lpc1998's Home

New Political System for the Information Age Draft #02 (Archive)

Since the posting of ‘A Consolidated Account’ on 25 January 2002, there were more postings on matters relating to the New Political System (NPS). As the results of these discussions, I have further consolidated, elaborated and revised below the NPS for further discussions.

The greatest value of NPS lies in the potential transparency in the actions of the government and public officials, and in the harnessing and unleashing of the collective resources of our entire country to solve fundamental and important problems of the nation. In the course of time, the quality of our people as citizens, voters and individuals would be greatly enhanced. They would become true citizens in the Information Age, informed, thinking and contributing, and so they would be better equipped and prepared for the knowledge-based-economy and the challenges of globalization at home.

So, unless we begin to have more people to participate or to be involved in the management of the affairs of country, we would forever have the problem of “fighting for the same people” for the jobs that are crucial to the well being of the people and nation.

Furthermore, one of our demonstrated current problems is not that there are not enough people for ministerial posts, but rather there are not enough people of ministerial calibre willing to stand as political party candidates for the election even for the ruling party. The NPS would solve this problem.

To all who believe that Singapore can be a better country.

Would you like to comment on the NPS, especially in the following areas:

Basically, the NPS is about an ‘ideal’ system comprising of 3 state organs, namely: together with appointed Independent Institutions or Bodies such as: The President

This is the equivalent of a Prime Minister with overwhelming control of Parliament (such a Prime Minister hereinafter referred to as ‘the Prime Minister’), which is what we have for the last 40 odd years. This makes a strong and efficient government. The election of the President (or the Members of Parliament, if we retain this part of our existing system, hereinafter referred to as ‘the Parliament’) is to be held, say, every 5 years or as soon as practicable, but within three (3) months, if the President (or the Prime Minister’) is impeached by the Senate.

A government of such a President would be ultra-efficient and certainly not less efficient in the ordinary business of government than our existing system of a Prime Minister with overwhelming control of Parliament even if the President wins by a single vote in the presidential election. This is because laws are made by Presidential Decrees after internal debate and discussion. Draft legislations can, of course, be referred by the President to the Council of Veterans or the Senate for debate and discussion or even to the Judiciary or the House of Justice for comments and advice, but such a referral is optional and not mandatory so that urgent and critical laws can be decreed by the President at any time and without undue delay.

An elected executive Presidency with a limited tenure replacing the present Parliamentary System would make such controversial and divisive features of our existing system as the “blank face” PAP MPs (by courtesy of [truthy]), GRCs, gerrymandering, selective HDB upgrading, etc, obsolete.

The President shall have full powers to appoint any suitable person as the members of his Cabinet and as other top government officers and shall be fully responsible for them. The existing system only allows the Prime Minister to appoint members of his Cabinet from among the MPs. This is a very crippling restriction that denies the Prime Minister access to more suitable and talented individuals outside Parliament. The US Presidential System is an example of a system that has this advantage.

The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Singapore Armed Forces.

The terms of office including the remuneration and other benefits of the President shall be recommended by the Talent Development Institute, approved by the Council of Veterans and confirmed by the Senate.

Subject to specific constitutional provisions and safeguards, the Senate shall have the powers to remove an unsatisfactory or unsuitable President by not less than two-thirds of the total number of votes cast by the Senators present and voting. A President who has been removed from office by such a vote shall be allowed to stand for re-election. This is because the voters have the final say on whether or not a person is suitable for the Office of the President. Such a President when re-elected can be suspended or removed from office during the re-elected term by the Senate only with the sanction of the Supreme Court, House of Justice and the Council of Veterans, if he is suspected or guilty of high treason as defined in the Constitution respectively.

In the event of sudden death, resignation or incapacity of the President, the Chairman of the Senate shall be the acting President pending the election of a new President. A new President shall be elected as soon as practicable, but within three (3) months from such an eventuality.

The person who is the acting President shall cease to be the Chairman of the Senate so long he remains acting President. At the same time, the Senate shall elect an acting Chairman from among the Senators to perform the functions and duties of the Chairman until the Chairman ceases to be acting President.

Any person who holds a Presidential appointment of any rank shall be disqualified from holding any post or position in the Senate, Council of Veterans or Independent Institutions or Bodies.

Constitutional amendments shall require a simple majority of the voters at a referendum for an ordinary amendment, a 2/3rd majority for important provisions and 3/4th majority for fundamental principles. However, in the event of a national emergency, the President may, other than the fundamental principles, amend the Constitution only with the sanction of the Supreme Court, House of Justice and the Council of Veterans, but such an amendment shall elapse within three (3) months from the date of the amendment unless it is approved by the required majority of the voters at a referendum.

The Senate

This is a Senate without Legislative powers as such powers are already vested in the President (or in the Parliament).

The functions of the Senate include debating legislations and other actions of the Government together with the constitutional powers to impeach the President (or the Prime Minister and dissolve Parliament) under certain conditions specified in the Constitution and with the necessary constitutional safeguards. Other functions of the Senate are the Appointment of candidates recommended by the Council of Veterans to the Independent Institutions or Bodies and Removal of the incumbents from the Independent Institutions or Bodies, together with approving the terms of office.

The first 100 candidates with the highest number of votes in a Senatorial election shall be the Senators-elect. The Senators are to be elected nationally instead of constituently so as to avoid group interest representation.

The persons who have obtained the most and second most votes in a senatorial election which would normally be held every 5 years shall be the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of the Senate respectively. In the event of a tie, the Senate shall elect the Chairman or the Vice-Chairman from among the persons in the tie.

Terms of office including the remuneration and other benefits of the Senators shall be recommended by the Talent Development Institute and approved and confirmed by the Council of Veterans.

In the event of sudden death, resignation or incapacity of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman, the Senate shall elect from among the Senators a new Chairman or Vice-Chairman, as the case may be.

In the event of the temporary unavailability of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman, the Senate shall elect from among the Senators an acting Chairman or the Vice-Chairman to perform the functions and duties of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman, as the case may be.

The quorum for the Senate shall be 50 and should the total number of the Senators at any time falls below 80, there shall be a new senatorial election within three (3) months therefrom.

Except for the impeachment of the President (or the Prime Minister and dissolution of the Parliament), all other questions proposed for decision in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of the votes of the Senators present and voting, and the Chairman shall have the casting vote in the event of a tie.

The Senate shall have the powers to appoint the appropriate investigating committee to look into allegations or suspicions of wrongdoing or malpractice by any person holding a public office including the President with the exception of the Senators. The proceedings of such investigating committee shall be televised live over national television except those parts of the proceedings that involve the issues of national security and state secrets.

The Senate shall have the powers to appoint the appropriate committee for any purpose as it deems fit.

Council of Veterans (non-elected)

The Council of Veterans is a non-elected Institution or Body and comprises preferably with people who have the knowledge and experience in the management of state affairs and who are respected community leaders and thinkers. It is not a platform for the promotion of vested interests or an arena of conflicts for the various groups in the country.

Leaders of the business and professional communities may be included in the Council, if they are qualified individuals as spelled out in the preceding paragraph, but not as members of vested interest groups or lobbies. In other words, Councillors are expected to view issues from the national perspective and not from a personal or group perspective.

Apart from being a huge reservoir of ideas and experience, it can also have certain constitutional functions such as making recommendations to the Senate for the Appointment or Removal of the Judges of both the Judiciary and the House of Justice and of other Independent Bodies for a more balanced system of governance.

Moreover, the Council of Veterans would not be in competition with the Presidency, Senate or Independent Institutions or Bodies for talents. It is actually designed for people who could make valuable contributions to the country, but somehow they are unable to serve in the Presidency, Senate or in the Independent Institutions or Bodies. The Councillors are likely, save for the justifiable cases, to be people who are retired, semi-retired or near retiring age to have the necessary experience, knowledge and judgement on state and societal matters (and hence ‘Veterans’).

Councillors can be full or part-time depending on the Councillors themselves. Full-time or more active Councillors would be given more resources. They are likely to be former ministers and members of Parliament, community leaders, academics, thinkers and business leaders. Citizens with problems may approach the Councillors or Senators of their choice for help, because the Councillors or Senators would be more effective in dealing with government departments or civil servants than ordinary citizens. This is because they can bring up any matter of public concern or interest for debate in the Council of Veterans or the Senate respectively or in the national media.

Each Councillor shall be appointed by the Senate as such for the life of the person on the recommendation of the Talent Development Institute.

Terms of office including the allowances and other benefits of the Councillors shall be recommended by the Talent Development Institute and approved and confirmed by the Senate.

Any Councillor who has failed to attend the Council sessions or to his allotted duties by the Duties Allotment Committee of the Council for five times consecutively in a continuous period of more than one (1) month without a good or acceptable reason or excuse shall be deemed to have resigned from the Council. However, such a person is still eligible for appointment as a Councillor subject to the procedures for the appointment as provided in the NPS.

Any Councillor who is on approved leave shall be deemed to have a good or acceptable reason or excuse for not attending the Council sessions or to his allotted duties.

For the first year following the establishment of the Council of Veterans, the total number of Councillors at any time shall not be less than 300 and the quorum shall be 150.

For subsequent years, the total number of Councillors at any time shall not be less than 500 and the quorum shall be 250. If the total number of Councillors should fall below 500, then more Councillors shall be appointed as soon as practicable, but within three (3) months from such eventuality.

All questions proposed for decision in the Council of Veterans shall be determined by a majority of the votes of the Councillors present and voting, and the Grand Councillor (the Chairman of the Council of Veterans) shall have the casting vote in the event of a tie. Councillors who are on approved leave are still eligible for voting in the Council sessions.

In the event of the temporary unavailability of the Grand Councillor, the Council of Veterans shall elect from among the Councillors an acting Grand Councillor to perform the functions and duties of the Grand Councillor.

The Council of Veterans shall have the powers to appoint the appropriate investigating committee to look into allegations or suspicions of wrongdoing or malpractice by any person holding a public office including the President with the exception of the Councillors. The proceedings of such investigating committee shall be televised live over national television except for those parts of the proceedings that involve the issues of national security and state secrets.

The Council of Veterans shall have the powers to appoint the appropriate committee for any purpose as it deems fit.

Independent Institutions or Bodies

These Institutions or Bodies are independent meaning that they are independent from the Presidency which is the Executive-cum-Legislature.

The President shall not have any say or in any way be involved in the Appointments, Removals, Budgets, etc of the Independent Institutions or Bodies as well as the Senate and the Council of Veterans so that these Institutions or Bodies can also act as the constitutional checks and balances.

The terms of office including the remuneration and other benefits of the members of the Independent Institutions or Bodies other than Talent Development Institute shall be recommended by the Talent Development Institute, approved by the Council of Veterans and confirmed by the Senate.

Any person for appointment to the Independent Institutions or Bodies other than Talent Development Institute shall be recommended by the Talent Development Institute, approved by the Council of Veterans and confirmed by the Senate.

The Appointments to the Independent Institutions or Bodies would follow broadly the same format like the one in which the Judges are appointed to the Judiciary. For instance, each Judge would serve until the retirement age of 65 years and since the great majority of the Judges do not have their retirement ages at the same time, the problem of all the Judges retiring simultaneously or within a very short period would not arise. But the format of service of each Independent Institution or Body may differ from the rest according to the needs and requirements of that Independent Institution or Body.

The Judiciary

The Judiciary is to remain as it is and its primary concern is law and not justice except that it would have the additional duty to review for bad or poor quality legislations. Any legislation or any part thereof found by the Judiciary to be so shall first be returned to the President (or the Parliament) for amendments failing which it shall then be referred to the Senate for approval or veto.

With regard to any legislation or any part thereof which has been vetoed by the Senate, the President shall still have the option to call for a referendum for the approval of the voters. Any legislation that has been rejected by the majority of the voters shall then be discarded.

(Appointment Clause deleted. Appointment provisions now centralized under Independent Institutions or Bodies heading.)

House of Justice

The House of Justice like the Council of Veterans is a freshly created Institution or Body. It is not a replacement for the Judiciary. It is a constitutional equivalent of the Judiciary and exists side by side with it, but unlike the Judiciary, its primary concern is justice and not law.

The House of Justice should have the constitutional powers to set aside unjust judicial judgements and to vary the sentences that are meted by the Courts of Law to what is just according to an agreed standard and principles of justice subject to a nominal sum of S$1.00.

(Appointment Clause deleted. Appointment provisions now centralized under Independent Institutions or Bodies heading.)

The House of Justice would be very busy for a very long time because it has to hear, consider and propose the principles of justice to be enshrined in the new Constitution and also to review or consider the following:

  1. all proposed legislations;
  2. all questions of justice referred to it by the Senate and the Council of Veterans;
  3. the Petitions of citizens who believe that they are unjustly treated by the state or the law;
  4. any instance of injustice that may come to its attention; and
  5. the whole lot of existing legislations and other laws:
When the day comes when the House of Justice is idle most of the time, we would have a society that is among the most just on the planet, where justice rules supreme and not a dirty word in the mind of many. Having a just society would also be a very good reason to be proud of being a Singaporean wherever he may be, apart from having redeemed an important part of the National Pledge to build a democratic society based on justice and equality.

The Election Commission

The Election Commission is responsible for organizing free, fair, secure and efficient elections and referenda. The electoral and the referendum processes could be updated, modernized and improved with the advances already made in the Information Age.

(Appointment Clause deleted. Appointment provisions now centralized under Independent Institutions or Bodies heading.)

Talent Development Institute

The Talent Development Institute may, among other responsibilities, sponsor new election candidates for the Presidency and Senate, especially from among young and unknown ones to the Council of Veterans for debate, discussion and, if suitable, for endorsement. However, this is not the only way in which election candidates are accepted by the The Election Commission.

The first three persons for appointment to the Talent Development Institute shall be recommended by the Judiciary and appointed by the Senate. Subsequent persons for appointment to the Institute shall be recommended by the Council of Veterans and appointed by the Senate.

Terms of office including the allowances and other benefits of the members of the Talent Development Institute shall be recommended by the the Council of Veterans and approved and confirmed by the Senate.

The Talent Development Institute shall recommend candidates to the Senate for appointment as Councillors.

It shall also make the recommendation for the remunerations, allowances and other benefits of the President, Senators, Councillors and other Independent Institutions or Bodies to the appropriate authority.

Conversion from the existing system

We may have to abolish the existing Presidency and create the new Presidency with Legislative powers. The existing Parliament may be converted into the Senate except that the Senators are to be elected nationally instead of constituently so as to avoid group interest representation. We also have to create the non-elected Council of Veterans.

If we prefer to retain our existing system, we can still have the Council of Veterans and the House of Justice enlarging our system. If we do so, then we are settling for something that is quite far away from what I would consider the ‘ideal’, but nevertheless, it is still a huge improvement for our existing system.

Apart from certain constitutional duties, the Council of Veterans being a prestige Institution or Body should be a relatively very low cost set-up requiring only an avenue for discussing and advising the nation by very experienced and talented people who would not be paid the market price for their services. What they would get are prestige, recognition and honour for their past contributions to society and what they would provide is the opportunity for the nation to tap on their experience, judgement and talent. What they would enjoy is free publicity for their views and opinion and perhaps an allowance. The Council as a whole can also contribute to the constitutional checks and balances and to a working democracy.

The House of Justice on the other hand like the Judiciary is costly. So the question is: Do we as a people value justice and are willing to pay the price for justice? This was the single most important question I have raised in my first posting on House of Justice.

The payment for justice includes sacrificing some time on a Sunday or on a weekday for voting in a referendum. As [domz] have rightly pointed out we cannot afford to declare a public holiday for the holding of every referendum. The Information Age would eventually provide a secure, efficient and reliable electronic voting system that would support a maturing democracy by assigning to the museum the current cumbersome and expensive voting systems. In the meantime, those who value justice and democracy must be prepared to make the necessary sacrifice.

Best Regards

Replies from:

  1. Chwee Hock
  2. MGBCPC

Back to top