Proposal for political change

Current situation

Members of Parliament (MPs) have conflicting interests between representing their respective parties and representing the people who voted for them.

For example, in the recent Seng Kang columbarium issue, MP Lam Pin Min represented the PAP government’s position when he openly disagreed with the Seng Kang people he was supposed to represent.

Residents at the dialogue said the HDB should have been more upfront about the Chinese temple housing a columbarium …

… Dr Lam said the authorities had been upfront, noting that it was indicated in the Fernvale Lea brochure for the new flats that the temple may include a columbarium allowed under the guidelines of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). “There is really nothing to hide,” he added.

Some residents had also asked why the Chinese temple is being developed by a private company.

Dr Lam said current regulations did not restrict the type of company that can develop a place of worship and he understood from the URA and HDB that it has been done before.

[Straits Times, Upset over columbarium plans, Fernvale Lea’s future residents want a refund from HDB, 4 Jan 2015]

It’s hard to imagine Dr Lam would wholeheartedly represent his people when he didn’t even agree with them. Similarly, during the Population White Paper debate, most PAP MPs conformed to PAP’s wishes but not to the wishes of the people.

These are wrong; there is a need to decouple MPs from political parties.

Proposal

Separate the election of MPs from the election of the government.

Choosing the MP

Constituency elections will strictly be a constituency level event, not a national level event. Each constituency will have elections once every five years but different constituencies can hold elections at different times.

To qualify to be an MP for a constituency, an individual:

• Must have no affiliation to any political party

• Must be resident of that constituency

• Must not hold any full time job

Choosing the government

Every five years, there will be an electoral contest between political parties to form the government. Political parties will come up with cabinet proposals of between 10 to 15 individuals as well as their 5-year plans and total pay packages including bonuses. The entire nation will elect the party to form the government based on their 5-year plans, deliverance of past plans, strengths of individual candidates and asking prices.

The party with the highest number of votes wins the right to form the government without winning a single constituency. This will give no reason for the governing party to give advantage to one constituency while disadvantaging another constituency. At the same time, there is no diminishing of legitimacy as the ruling party has been elected by the entire country.

Relationship between government and MPs

The Government will propose bills to MPs in parliament for their approval. 2/3 of MPs’ votes are required for bill to be approved. An MP absent from parliament will automatically count towards a “no” vote. (MPs who clock less than 80% attendance in parliament in the preceding year of full year service as MP will have his MP title revoked and re-election must be held within reasonable time as decided by the election committee).

President, election and CPIB committees

• The elections department and CPIB will be transferred out from the prime minister’s office to the president’s office to avoid potential conflict of interests.

• The meaningless ceremonial reporting of prime minister to president and the equally meaningless need for the president to adhere to advice from the prime minister will be abolished. The president will make his own decision on matters concerning elections and CPIB only. Use of past reserves will be approved by MPs in parliament.

• The president must not have any past affiliation with any political party.

• The president will appoint up to five MPs to watch over and keep tabs on each and every ministry so that when the government presents bills pertaining to any ministry, there will be about five MPs sufficiently well versed and given full access to ministry information to appraise government matters raised. Sensitive ministries like Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be partially exempted.

• The judiciary will come under the president’s office and all judges will be appointed by the president independent of the prime minister.

Election committee

• All constituencies will be fixed in accordance to the current postal districts

• On average, every 25,000 voters will have one MP representing them. The current 2 million voters will have a total of 80 MPs on average. Final discretion on number of MPs for each constituency will lie with the election committee.

• Districts with less than 12,500 voters can be merged with a neighboring district as decided by the election committee.

• Districts with two or more MPs can have one MP designated as minority MP as decided by the election committee. In a district designated with minority MP, one MP position will be given to the best performing minority candidate.

Others

Referendums

• The government of the day must carry out a nationwide referendum on any matter deemed necessary by 1/3 of MPs.

Constitution

• As a starting point, all laws must not contradict the constitution. Any laws that contradict the constitution must require a referendum to pass.

Newspapers and media

• Lee Kuan Yew’s newspapers act of 1974 will be abolished. The independence of newspapers and the media and the freedom to set up newspapers and other media will be enshrined in the constitution. The constitution of media freedom will be above the authority of any ministry, government department or the prime minister himself.

• Media freedom will still be subjected to the rule of law and judicial discipline.

Defamation laws

• Onus of proof of defamation will lie with the complainant

Citizenship rules

• A minimum of 5 and 10 years of continuous residency are required for the granting of PR and citizenship respectively. Only sportsmen and sportswomen may be exempted from this ruling subject to the approval of the president.

• Granting of citizenship must be approved by at least 2/3 of MPs in regular meetings outside of parliament sessions. Details of all such citizenship grants must be posted regularly on the government website.

Advantages of new system

• Better separation of powers

• Less grid lock than traditional two party system as MPs do not belong to confronting parties opposed to each other but are independent individuals representing the broad spectrum of the population across all constituencies

• MPs are independent of political parties, answerable only to the people who voted for them and are not encumbered by party agenda.

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