On the Constitution Bill – Speech by Pritam Singh

Mdm Deputy Speaker, I note both Bills – the Constitution Amendment Bill and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Other Matters Bill are being read at the same time. My speech is restricted to the Constitution Amendment Bill. Mdm Deputy Speaker, Clause 2 of the Bill amends article 22 of the Constitution to extend the President’s discretionary powers of appointment to include the office of the newly created Chief of the Digital and Intelligence Service of the Singapore Armed Forces. This Bill enjoins the Chief of the Digital and Intelligence Service to the list of key public sector appointments that must be agreed to by the President. The President can veto the appointment. As established by my colleagues Mr Gerald Giam and Mr Dennis Tan, the Workers’ Party has no fundamental objection to this newly established appointment and substantively support the SAF and Other Matters Bill.

Mdm Deputy Speaker, the Workers’ Party is on the record in Parliament with regard to the prospect of gridlock if any Elected President withholds nominations to key appointments, particularly in the context of a new Government which defeats the People’s Action Party at general elections. Most recently, at the parliamentary debate on the Menon Constitutional Commission’s report in 2016, the Workers’ Party advocated returning the elected Presidency to its original form to an appointed office without blocking powers. This would enable the President to focus on being a unifying figure for the nation, rather than having any confrontational role vis-à-vis the elected government.

In view of the Workers’ Party’s position on the Elected Presidency, we will vote against the Constitution Amendment Bill as a matter of principle. For the SAF and Other Matters Bill, we will support the Bill but cannot support clause 6 which is specifically related to the President’s discretionary powers.

However, since the substantive change is located in the Constitution Amendment Bill, we will support the SAF and Other Matters Amendment Bill as our position is clarified by voting against the Constitution Amendment Bill.

Thank you.