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Race still a factor in elections: PM Lee

Monday, August 22, 2016 - 00:17

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong underlined the need to review the elected presidency during his National Day Rally on Sunday.

In January, a Constitutional Commission was appointed to review various aspects of the elected presidency.

The three areas under review were: to consider how the president can give more weight to the advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA), to update the criteria for someone to be a candidate for president, and to ensure that minorities regularly have a chance to become president.

Where the third area is concerned, Mr Lee said: "We need a safeguard to ensure that from time to time a minority - a Malay, Indian or Eurasian, a non-Chinese Singaporean - becomes president.

"Because this is a multiracial society. Multiracialism is the fundamental reason why we became a nation in the first place."

While Mr Lee noted the progress Singapore has made in becoming one people over the course of 50 years, he also said that race is still a factor in elections.

"Other things being equal, a minority candidate is at a disadvantage. It is the same in other multiracial societies," he said.

He made this point in his prepared remarks for his National Day Rally speech. Portions of his speech were not verbally delivered, as Mr Lee had taken ill midway through it on Sunday night. The rally was suspended for slightly over an hour before it resumed at 10.40pm.

According to Mr Lee, the Constitutional Commission has proposed a mechanism to make sure that from time to time, Singapore has a minority president.

The commission had submitted its report on the elected presidency to the prime minister last week.

"We are still studying the report and will release it soon. In principle, we accept its main recommendations. Thereafter we will publish a White Paper on how exactly we will make the changes," Mr Lee said.

"Then we will table a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament. When the Bill comes up for the Second Reading we will have a full debate."