NUS Law Professors & Students Invited to Present on the Elected Presidency before the Constitutional Commission

Professors and students from NUS Law have been invited to present their proposals on aspects of the Elected Presidency to the Constitutional Commission. This is only the second time a constitutional commission has been convened since Singapore’s independence to consider reforms to the constitutional system. The invited presenters had made written submissions to the commission and were selected from more than 100 written submissions.

The submissions, among 20 selected from over 100 written submissions, have been made by Assistant Professor Jaclyn Neo and Assistant Professor Swati Jhaveri, Adjunct Professor Dr Kevin Tan Y L, and second year law students Grace Teo Pei Rong, Carina Kam Zhi Qi, Amelia Chew Sihui, and Russell Wong Yung.

Assistant Professor (Dr.) Jaclyn Neo and Assistant Professor Swati Jhaveri made a joint submission and made oral submissions to the Constitutional Commission at a public hearing on 26 April 2016. Their submissions focused on the terms of reference on how to safeguard minority representation in the Presidency. They proposed that the office be changed into a three-person Council of Presidents, with the chairmanship rotated among the three elected members. In the alternative, the professors recommended that the election cycles be alternated such that candidates contesting in a present election cycle cannot be of the same ethnicity as that of the outgoing President. In addition, they suggested that a holistic approach be taken to ensure that members from minority groups are represented in the Council of Presidential Advisors, the Presidential Elections Committee, and the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.

Assistant Professor (Dr.) Jaclyn Neo and Assistant Professor Swati Jhaveri at the presentation. (Image courtesy of Yee Loong Chan)

Dr Tan made his oral submissions on 6th May 2016 and highlighted the possibility of returning to a system of appointing the President to ensure that Singapore has a minority President. Dr Tan also addressed issues relating to the eligibility criteria and their impact on the potential pool of candidates and the possibility of reflecting the expertise and competence of the current members of the Council of Presidential Advisors in criteria for the appointment of future members to the Council.

Second-year law students, Grace Teo, Carina Kam and Amelia Chew (appearing on behalf of the group) also presented on 6th May 2016. The students’ presentation discussed the need to proceed with caution in setting out hard rules relating to minority criteria for candidacy as a Presidential candidate. The students instead suggested taking a broad approach to multiracialism: they proposed the inclusion of criteria in the constitutional eligibility criteria (in addition to existing criteria) whereby a candidate must demonstrate their commitment to and ability to represent multiracial interests irrespective of their particular background.

News coverage on the oral presentations:
Constitutional Commission hearing on elected presidency: Submission by Jaclyn Neo and Swati Jhaveri
Do people vote along racial lines? The Constitutional Commission hears differing views
'Minority-only contest would send wrong signal'
Appointing a president is 'best way to ensure minority representation': Constitutional law academic Kevin Tan