Tagged: Constitution of Singapore

Wielding “Real Power” to Disagree: Amendments to the Council of Presidential Advisers Framework

The Istana, Singapore,

The Istana, which is the official residence of the President of Singapore. (By Sengkang [copyrighted free use], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Benedict Chan Wei Qi
Third-year LLB undergraduate
School of Law, SMU

THE RECOMMENDATIONS of the Constitutional Commission on the Elected Presidency have generated much national debate even before they are tabled before Parliament. While the spotlight has largely been on the recommendations relating to securing minority representation in the nation’s highest office, perhaps we should also pay heed to the wise men and women behind the decisions of the Elected President – the Council of Presidential Advisors (“CPA”).

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Who Is an Elected President?

President S. R. Nathan on 31 December 2006

President S R Nathan (1924–2016). (Photographed in December 2006 by Calvin Teo, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via the Wikimedia Commons.)

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

REPORTING the death of former President S R Nathan at the age of 92 on 22 August 2016, The Straits Times of 23 August stated in the first paragraph on its front page that he was “Singapore’s first elected and longest-serving president”.[1]

It was soon pointed out that the first presidential election was held in 1993 and led to Ong Teng Cheong being elected to the highest office in the land. (ST couldn’t change its print edition, of course, but did update its website by removing the words first elected and, and publish a correction in the next day’s newspaper.)[2]

However, some have questioned whether Nathan can be regarded as having been ‘elected’ at all, since the 1999 and 2005 elections he had participated in had been walkovers – he had been the only candidate declared eligible by the Presidential Elections Committee.

This raises an interesting question: who can be considered an elected President?

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Magna Carta Then and Now: A Symbol of Freedom and Equal Rights for All

1217 Magna Carta (replica)

A replica of Hereford Cathedral‘s 1217 version of Magna Carta. The original was displayed at the Supreme Court of Singapore between 19 and 23 November 2015. (By Damien Chng.)

Eugene K B Tan
Associate Professor of Law

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

WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE and relevance of Magna Carta, an 800-year old handwritten sheepskin parchment that is currently on a world tour having been to New York City, Luxembourg, China (Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai), Hong Kong, and now Singapore?

Magna Carta was never intended as a “great charter” of people’s rights and liberties. In fact, when it was first created on June 15, 1215, it was essentially a peace treaty warding off a civil war. Continue reading

The Constitutional Status of the Proclamation of Singapore

Proclamation of Singapore

The Proclamation of Singapore, signed by Lee Kuan Yew on 9 August 1965. (From the National Archives of Singapore, archived in the Internet Archives.)

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

THIS MORNING at 9:00 am, a 2012 audio recording of the Proclamation of Singapore by the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was broadcast on radio and television. It was on this day half a century ago that Singapore declared its independence from the Federation of Malaysia. Back then, the proclamation was read by a Radio Singapore announcer as Lee had “too many other things to do in quick succession”, including the famous noon press conference at which he teared up. Continue reading

Conference announcement: Judging the Constitution: The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Interpretation in Singapore

Your public law professors are going to be speaking at a conference on 28 and 29 May 2015. Do register!

Judging the Constitution:
The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Interpretation in Singapore

28 and 29 May 2015

Moot Court

Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

(Bukit Timah Campus)

The recent increase in the number of constitutional law cases before the Singapore courts signals a shift in the legal and political culture of Singapore. There appears to be an increasing willingness for citizens to challenge the state, and for judges to engage with constitutional ideas and norms in adjudicating between citizens and the state. In light of these developments, this conference brings together constitutional scholars to reflect on evolving judicial approaches to constitutional interpretation in Singapore. Continue reading

Protecting Human Rights: The Approach of the Singapore Courts

Article 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Revised Edition, 1999 Reprint)

Article 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Revised Edition, 1999 Reprint). (Photograph by Smuconlaw [CC-BY-SA-4.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.) The Constitution is the supreme law of Singapore, but have the courts unnecessarily limited their role of upholding the Constitution?

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

THE SINGAPORE COURTS have been taking an approach that is very deferential to the political branches of the government – the executive and the legislature. This doesn’t mean that they are deliberately biased in favour of these branches, for example because they have been induced to do so. It means that there is a judicial attitude of giving the political branches much leeway, assuming that action taken by the executive or legislation passed by Parliament is constitutional unless such acts are completely absurd or arbitrary.

This extremely high standard stems from the courts’ view of their role in the constitutional system. I would like to suggest that this view means that the courts have limited their role of upholding the Constitution[1] unnecessarily. Continue reading

Should Constitutional Principles be Eternal?

Parliament House, Singapore

Parliament House, Singapore. (By Smuconlaw, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via the Wikimedia Commons.) Are there constitutional principles that are eternal, or should Parliament be able to amend all parts of the Constitution?

Jaclyn L Neo
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

IS THERE ANY part of the current constitutional order that can never be changed? More specifically, can an institution entrenched in the Constitution be eternal and unalterable under any condition?

These are questions raised in the article by senior law correspondent K. C. Vijayan (“Ending elected presidency may not work“; Sept 11).

Mr Vijayan cites a Law Gazette article arguing that the basic structure doctrine has been recognised in Singapore. Continue reading