Singapore passes constitutional amendment for president and ministers to take international roles if in the national interest

By Goh Yan Han, 24 November 2023
Flag of Singapore (photo credit: TheDigitalArtist via pixabay)
Flag of Singapore (photo credit: TheDigitalArtist via pixabay)
Parliament on Nov 22 passed a Bill to create a framework in the Constitution for the president and ministers to take on international appointments in their private capacities, if it is in line with national interests. Presenting the Bill for debate, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said there is value for Singapore’s president to be on some international bodies, but the present arrangement where the Republic’s top diplomat can serve in international appointments only in his official capacity limits him to representing the country’s official position in everything he says. [...] “This Bill allows (the president) to express private views but still serve in the national interest, doing duties that are integral and part and parcel of presidential duties,” said DPM Wong. President Tharman Shanmugaratnam currently holds four international appointments – chairman of the board of trustees of the Group of Thirty; member of the World Economic Forum’s board of trustees; co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water; and co-chair of the Advisory Board for the United Nations Human Development Report. [...] DPM Wong said the Cabinet had deliberated over allowing Mr Tharman to continue holding his international appointments in his official capacity after he was elected, as it had been done before. Former president Tony Tan Keng Yam was a member of the honorary senate of the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings while he was in office. [...] In assessing invitations for the president to take on international appointments, the Cabinet will consider the commitments expected by the role, such as the meeting load and travel demands, said DPM Wong. “This will ensure that the president’s holding of these roles remains to Singapore’s benefit and will not in any way affect his ability to exercise the rest of his constitutional duties,” he said. “The prime minister will likewise do the same for roles involving ministers.” DPM Wong also answered MPs’ questions on how the Government defines whether such roles are in the national interest. In general, taking on such a post should be helpful in advancing Singapore’s standing and interest on the international stage, and offer benefits to Singapore as a whole or the government agency overseeing the sector that organisation operates in. [...] The Bill was passed with Workers’ Party and Progress Singapore Party MPs recording their dissent.
Read the full article here: Straits Times


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