclude Mr Tan and Dr Tan from speaking up for justice. If part of the elected president’s role is to remain silent in the face of injustice, then we might as well call the EP the eunuch president.

Mr Chia expresses sadness that Mr Tan and Dr Tan now wants to be the people’s spokesmen. What is so sad about that? On the contrary, it would be sad indeed if the president continues to be a voiceless puppet that does nothing except shake hands with visitors.

Having a eunuch president who is gagged and cannot speak out for justice will not help maintain Singapore’s image and status globally. It will only bring shame and dishonour to Singapore both locally and globally.


3 Responses to “Accept EP’s role or don’t stand”

  1. Kojakbt Says:

    Bro, good article. Do I have your permission to post this online?

  2. auntielucia Says:

    EP was created by Parliament. Only Parliament can enlarge his role, geddit? So the 1st step ain’t to change the Pressie’s role as that would be illegal. The 1st step is to have a Parliament willing n able to change the EP’s role! Don’t put the cart b4 the horse. 🙄

    • trulysingapore Says:

      We are not proposing to change the president’s role. It’s common sense that the restrictions that the constitution places on the president applies to official matters only. That means matters pertaining to the president’s office. Any opinion outside matters of the president’s office therefore falls outside these restrictions.

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