Yesterday, Jayakumar said he is both 'surprised and disappointed' by statements made by presidential hopefuls:
"That is the clear legal position. So I think it is good that all Singaporeans, especially candidates, are very clear about what exactly the role of the President is. I say that because I do worry that otherwise there may be wrong expectations about the role of the President and we should avoid that."
President Nathan said a few days ago when he answered to criticisms that he did not do much::
"There are voices saying that, but I can't answer them. I know the limitations of the Constitution and what you have to do. So I'm not there in a boxing match. Although I've been quiet, I've been doing work"[Link]
Lets be very clear. When the constitution was changed to have elected presidents, the laws were designed to limit the powers of the president to specific areas and roles. President Nathan kept strictly to that role and Jakakumar wants future presidents to play a limited role.
However, lets not forget that the president is the only leader in the country that is voted by all citizens eligible to vote. No other leader is elected in the same fashion in Singapore. When the candidates campaign, they will have to state their agenda and what they will do. Voters select the candidates based on their agenda. The president when selected will have a powerful mandate and moral authority. While it is true that the President cannot legally force the PAP govt to accept his recommendations e.g. greater transparency for our reserves, his recommendations will carry great weight and moral authority because he represents the people of Singapore who supported his agenda.
I will not support a presidential candidate who believes he cannot do much for the people of Singapore and campaign on an agenda that he will sitick narrowly to the legal role carved out for him in the law. This is a chance for Singaporeans to choose someone who can make a difference to our lives and bring more transparency to management of our reserves - Singaporeans have been asking for this for years and want a president who will do as much as he can to make this happen.
Statements by some hopefuls 'surprised and disappointed' Jayakumar
by S Ramesh
04:47 AM Jun 10, 2011
SINGAPORE - The statements made by some of the presidential candidate hopefuls on what they would do if elected "surprised and disappointed" him, said former Senior Minister S Jayakumar yesterday.
Speaking at the launch of his book, Prof Jayakumar, who was involved in the crafting of the Elected President laws when he was Law Minister in the '80s, did not name the individuals he was referring to.
"Some of their statements seem to imply that the President is a centre of power and to himself distinct from the government of the day and implies he has certain executive powers. That is not the case," he said.
Earlier, potential candidate Tan Kin Lian had said if elected, he would aim for a more conservative approach in investing Singapore's assets, and suggested publishing an annual report on Singapore's reserves.
Dr Tan Cheng Bock, also a potential contender, said that if elected, he would scrutinise the appointment of top leaders, and work with the government of the day to protect Singapore's reserves.
Yesterday, Prof Jayakumar said the President does have some discretionary custodial powers, mainly in the protection of reserves and key appointments, and some custodial powers in ISA detentions, CPIB investigations and Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act restraining orders.
But even in those few areas, the President has no power to initiate decisions or policy. He only has blocking powers. In all other areas, the President under the Constitution must act on the advice of the Cabinet.
Said Prof Jayakumar: "That is the clear legal position. So I think it is good that all Singaporeans, especially candidates, are very clear about what exactly the role of the President is. I say that because I do worry that otherwise there may be wrong expectations about the role of the President and we should avoid that." S RAMESH