a community of singaporeans

Defining the role of government and its component branches

Posted by theonlinecitizen on June 29, 2007

By Teh Kok Hua

The Constitution usually sets out the basic rights of citizens and defines the role of government and its component branches.

The constitution of Singapore however has not established or clearly defined the respective rights of citizens and government.

This has allowed the government of the day to interpret its provisions to suit its own convenience, circumventing the rights of citizens and usurping the powers of the other component branches to suit its own private agenda e.g. tweaking of right of citizens to choose the representatives of their free choice to Greater Representation Constituency.

This denies citizens their right to vote for the individuals of their choice as candidates are required to form themselves into blocks or slates of representatives with others before they could offer themselves to stand for election.

Lack of clear definition of roles

Group representations have deprived the right of citizens to stand for election in the universal electoral one-man-one-vote process provided in the constitution allowing the party in power to supersede the basic right of citizens to elect their representatives freely or offer themselves as candidate for election in the democratic election process.

In addition, there is a lack of clear definition of roles, authority and responsibilities of the respective branches of government resulting in a situation where the executive is able to use administrative power to supersede or suppress the right of other branches of government therefore depriving the citizens of their right of representation.

It is therefore urgent to prevent the government of the day from exploiting the loopholes created by the lack of clear definitions of roles, authority and responsibilities of component branches of the government.

Development of active citizenship

By defining the roles and authority of component branches of government clearly it will then create the necessary conditions for development of social, cultural and moral character and vibrancy of its people essential to development of nationhood in the long-term interest of the nation.

Only when there is proper safeguard against abuse of power over the other equally desirable aspects of nation building will it bring about the necessary conditions supportive of development of active citizenship.

While it has often been argued that government has the right to maintain law and order to bring about necessary conducive conditions to attract investments and stable growth, the government has often overlooked the equally important, if not more critical, aspects such as facilitating the development of active citizenship, mass participation in good corporate governance to prevent abuse of power, corruptions or wrong doings and creative economic development of the nation.

Consequences of over-controls

In the absence of such clear definition it will lead to over-controls, over-regulations, autocracy, tyranny with government being run on bureaucracy and legalistic wrangling of laws and regulations to suit the convenience or pragmatism at the expense of larger aspects of nation building and the stifling of creativity and enterprises of society.

In the larger long-term interest of the state or the people, it is therefore critical and urgent to revise and overhaul the current constitution so as to bring about conducive conditions towards governing the country for the greatest good for the greatest number.

Basic principles of good government

To do so it is essential to maintain clear overview of the basic principles or objectives of good Government.

To run a country competitively and successfully, it is essential that the government should be elected by the people through free elections, with each citizen being given the unalienable and unencumbered right to elect the best individual candidates of their free choice without coercion or tampering of such free and democratic election process.

The government is elected to carry out the following essential functions:-

(1) administration,
(2) legislation – passing of laws and regulations for fair and just administration,
(2) justice,
(3) free and unencumbered right of citizens to elect representatives or offer themselves as candidates to stand for election,
(4) implementing policies and decisions in objectively defined work processes to ensure good corporate governance where all decisions and policies are carried out with accountability and responsibility essential to development of citizens’ social, cultural and economic vibrancy and competitiveness.

Specifically the constitution should clearly define (a) An effective executive, (b) Independent legislature, (c) An independent judiciary.

Each of the above-stated three component branches of government has its own critical roles and responsibilities to play. By spelling out such roles and responsibilities as well as power or authority it will then lead of development of good corporate governance to serve the greatest benefits of the greatest number.

When such a constitution is established, it is then possible to bring about condition for citizens and government to work in cooperation, and with coordination and efficiency. All government policies and decisions will then gain the fullest support and participation of its citizens in nation building.

Too much discretionary power

The current vagueness due to lack of clear definition of rights and privileges of citizens and component branches of government has created a situation where the executive has accumulated too much discretionary power to pass laws and regulations to suit its own narrow agendas, avoiding accountability and curtailing people’s right to speak up, and participate in governing policies, appointments of government etc.

With such vague and uncertain constitution will the government be able to bring about a cosmopolitan and inclusive society? Will it govern the nation for the greatest good of the greatest number?

Or will it continue to govern the country by taxing and recovering costs of government from the citizens to the fullest extent, resulting in taxes being accumulated as surpluses for spending on extravagant projects like the 7 wonders or shin corp.

It is obviously more critical to find a balance between the need for law and order and facilitating the conditions for full and uninhibited participation by the citizens in good corporate governance essential to a competitive and vibrant development of nationhood.


4 Responses to “Defining the role of government and its component branches”

  1. Singaporeans can not do any action but can just voice their opinions on any subject matter in forums and blogs. PAP has two third majority, so any opposition views to alter any law will be shot down. This is the PAP pride to radicule the oppositions.
    They might adopt the policy later but said it is their own. Chiam See Tong many times voiced the need for more libraries. He was alway shot down in parliament, but PAP built many branches to cater to all Singaporeans. Do the PAP praise Chiam for his view ?
    I have many opinions in my websites and the government is implementing some of my view or other people similar views and opinions.
    Do PAP thank us for making our views known ?

  2. In the east was a little red dot,

    A one-man-one-vote democracy,

    Where good men elected by citizens

    To protect them against injustice and inequity,

    To serve the people with humility,

    Alas these men when given opportunity,

    Became arrogant and talked about own talent

    They tweaked the laws to give them power,

    And became haughty and **@#ey,

    Gave themselves the highest salaries,

    Benchmarked against few lucky CEOs,

    Not satisfied with world’s highest salaries,

    That surpass president of United States,

    The bill collectors wanted even higher salaries,

    Paid themselves bonuses and life-long fees,

    Double salaries for working while retiring,

    They tax, double tax without services,

    Keeping taxes as idle surpluses,

    Which they boasted as their success,

    They said voting will lead to freak election,

    So they twisted the voting process,

    By making candidates stand in GRC

    In blocks of 3 or 4 to stand for election,

    Claiming GRC would create racial harmony,

    Actually it was to block anyone from the hustling,

    With power, they passed laws to control the press,

    Sued anyone for speaking unpleasant truths,

    Till no one candidate stands on election day,

    Election became a farce for erection of banners,

    To declare walk over constituency after constituency,

    Some rebates were given on conservancy,

    To pacify peasants and potential rebel,

    But once no-contest election is over,

    GST and fees would increase to no end,

    Low-cost public housing on people’s lands,

    Charged at market price less discount called subsidy,

    Forever taxes with all costs recovered from fee increases,

    State-controlled media reported only good news,

    Created unending NKF, suzhou or shin corp,

    The self-proclaimed talents would deny problems,

    As honest mistakes, or long investments,

    Come election, goodies will take care of unhappy memories,

    Integrated resort was built over dead body,

    To drown out woes in restructuring of economy,

    Mass unemployed wages dropped to third world,

    Problems were compared with some worse countries,

    Forgetting failed promises and proclaimed talents,

    Over and over they pushed away mistakes,

    Blamed them on people’s lack of skills,

    Calling them quitters and grousers,

    This was the story of the little red dot,

    People were told it was a forever success,

    A tale of self-serving bigotry and hypocrisy.

  3. Here is one for general information:-

    An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger.

    Better be a free bird than a captive king.

    Better free in a foreign land than a slave at home.

    Courage in war is safer than cowardice.

    Cursed is he who doth his office craftily, corruptly or maliciously.

    Divide and rule.

    Even war is better than a wretched peace.

    Every man for himself.

    Every man is master in his own house.

    Fight fire with fire.

    Forewarned is forearmed.

    From prudence peace from peace abundance.

    Give me liberty or give me death.

    Good fences make good neighbours.

    Good kings never make war but for the sake of peace.

    He that is hated by his subjects cannot be king.

    He that makes himself a sheep shall be eaten by the wolf.

    He who demands does not command.

    Little is done when many command.

    Might is right.

    No government can be long secure without a formidable opposition.

    Old politicians chew on wisdom past.

    One man with courage makes the majority.

    One peace is better than ten victories.

    Oppression causes rebellion.

    Peace flourishes when reason rules.

    Power goes before talent.

    Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Reform that you may prosper.

    The ballot is stronger than the bullet.

    The best government is that which governs least.

    The cause finds arms.

    The fear of war is worse than war itself.

    The first duty of a soldier is obedience.

    The hearts of people are the only legitimate foundations of empire.

    The mob has many heads but no brains.

    The office shows the man.

    The race is not to the shift nor the battle to the strong.

    The right divine to govern wrong.

    The subjects’ love is the king’s best guard.

    The tree of liberty grows only when watered by the blood of tyrants.

    The unbought loyalty of men is the cheap defence of nations.

    The voice of the people is the voice of God.

    There is no little enemy.

    There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder.

    They that govern most make least noise.

    To grow proud in office is the nature of man.

    Tyranny is far the worse treason.

    United we stand, divided we fall.

    War makes robbers, and peace hangs them.

    When what you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    When power puts in its plea, the laws are silent.

    When the cause is just, the small conquers the great.

    Who fills the office must learn to bear reproach and blames.

    Who loves peace serves God.

    Who obtains an office surreptitiously will administer it like a fox.

    Who shall keep the keepers ?

  4. Why lament ?
    The world is a stage
    We are only actors

    Keep the mind in a neutral state.
    Think neither good nor evil.
    This is the supreme solution.

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