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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Daily Lessons from Life 27 January 2016 - PM Lee Hsien Loong moots changes to GRC, NCMP, Elected President schemes

"PM Lee Hsien Loong moots changes to GRC, NCMP, Elected President schemes - CNA 28 Jan 16

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Jan 27) mooted a series of changes in the political system, including changes to the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament scheme, the Group Representation Constituencies system, and the Elected Presidency.
Speaking for the first time since the 13th Parliament was sworn in, Mr Lee said that it was this Parliament's responsibility to help build a political system that will give Singapore the best shot at prosperity and progress over the next 50 years.

This system of politics must be founded on five key principles, the Prime Minister said:
  • It must enable Singapore to have a high-quality Government, one that is accountable, honest, competent and effective
  • It must be open and contestable
  • It must foster accountability, "so the Government is always kept on its toes"
  • It must uphold a multi-racial society
  • It must incorporate stabilisers and safeguards against the public mood or an erratic future leadership
A key safeguard - a "second key" - was the role of the Elected Presidency, he said.

While acknowledging what he called the good working relationship between Government and President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Mr Lee said Singapore must continue to review and adjust the Elected Presidency scheme from time to time, "to keep it functional and in good repair".

He suggested three areas for consideration:
  • Reviewing the qualifying criteria, in part to take into account changing economic conditions
  • Examining whether and how to bolster the role of the Council of Presidential Advisors
  • Looking into ensuring that minorities will have a chance to be elected to the office of President
In a move that he acknowledge would aid the opposition, Mr Lee said that from the next General Election, he would increase the minimum number of opposition MPs in Parliament from 9 to 12.

Together with the nine Nominated MPs - a scheme that will continue - this will ensure at least 21 faces in the Chambers who are not from the ruling party, the Prime Minister said.

The NCMP scheme ensures a stronger opposition presence in Parliament, so that if the government wins overwhelming, nationwide support, it will still have to argue for and defend its policies robustly," he said."

He also announced that when he appoints the next Electoral Boundaries Review Committee ahead of the next General Election - a long way off, he acknowledged - he will instruct them to further reduce the size of GRCs, and create more single-seat wards."

Interesting proposals by PM Lee. Some are quite bold, I must concede.

1. Not sure what the EP change is all about since the EP is the 'second key' to safeguard the nation's reserves from being raided and squandered by future government. The proposal to 'ensure' a minority EP has a chance of being elected is a bit strange since the BEST man or woman MUST be the EP, as deemed by the voters of course, given he/she has a huge responsibility. Also, most citizens are NOT SURE what the past EPs had done for the nation in a concrete manner;

2. Also this particular principle is hard to fathom how it will operate in reality: "It must incorporate stabilisers and safeguards against the public mood or an erratic future leadership". How does one define: 'good public mood' vs. 'bad public mood'? 'Good' if the public is for the government's polices? and 'bad' if the public is unhappy and dissatisfied with the government's policies for GOOD REASON?;

3. NCMP push is BOLD. Especially they are given certain or 'was it all' powers that come with the FULL elected MPs. While some Opposition Parties had already 'dismissed' it was 'not meaningful', I think it does 'help the Opposition NCMPs' to establish themselves in the Parliament so that they can WIN the subsequent General Election (GE). So, I have to give credit to PM Lee for this proposal;

4. GRC size reduction - I STILL believe that there is a need to have GRC with a max number of 3 so that the 3 main 'minority' races in Singapore have some members being MPs. e.g. Indian, Malay and Others. To totally do away with GRC may not be productive. Of course, for the purists, every MP should be elected based on his/her merits instead of their race. For me, in a multi-racial society, the minority MUST never feel that they had been unfairly treated! When that distrust develops, it will be hard to eliminate! So, why tempt it!!??

I await the results of the Political Reform Committee in due course.

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