Need for checks and balances
Straits Times. Jan 22, 1998
NOMINATED MP Simon Tay, argued , that the present economic difficulties highlighted the needs for checks and balances in the political system.
Speaking on political and social issues at yesterday's Institute of Policy Studies Year in Review conference, the senior law lecturer at the National University of Singapore said the large electoral victory, and the government's actions against political opponents and critics, left the People's Action Party (PAP) with few political opponents in parliament, and very few public critics.
He asked: "Can a system of governance keep itself going and keep itself 'good' without political competition and external, public checks?"
Checks, he said, had come from within the PAP and the courts last year. "But from my perspective, perhaps the biggest check on the government in 1997 was noticeable by its absence," he said, referring to the Elected President's (EP) role in approving the recent billion-dollar loans by the Singapore government to Indonesia and Thailand.
He said he did not disagree with the decision to make the loans, but said: "I think many of us questioned the process of making that decision."
The Government took the position that Presidential assent was either unnecessary, or was to be inferred from decisions of non-elected presidents in the past to allow for investments, he said.
If the EP served as one part of the executive checking on the other, he said, then what happened last year "sets a bad precedent".
There seemed to be a serious gap in the system, he said, adding: "If the Indonesian loans go bad, then public questions will escalate."