The parameters of presidenti​al powers

Dear Professor Thio Li-Ann,

I refer to your 11 Aug 2011 Straits Times article.

While Singapore’ presidency is not an executive one, it is not a dumb one either. It can express its own opinion even if it can’t execute them.

The general principle that the president must act on the advice of the cabinet is confined to official matters only. It cannot apply to non-official matters such as when to take breakfast or when to wake up at night to pee. The expression of a personal opinion on such matters as public transport also comes under non-official matter since public transport doesn’t come under the president’s purview and therefore cannot be official matter as far as the president is concerned. Therefore any comments by the president on public issues that are not part of the president’s duties are not bound by the general principle. Hence public support by the president for politically controversial causes need not necessarily raise legitimacy issues. It has never been wrong and is new only in so far as it is newly recognised, not newly legitimised.


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