05 July 2011

Powers of the Singapore President

With the Singapore Presidential Elections around the corner, I decided to see if the Singapore President is really as powerless as is often believed.

 I was pleasantly surprised by what the Constitution contains.  If the President wants to make a credible job of earning his keep, he in fact has the constitutional power to do a number of things.  It is already well known that he is supposed to safeguard the reserves.   What I was not aware is that he also has veto power over the appointments and budgets of statutory boards and Government companies.  Even more importantly, he can veto detention or further detentions under »Part XII of the Constitution.  This would include detention without trial, a colonial remnant still retained in Singapore and Malaysia laws.

So, there are perfectly good reasons to choose your candidate carefully.  Did you also know that the President enjoys immunity from suit for actions arising from his official capacity?   This immunity can only trumped by a tribunal convened by the Parliament against him.

For those who enjoy legalese, below is the overview paragraph of the President's functions.  The right to grant pardon from the death penalty is not there, because it is in paragraph 22P.  I will discuss 22P in a separate post because its language and recent events left me confused as to the exact powers of the President.


Discharge and performance of functions of President

21. —(1) Except as provided by this Constitution, the President shall, in the exercise of his functions under this Constitution or any other written law, act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet.

(2) The President may act in his discretion in the performance of the following functions:

(a) the appointment of the Prime Minister in accordance with Article 25;

(b) the withholding of consent to a request for a dissolution of Parliament;

(c) the withholding of assent to any Bill under Article *5A, 22E, 22H, 144 (2) or 148A;

*Article 5A was not in operation at the date of this Reprint.

(d) the withholding of concurrence under Article 144 to any guarantee or loan to be given or raised by the Government;

(e) the withholding of concurrence and approval to the appointments and budgets of the statutory boards and Government companies to which Articles 22A and 22C, respectively, apply;

(f) the disapproval of transactions referred to in Article 22B (7), 22D (6) or 148G;

(g) the withholding of concurrence under Article 151 (4) in relation to the detention or further detention of any person under any law or ordinance made or promulgated in pursuance of Part XII;

(h) the exercise of his functions under section 12 of the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (Cap. 167A); and

(i) any other function the performance of which the President is authorised by this Constitution to act in his discretion.

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