The Workers’ Party (WP) today (8 Nov) proposed that an elected senate should replace the existing Council of Presidential Advisors and that a national referendum be held to decide the future of the Elected Presidency.
WP Members of Parliament were taken to task by several Ministers and Backbenchers in the House. Minister Shanmugam grilled the WP MPs on their proposals which WP MPs couldn’t answer. They said that the Senators must have similar qualifications to the Elected President, but that they haven’t worked out the details.
Writing in his Facebook Mr Shanmugam said: “But they confirmed . So they want eight Presidents (who will be Senators) instead of one President.”
WP MPs got the greatest hammering from PAP MP Janil Puthucheary. He took the opposition MPs to task for throwing their proposal to the debate on the Elected Presidency at the eleventh-hour, and to expect Parliament to take it seriously. He pointed out that even that would be acceptable if they had done their homework.
He questioned how about how the Senate Elections Committee would determine the 16 suitable candidates that would then be put forward for elections.
He pointed out that a key point of WP’s proposal was that the role of the Senate Elections Committee is to prevent more than 16 people standing forward for public election to the Senate. “So the 17th and downstream would have to be prevented from being exposed to public vote … On what grounds does the committee decide that the 16th person is good enough, and the 17th person is not good enough for the public to make up their mind?”
WP’s asst secretary-general Pritam Singh conceded that Dr Puthucheary had raised a fair question, and explained that the committee has to “draw a line” before the process becomes “unwieldy.”
Even WP Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang had to step in to ask the House to “focus on the fundamentals” and “not be bogged down by details.” In conceding that the WP’s proposal is not perfect Mr Low said: “Let’s focus on what the fundamentals are, and whether the idea sounds logical and whether it’s a better system. We can work out the details and finetune it in time to come.”