President is not powerless
It appears that the letter writer is deeply confused. He says the president has neither the power nor the duty to publicly express his views and engage in day-to-day debate. But nowhere in the Constitution does it say the President cannot do so. There is no law which says the President must refrain from commenting.
The writer appears to be confused between what is mandated by the Constitution and what is not forbidden. There is no constitional requirement that all Singaporeans must eat 3 meals a day or drink water, yet most Singaporeans including the writer likely does so.
The writer then says if the President advances a position for or against the government, it would count as taking a partisan stand.
Unfortunately none other than incumbent President SR Nathan has expressed support and admiration for the Government’s policies, so does that mean, as per the letter writer, that President Nathan was politicizing the office of EP?
From the above I quote:
Mr Nathan said: “One of the things you must remember is that with all these gripes that you hear, people forget how we have arrived to this stage in our country.
“Could it have been done without the government? That’s my question. Much has been achieved. There are probably faults that have to be remedied, but we just can’t distance ourselves from the government.”
So the question here is, going by the writer’s arguments was President Nathan politicising the office of EP when he made those comments?
Update:It appears that President, in 2009 had made remarks which appeared to endorse the Government’s budget. From myPaper Make use of Budget to spur business, says President, 28th Jan 2009:
THE Government has acted to soften the impact of the economic slump with a “significantly expansionary” Budget.
Many aspects of it are focused on helping companies cut costs and workers to retrain as a way of upgrading themselves and to save their jobs, President S R Nathan told a group of businessmen from the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) at a Chinese New Year gathering on Sunday.
So why was President SR Nathan involved with selling the Budget, if the office of EP is not supposed to comment for or against government initiatives?
Apart from President SR Nathan, presidential candidate Dr Tony Tan has also conceded that while the president does not occupy a separate sphere of power, he is “not without the capability to make changes”.
Post-GE politics is the new normal: Tony Tan The Straits Times 16th July 2011:
He noted that while the president is not a separate centre of power and does not have much executive power, he has a certain amount of influence as he has legitimacy from being directly elected by the people.
“In defence terms, you might describe this as soft power, not hard power,” he said, referring to the term coined by American political scientist Joseph Nye.
As such, the president is “not without the capability to make changes”, said Dr Tan.
“How he makes changes depends on his personality and style of working. Obviously if he wants to do anything effectively, he must have the respect of the Government and ministers and work with them. He must also consult widely with all sections of society,” he said.
So it appears that none of the candidates, not even Dr Tony Tan himself would agree with the writer’s insinuation that the president has no power over and above what is set out in the Constitution.