Category: Branches of government

Return of Judicial Power: Religious Freedom and the Tussle over Jurisdictional Boundaries in Malaysia (I-CONnect Column) by Jaclyn L. Neo

Palace of Justice, Putrajaya by Trebz [CC0], via the Wikimedia Commons.

The following post, written by Dr. Jaclyn L. Neo, was published on I-CONnect Blog on 15 March 2018. While it examines judicial power and amendments in Malaysia, the judgment makes extensive reference to developments in Singapore concerning judicial power and the basic structure doctrine. The Malaysian Federal Court held that judicial power, particularly the power of judicial review, is part of the basic structure of the Malaysian constitution. While it did not strike down the amendments that sought to remove judicial power, it nonetheless used the idea of a basic structure to limit the scope of the amendments. The Malaysian judgment thus offers important insights into the doctrinal possibilities of a basic structure.

http://www.iconnectblog.com/2018/03/return-of-judicial-power-religious-freedom-and-the-tussle-over-jurisdictional-boundaries-in-malaysia-i-connect-column/

Roachgate – No Constitutional Crisis

Chinese Punishment, Whipping a Lawbreaker (c 1900)

A c 1900 photograph of a Chinese criminal being beaten on the buttocks with a stick as a punishment. ([CC BY 2.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Olivine Lin
Lecturer, Law Programmes
School of Law
Singapore University of Social Sciences

Many Singaporeans accessing the day’s news feeds on 20 February 2018 as they sipped their afternoon kopi probably found themselves simultaneously baffled and affronted by the news that “Singapore agrees to UK request to not cane suspect if found guilty”.[1]

Baffled – because the American government had tried unsuccessfully many years ago to pressurise Singapore into agreeing not to acquaint the rear end of one of its citizens, a young delinquent known as Michael Fay, with the blunt end of a rotan, but plucky little Singapore stood its ground firmly and went on to cane the vandal. Had Singapore and her vaunted principles and values changed so much in the intervening years? Continue reading

Towards a “Thin” Basic Structure Doctrine in Singapore (I-CONnect Column) by Jaclyn L. Neo

The Limits of Prosecutorial Discretion

Attorney-General's Chambers, Singapore

The Attorney-General’s Chambers, Singapore. (By Sgconlaw, CC BY-SA 3.0, via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Marcus Teo
Fourth-year LLB student
Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

IN A RECENT opinion piece published in The Straits Times,[1] Professor Walter Woon examined the role and functions of the Attorney-General (“AG”) and argued that the AG’s independence should be strengthened, among other ways, by separating the AG’s current function as a legal advisor to the government from his prosecutorial function. With respect to the latter, Professor Woon reminds us that decisions to prosecute or not involve a “judgment call”, and that “[t]here are many reasons why a decision may be taken not to prosecute.” However, such decisions have serious consequences for accused persons, victims of crimes, and the public. Continue reading

Tan Cheng Bock’s Constitutional Challenge: Who is the First Elected President?

Dr Tan Cheng Bock at the nomination centre during the 2011 presidential election, 17 August 2011

Dr Tan Cheng Bock at the nomination centre during the 2011 presidential election on 17 August 2011. (By Tdxiang (Tan Ding Xiang) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Samuel Ling
LLB (National University of Singapore) (2017)
Guest student contributor

In May, Dr Tan Cheng Bock filed an application to determine, among other things, how the hiatus-triggered reserved election would be administered. His application was dismissed by the High Court on 7 July 2017. As Dr Tan’s appeal heads to the Court of Appeal this Monday (31 July), this post discusses his primary challenge to constitutional reforms. Continue reading

From Eligibility to Election: The Mechanics of the Presidential Poll

320px-poll_card_28reverse292c_singapore_presidential_election_-_20110827-02

The reverse of a poll card issued for the presidential election in 2011. (By Jack Lee [public domain or CC BY-SA 3.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

ON 9 NOVEMBER 2016, Parliament enacted the most significant constitutional amendment in the 21st century thus far, making wide-ranging changes to the Elected Presidency scheme. These amendments were preceded by a detailed examination of aspects of the scheme by a Constitutional Commission chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon which rendered its report on 17 August,[1] and a white paper issued by the Government in response to the report on 15 September.[2]

Most of the debate on the constitutional amendment bill[3] that took place in Parliament on 8 and 9 November concerned major alterations that were proposed. These were the increase in the qualifying financial value of a company from $100 million to $500 million for a prospective candidate seeking a certificate of eligibility under what the Commission termed the private-sector qualifying office route,[4] and the introduction of elections from time to time reserved for members of particular minority communities.[5]

What should not be overlooked are the changes proposed and made to the mechanics for electing the President. Continue reading

Past Imperfect, Future Tense: The Elected Presidency and the Constitutional Development of an ‘Ever Evolving Hybrid’

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Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, drawn by his cousin Niels Christian Kierkegaard (via the Wikimedia Commons)

Thio Li-ann
Professor and Provost’s Chair
Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

SØREN KIERKEGAARD once said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” This sentiment reflects the evolution of the elected presidency (EP) as a facet of the development of the Singapore Constitution, not by judicial interpretation, but executive determination, within the context of a dominant party state. The development of the Constitution of Singapore in this manner is facilitated by the reality that constitutional amendment is a political and practical possibility.

The elected presidency was and is a unique constitutional experiment whose authors were determined to see it succeed, yet uncertain of how it would operate in practice. Its introduction was thought crucial to good governance, to check an untrammeled government, through pre-emptively instituting presidential ‘veto’ powers in relation to a limited range of primarily fiscal government decisions, providing a ‘second key’ to the national kitty. This was reflected in the strong entrenchment provisions that accompanied the institution, signifying its importance before it was tested. However flexibility was retained by not bringing into operation this special entrenchment regime. Instead, the institution could be modified following the general Article 5(2) procedure, which requires the support of a 2/3 parliamentary majority. The need to preserve the ability to refine the system reflects its experimental quality. Alarm has regularly been expressed where understandings contrary to the institutional design of its authors have been expressed (for example, by presidential candidates campaigning during elections), such as the opinion that the EP could operate as a second centre of political power, or that the EP could act in a proactive manner or in a publicly adversarial fashion vis-à-vis the government. Continue reading