In a high power forum chaired my Professor Tommy Koh, and with two key speakers in Law Minister K Shanmugam and Professor Thio Li Ann, the Law Minister repeated his position that the Elected President is not to be heard, or cannot express any views unless approved by the Govt. He said, ‘It is quite clear the president has no such power and that was not the role that was envisaged for the president.’ ‘The president,’ he added, ‘can speak on issues only as authorised by the Cabinet; and he must follow the advice of the Cabinet in the discharge of his duties.’
The only time the president can wield some influence on the PM is if he is on good terms with him, or if the PM finds him amiable and willing to listen to him. It is not the other way, that you have a president and the PM try to be nice to him and listen to him. Thus, a President that is pally pally with the govt is in a better position to be listened to by the govt. So the people should know who to vote if they want a president that can have influence on the govt.
What if the people want a president that does not need to be nice to the PM or the govt and want him to be firm and be ready to say no to the govt, should they then vote for someone that is more distant from the govt? To influence the govt or to check on the govt are two distinct roles that require quite a different character in the president.
But my main point is not all of these as they are immaterial. In more probability the president will have nothing of crisis level to do and spend his time writing his memoirs or raising funds for the disabled or shaking hands and waving at the crowd during NDP. Occasionally he may try to visit other countries to improve relations and trade. I am not sure that this is part of his portfolio, or if he is being advised by the govt to do so. Or maybe he is trying to give the Trade Minister a helping hand since he is not allowed to talk freely.
For such a role, do we need a president that should be as good as a permanent secretary, a chief justice material, or someone who manages a $100m paid up capital country when the PM and his ministers need not be that highly qualified? A butcher or a gardener can also be our PM under our constitution. And this must be the best part, the gardener PM is going to advise this high power president what to say and do. Does the country really need to pay him so many millions to perform such a role?
What is needed perhaps is a person of good conduct, dignified, good looking and respectable, and be given an honourarium of $500k per annum max. Of course a little commonsense and a tertiary education should be good enough as he would be advised by the Presidential Council and also the govt on what to do and what to say. No need to sweat the small stuff to find a super super talent and to pay him obscenely for the nature of the job. He may end up more dignified than the gardener PM who is going to tell him what to do.
Please feel free to disagree with me. If you don’t I will like to recommend some of the better and dignified looking Media Corp actors for the job. I am sure the people will love to shake their hands and feel good when they looked good standing side by side with kings and queens.