Ensuring minority representation in Elected Presidency not primary concern of silent majority

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By: Ghui

As the proposed changes that have been recommended by the Constitutional Commission tasked with reviewing the elected Presidency trundles on, it is easy to lose sight of where we are in the process of these suggested amendments.

At this juncture, it is important to note that the proposed modifications to this nuanced quasi-governmental role have not yet been passed. At this stage, it is merely a proposal awaiting Parliamentary debate.

Many social and political observers have actively discussed and blogged about the office of the presidency, its powers, its objectives and the reasons behind the proposed alterations online. Many of the arguments have questioned the motivations behind the suggestions and even more have raised eyebrows on the effectiveness of the proposals in relation to greater minority representation.

What about the views of the silent majority? What are the concerns of those who are neither online activists nor part of the propaganda machine?

In attempting to suss out the sentiments of the average citizen, Blackbox has conducted a study into the issues that plague the common but quiet Singaporean (http://www.blackbox.com.sg/singapores-next-president).

While the vocal netizens have discussed a myriad of conspiracy theories in relation to the proposed amendments, the general public have greater concern over more practical issues – that of the national reserves. It would appear that an overwhelming majority of those who took part in the Blackbox study rate the protection of our national reserves as the most crucial role they would like their President to play.

Given that this is one of the designated key responsibilities of the President, this expectation does not come as a surprise (http://bit.ly/2dTZ7sy). The more pertinent question is the qualifications such a person must possess before he or she can effectively safeguard our national reserves?

Is there really a difference between a chairman or CEO of a company with at least $100 million in paid up capital and the most senior executive of a company with at least $500 million in shareholder’ equity in relation to the protection of our national reserves? Surely either position would obligate the individual in question to have a comprehensive understanding of financial principles?

Surely, the President should be someone who understands the day-to-day concerns of average Singaporeans, who has a heart to serve and who has a grounded understanding of financial principles. In my opinion, our current system already ensures that whoever contests has the requisite financial knowledge. If changes are to be made, it should be to ensure that those who contest genuinely want to contribute to Singaporean society.

Unsurprisingly, Singaporeans have indicated that next down the line of interests after the national reserves is their desire to have a candidate who has contributed to the community.

In other words, Singaporeans rate someone who has proven public contributions over lofty private sector CVs. The insistence of the amendments being somehow a means to ensure minority representation is also hollow in the face of this study with only 23% of those polled
indicating that minority representation in the office of the elected presidency is an
issue.

This is not to say that minority representation is not important. The question is whether the elected presidency is the right forum for that representation and whether mandating fixed quotas is the way to address this matter?

Based on the results of the Blackbox study, it does not appear that those polled considered the proposed amendments to be necessary. This begs the question, why are we doing it?