Tribute to Special Women on Mother’s Day 2017

Gone forever from my life now are

The mothers and women who loved me most

During their life,

Granny, Mother and wife Rosie.

My life wanders, lingering on alone

In a world still mourning the loss

Of its greatest human treasures.


Mother left first, a year after surviving stroke.

Rosie fought for 2 years against the cancer scourge

Before the good Lord took her to rest with Him.

I remember the springtime Granny died;

It was a beautiful sunny springday in 2003.

After 101 years, 6 children, 20 grandchildren,

And 28 great-grandchildren.

A line of 54 offsprings over a blessed century well-lived.


Today, timeless memories rush in

Bringing loving moments of joy,

Recalling the joyous moments of love.

I remembered

They held my hands guiding me

through life’s unseen dangers,

And grow me to be a man.

They gave completely of themselves;

Unconditional without hesitation,

Or thoughts of gain and self.

Expecting nothing in return;

Only to love in their turn.


They taught me life’s

Most important great lessons:

That to love brings to others

The key to the gates of happiness,

And to be loved gives

Meaning and purpose to life.

I know as I shall look back each day,

The moments truly lived have been

With those I have loved

And those who also loved me.


Love returned in 2012 when Pingping

Nurtures in me the courage

To be loved as love first found me.

Her love strengthens me,

As we walk in joyful matrimony through

The valleys in the deep shadow of life.

I shall never walk alone again,

As the spirit of love returned to my heart.


Love has found me once more,

Living the legacy of  three mothers,

Testifying a time

When the essence of love

Flows from their hearts,

Creating the beauty in their souls.


On this mother’s day 2017,

May they rest in peace in wait

For our meet at the special place in my heart,

Where we shall embrace again

And walk together through eternity

To the end of the times.


© 2017  Michael Heng

Dedicated to the special women who love me

Lessons from my Father after his death


Reflections on After Death:

By mikowise


May Day 2017.  The night before, Father passed on from this life. Death consumed him quietly after a full dinner as he rested; shutting down his lungs, his breathing ceased and finally his heart stopped. At a full life of 90-years old, Father was ready; and has been ready for quite a while since Mother succumbed to her stroke which paralysed her for over a year some 17 years ago.  Their blissful life was survived by 6 children, 6 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren! What a blessed life indeed!

Death is personal and customised for each one of us.  It accompanies us like a personal shadow, growing as we grow, and at time looming larger or taller depending on the role it chooses as our alternate self. Death’s only story is the story of our life. It has no separate meaning other than whatever we have made with our life.  We are death’s only friend; that’s why it is often confusing as we hear its voice beckoned so welcoming when our time cometh as we then struggle to prolong our earthly time by grasping at the straw of a diminishing life.

The fear of death is quite exaggerated, and unfounded, when to die is actually perfectly normal.  All natural living things die.  It is such an important part of the natural process.  Death is many things to different people who prefer not to talk or think about it.  Like it or not, though most of us do not like it, it is more like we do not like its often uncertain timing.  If only we can choose when to die, wouldn’t that be great!

The main problem is that most people are not ready to die. Yet, most would live their life as if death would not occur.  We know life is short, and yet we rush through it without spending quality time to appreciate the beauty of nature or create meaningful moments with our loved ones.  Many eat the wrong diets that shorten our short life-span; others repeatedly poison their bodies with tobacco and nicotine; or regularly drown their stomach, livers and kidneys in alcoholic beverages; and millions others are addicted to consume strange chemicals in the forms of vitamin-substitutes, health “supplements” and man-made medicines. Ironically, death probably never works harder to prevent the onset of massive and pandemic premature human deaths that should otherwise occur as a natural consequence of mankind suicidal life-styles!

Death is also romanticised by a spiritual interpretation.  Many man-made religions teach death as the separation of the imagined human “soul” from the physical body, and which goes on living somewhere forever … to “heaven” if one has been “good”, to “hell” if he/she has been “bad” or to a “holding” location to be determined by some “gods” or divine beings.  Some religious beliefs would “recycle” the dead back to this world to provide another opportunity for them to live a “better” life … why not send them back to a better version of this world, I wonder?!  Who indeed would want to come back to this wretched broken world again …!

There is no evidence that the probabilistic existence of “heaven” and “hell”, or “recycling” for a better life, has any effect on criminal behavior or better civic treatment of fellow human beings or more socially responsible behavior in the community.  My take is that everyone knew that no one is really “good” enough to go to heaven … everyone irrespective of our jobs or station in life is guilty of insufficient “good” deeds to qualify for that hallowed “heaven” place.  We are all condemned by the good that we failed to do! That would leave “hell” as the common final destination for the human souls; this is really comforting since many friends, buddies, and enemies, would therefore be re-united after death.

The notion of the “afterlife” is a denial of death being the end of life.  People are just not ready to leave their loved ones, or to stop enjoying their daily golf games or to cease having their party fun. Others are really happy growing their businesses, increasing personal wealth and prosperity way beyond their need to fuel a greater sense of security and enhance their happiness assets.  To many, the “afterlife” is necessary in order to be truly human. For them, life is a path that must lead somewhere, anywhere … as long as it does not just end!

The thought of a continuing life beyond death, especially if it be the “heavens”, is seductive and attractive. Some refer to this as the “eternal” life promised by some man-made religions. Indeed, if the “eternal” life awaits us in the “afterlife”, what then is the value of living the present life?  Should not this current life be best shortened so that as many as possible could proceed to the better life hereafter?  Imagine the tremendous benefits resulted in terms of reducing the exploding global population, hereby easing the over-exploitation of earth’s non-renewable resources and making abundant again opportunities for better health, jobs, education and social interaction.  The one billion children who go to bed hungry daily would just become history quickly, if only those who believe in the “eternal afterlife” prepare to depart and embark to their next life as soon as possible!

For the millions who believe in the happier, more joyous and substantially more satisfying “afterlife”, death is no longer relevant or material.  On any day of their choosing, their spirits can enter the “heavens” as they race across the finish line of this life to enter “heaven’s” pearly gates for another journey perhaps into the life hereafter.  The “afterlife” could very well be just another journey, in an endless series of never-ending journeys.  When would it all end, I wonder?

When shall we reach the “everlasting” life, our final rest where we no longer have to face the pains and frustrations of disappointments and betrayals, of unfulfilled promises by failing man-made Gods and gods, of unrequited love and gratitude forlorn, and of social exploitation and economic deprivation?  I found no answer here.

Death does not deserve our worthy consideration.  The loss of life and consciousness, followed by the systematic shutdown of vital organs as life’s important energy is drained as it is slowly enveloped by death is a picture of abject indignity.  Flesh shall turn to dust and bones shall turn to stick or be crushed into powder. The mouth opens but no sounds can come forth. The body as a shell for the soul is exposed; empty now, it awaits to return as dust to dust.

Death is truly exaggerated, as I have said in the beginning.  No one needs to fear death. Death is irrelevant to life.  Death is but a necessary station along life’s journey.  For most people, it’s the end of their journey; for others merely the beginning of their next journey; and still others, just a pit-stop before recycling through this life again.  Death as a necessary milestone cannot be conquered.

We should not feel less afraid to die, whatever we believe.  Truth is, after you are dead, you would not even know it!  Death is not the end of life.  It is an integral part of it.  Even as Father is lowered to be cremated, I was not thinking about his death. I celebrated his life in my mind, recalling memories of our moments together and he reminded me that we are blessed with life, that he was the one who blessed us with his life in the beginning.



2017 – Return of The Age of Singularity

In the Age of Singularity from 2017, there are only ONE Truth, only ONE Happiness, and only ONE Destiny.

by MIKOspace

Yesterday, an epoch ended, and another begins today.

Today, we enter the Age of Singularity once again.

For many only yesterday at the edge of hopelessness,

With others languishing in the throes

Of unbearable pain and intolerable wait;

Whereas many more think it to be the end of their times,

Apocalypse has been postponed forever

As the Age of Singularity returns.

Today, we shall leave the inhospitable past

To begin a fresh new journey to obtain

The certainty of Singularity hope.


This is the next stage in my life journey

Towards the destination at eternity’s edge

At the end of all the times

And to where time shall begin, again.


The past 366 days living at the edge of tomorrow,

And the 22,230 days of my life before today,

Were a continuous daily struggle in the ether of change and hope;

Navigating the pitfalls and milestones of errors,

Avoiding the tombstones of reluctant heroes,

To escape the end of otherwise meaningless existence.

As TS Eliot so aptly put in “Little Gidding” (1942):

“We shall not cease from exploration;

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time”.

The purposeful wandering toward truth is nature’s heroic method

Of the pilgrimage towards life’s inevitable destination,

Guided only by the longing of one’s heart.


2017 is an exceptional Year of unique Singularity;

It possesses the emergent power of “One”,

From 2017=(2+0+1+7)=10=(1+0)=1.

In Mathematics, “1” is an axiom as the self-evident truth;

Indeed, “1” exists as the very first self-evident truth without need for proof.

The Singularity “1” is thus Truth manifested.

2017 is also a Prime Number divisible only by itself and 1.

Prime numbers are the building blocks of numbers or knowledge,

And they exist independent of any logic or circumstances;

Basically, they are truths in themselves.


My past 22,230 days combines (2+2+2+3+0=9) into the number “9”

To signify the highest level of

Change and transformation happenings in 2017

From their unique confluence today and here forth.

Incidentally, the resultant “10” in 2017, (2+0+1+7=10),

Reveals the rebirth essence of the Age of the Singularity.

Further, ignoring “0” and assuming 1=A, 2=B, 3=C … 7=G,

2017 also translates into (B+A+G=Bag, or Baggage);

And so the Prime 2017 Singularity shall pack the inevitable baggage

Of the past into itself as the BAG;

All the paradox, ambiguity, chaos, absence and silence

That was central to the human condition,

Thus providing singular clarity with crystal vision

To empower a deeper understanding through the lens of its power of “1”.

In the Age of Singularity from 2017, there are only ONE Truth, only ONE Happiness, and only ONE Destiny.


There is only ONE Truth

The first Singularity appears at the time of creation.  It is the primordial force of the Big Bang to give life to mankind’s existence. Singularity repeatedly visits mankind throughout the ages to provide the light of truth so that we will live purposefully by choice, without any delusions and illusions of false religions, myths, superstitions, man-made beliefs, true lies and more half truths, or the false promises of competition and domination, man-made celestial hope and the empty promises of economic exploitation.

Into the Age of Singularity, I shall continue to pursue and promote truths beyond conflated myths, facts, and fiction, to discover the truth faith that bridges wherever there to here.   My faith has strengthen as unbelief and disbelief are debunked when knowledge and wisdom overcome the delusions and illusions of man-made religions.

I am forever amazed and baffled by fact that most of the faithful of the largest religions are among the most deprived, vulnerable, disadvantaged and poorest.  And that’s probably more than two-thirds of the world populations!

In the not so distant past, virgins were sacrificed to the Gods or lesser gods in order to assure a great harvest.  There must be times where such virgins were sacrificed without bringing the rain … repeatedly!  Yet, the hungry and famished survivors would continue to believe in their failing Gods and gods!  Stupidly, no one apparently learnt that for the Gods and gods to be relevant and deserving of whatever worship the priestly class demanded, they must deliver steady streams of tangible benefits in the forms of food, water, good health, peace, material wealth and community harmony.

Trust in your Gods and gods for whatever they are worthed, respect them but move on with your life.  Never be naïve and gullible to believe in the promises of Gods and gods fashioned by the hands of human priests and religious teachers who knew only too well the vast magnitude of broken and unanswered celestial and divine promises.  Cultivate a deep belief in yourself, period.

In the Age of Singularity, the light of Truth must overcome the darkness of blind faith and the delusions and illusions of man-made religions and philosophies.

Trusting in the power of “1” directs the Singularity to empower oneself to trust your own ability to separate right from wrong, truths from untruths and half-truths.  The Singularity “1” is a pragmatist, and does not listen to the random thoughts of others, only to your own inner voice.  “1” stands upright with pride, purpose and self-confidence, determined to achieve meaning and significance in the production of other numbers and knowledge in service beyond oneself.  It defines and embraces his own values and strives to transform dreams and ideas into reality by overcoming obstacles and human obstructions.  “1” is a focused pure energy for action, and in acting, it chooses to lead to bring him/herself and others towards the happiness of enlightenment outside and above human superstitions and delusions.

There is only ONE Happiness

In the Age of Singularity, we should re-visit our understanding of Happiness. The elusive Happiness has driven too many into a perpetually suspended state of incompleteness resulting from their endless and futile search for that golden joy.  We do not readily recognize or admit our own hypocrisy, selfishness and insincerity for the failure.  The frequent absence of love’s central role in the pursuit of true Happiness eludes our understanding.   And our minds turn to the more tangible stuff.

The material pursuit of “more” and “better” becomes quickly the justification for the pursuit of selfishness, thinly disguised as the noble accumulation of material wealth and prosperity in the hope of locating the happiness which satisfies the ultimate true meaning and purpose of life’s brief existence.

Expectantly and sadly, “more” and “better” did not deliver the promised Happiness.   The pursuit for life’s purpose hence degenerates into self-love as the end; which is quite inevitable really, having already availed and tasted the sweet addictive juice of the self as its sole and regular bedfellow.

In the Age of Singularity, we are mindful of the words of postmodern philosopher Richard Rorty in “Philosophy and Social Hope” (1999).   He had asserted that whereas “… there is a potential infinity of equally valuable ways to lead a human life, and these ways cannot be ranked in terms of degrees of excellence, but only in terms of their contribution to the happiness of the persons who lead them and of the communities to which these persons belong”.

The Singularity Truth is that true Happiness has always been within our grasp before us, just beyond the tip of our noses.  True happiness is found only through contributing to the enhancement of happiness and love in other people.  The knowledge of this Truth empowers us to break free in natural freedom to show care and concern from the privilege to love another human being.

Such is the eternal wisdom of Truth. The nourishing feeling of being loved feeds to drive the daily meaningless activities of work and existence.  True love is a privilege found in real Happiness which embraces much wonderful and silent pain at times.  True Happiness is forever a work-in-progress as we strive to increase its stock through love in the knowledge that the only happy response of being loved is really to love those who love us … as well as those who have not yet known us.

There is only ONE Destiny

Life’s journey is essentially a journey of love.  In the Age of Singularity, know the power of the “1” as you reach out beyond your grasp … to go where?  What is your destination where you will meet your destiny?  Has your life’s purpose degenerated into an end in itself?

“Insanity is when you continue to do things the same way and hope for a different set of outcome or results.” – Albert Einstein

In the Age of Singularity, we shall embark on an endless transformative journey with a mindset of exponential possibilities to create an abundant future. With like-minded people, we shall grow a network of Singularity alchemists in connected learning communities who create global impact from our inspiration of exponential possibilities to produce significant change for people, planet and the environment.

The Singularity mindset focuses on the abundant future as our goal, not just in the multiplication and fair distribution of material wealth but also the leverage and application of technology and human intellect to disrupt the status quo and unlock solutions to the challenges and prospects of achieving the one Truth and One Happiness.  Our satisfaction from True Happiness shall come entirely from our efforts and work more than from any sources real or imaginary or spiritual.

The event horizon of epic proportion for mankind arrives in 2017.  Exponential thinking for abundance will debunk and transform the ideas, thoughts and models of our religious beliefs, political systems and economic laws that have been founded upon the scarcity of resources to justify intolerable social systems of power and control to concentrate benefits and wealth in the hands of a few familities and their friends.  Convergence between some of the ideas are however possible with exponential and critical thinking.

In and from 2017, impossibilities shall become possible.  They just take a little bit of time.

We can question the Gods and gods;

Have peace without wars;

Joy without pain & sadness;

Abundance without poverty;

Living without sickness and disease;

Sharing without exploiting;

Collaboration without domination;

Loving without hurting or being hurt; and

To live exponentially like no tomorrow.

Yes, we can in the Age of Singularity by

Just a little consideration for others;

Just giving from what we have;

Just sharing a little more from our abundance;

Just be happy adding value for a little less profit;

Just being more gracious and less calculative;

Just be joyful to assist and serve without gain;

Just go make poverty history;

Just win the race against racism;

Just a little more love for your loved ones;

Just pray for the power of love

To vanquish the love for power.

Just choose to do the things that others won’t

So that we can always do the things that they can’t;

It is so simple to start living the Age of Singularity fromToday

To make better our many tomorrows.



Don’t Fall Into The Talent Mindset Trap AGAIN.

Remember Enron?  Beware The Talent Mindset Myth

Even in the midst of a looming recession, many companies continue to regard top talent attraction and retention ahead of planned layoffs despite global economic slowdown and massive internal organizational re-structuring.  They fear losing the right critical people so needed to engage and lead the coming unprecedential onslaught of the next wave of globalization and marketplace transformation.

The term “talent” is used to differentiate from the mediocrity of mere competency sets and recognises the varying diversity of people talent in the organisation. In a now classic study published in 1998, McKinsey, a strategy consultancy company, published a study entitled ‘The War for Talent’.  This became quickly the choice management fad in the first decade of the 21st century, even today. From interviews with hundreds of managers, McKinsey consultants concluded that building a better talent pool is not about building a better Human Resource department. They claimed that it was not about better training or development either. Nor was it about offering more stock options.  They argued that it is crucial for leaders and managers at all levels to embrace a “talent mindset”.

Leaders with a talent mindset make talent management a huge and crucial part of their job. They understand it can’t be delegated, so they commit a major part of their time and energy to strengthen their talent pool and helping others in the company to do the same.  Finally, leaders with a talent mindset have the passion, courage, and determination to take the bold actions necessary to increase and strengthen their talent pools.

A “talent mindset” is the deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how one can outperform the competitors.   It is the belief that better talent is a critical source of competitive advantage. It recognises that it is better talent that pulls all the other performance levers.   For McKinsey, a talent mindset is the catalyst that activates the other talent-building imperatives.

The belief in a “talent mindset” also explains the high premium placed on MBA degrees from top business schools, and why the many compensation packages for top executives have become so lavish and out of sync with their own company profits.   In the modern corporation, the system is considered only as strong as its “star” employees, the only talent that matters.

This talent-myth came crashing down in 2001 in a company where McKinsey had conducted twenty separate projects, billing nearly US$10m a year, and where a McKinsey director regularly attended board meetings, and whose CEO himself was a former McKinsey partner. The company was Enron.

The Enron scandal is now compulsory reading in all business schools.    Enron was the ultimate “talent” company, whose culture was crafted single-handedly by McKinsey. It chronicles the strategic failure of leadership to understand the dynamics of human talent which led eventually to the downfall of a company worth more than US$70 billion at its peak.

“The only thing that differentiates Enron from our competitors is our people, our talent,” Kenneth Lay, Enron’s former chairman and CEO, once told the McKinsey consultants when they came to the company’s Houston headquarters.  Another senior Enron executive put it to Richard Foster, a McKinsey partner who celebrated Enron in his 2001 book, “Creative Destruction” that “we hire very smart people and we pay them more than they think they are worth”.

Enron management did exactly what McKinsey consultants advised that companies ought to do in order to succeed in the modern economy.  It hired and rewarded the very best and the very brightest. The company was promoting people based on personal evaluations that were not related to overall performance, and the needs of customers and shareholders were secondary to those of its “stars”. And these, among other factors, drove Enron into bankruptcy and oblivion.

The reasons for its collapse are complex and complicated. One fact remains however undisputed: Enron failed not because of the lack of talent, but in spite of its talent mindset and many talented employees. 

Enron believed and only hired the best business and MBA graduates from the top US Business Schools. This is its first strategic error.  Indeed, smart people are not measured by school grades and MBAs from top universities, and doing so make them overrated.

The most pervasive, and strategically misconceived, approach to talent management remains the McKinsey’s “star” approach. For McKinsey, talent refers to “the best and the brightest” and many organizations adopted the term to refer to their “A Level” employees who rank in the top 10-20%.  Eventually, companies become focused on just a group of highly paid individuals with MBAs whom they believe to be able to deal better with complexity and uncertainties.  These are also complicated, psychologically unique and high maintenance individuals; they believe more in their own individual performance in a corporate culture which earned them rapid promotions and huge financial rewards.

To be fair, McKinsey’s talent definition did refer to “the sum of a person’s abilities … his or her intrinsic gifts, skills, knowledge, experience, intelligence, judgment, attitude, character and drive”.  Supposedly, it also includes his or her ability to learn and grow.  Truth is, everyone is a talent embodied by various skill-set, knowledge, attitudes and other human psychographics.

The fundamental flaw in the “talent mindset” argument is the simplistic and naive notion that the overall performance of an organisation is just the sum of what its “best” individual “talents” can achieve.  Performance is not a stable fact but is impacted by human interaction; team/social dynamics, communications, incentives and leadership are far more important. In many world-class companies, there is plenty of evidence that a great team can outperform a loosely connected group of more talented individuals.   Creating impactful performance is also made more difficult when senior executives fail to identify the best people for the best fit with the rest of the organisation.

The conventional wisdom, or a true lie, is that an organisation’s intelligence is simply a function of the intelligence of its employees. It is easily understandable to want to believe in “stars” because our lives are so obviously enriched by the inventions and discoveries of brilliant individuals. However, organisations operate and live by different sets of rules. They do not just create; they plan, execute, compete and coordinate the efforts of many different people, and the organizations that are most successful at that task are the ones where the system of key processes is the star.

Talent is overrated and often misunderstood. Leadership expert John Maxwell cautions: “Talent is never enough.  There is little correlation between a person’s effectiveness and his intelligence, his imagination or his knowledge. Intelligence, imagination and knowledge are essential resources. But only effectiveness converts them into results.  By themselves, they set limits to what can be contained.” (The 360 degree Leader, 2005)

Talent has discarded most of its elitist connotations and now, for HR professionals, refers to the company’s entire workforce, for a better talent management strategy.

Like Enron not so long ago, many companies today have also fallen victim to the “talent mindset” myth. They often hire talented people for the wrong reasons.   Even those that hire the right people often make little efforts to integrate and motivate them with a learning and development agenda.   Many young, new talents often became disappointed, realized that their jobs do not always require their level of expertise, did not feel that they are growing, ended up not fitting in, and finally leave.

HR thought-leader David Ulrich takes a holistic view of talent with his definition: [Talent = Competence, Commitment, Contribution] (Ulrich, 2006). To Ulrich, competence means that individuals have the knowledge, skills and values that are required for today and tomorrow. Commitment means that employees work hard, put in the time to do what they are required to do, and to give their discretionary energy to the company’s success. Contribution means that they are making a real contribution through their work — finding meaning and purpose in their work.  The corporate cultural context of [competence, commitment, contribution] defines the talent landscape for a truly sustainable competitive talent advantage.


Future of Singapore Elected Presidency

A Separate, unAccountable and unEqual Singapore Elected Presidency

originally published in MIKOspace.

OTC - Always Remember 02

In Reality, the Elected Presidency is Subordinate to Cabinet and Parliament.

The Singapore Elected Presidency (EP) has a 6-year term and has veto powers over the spending of national reserves and monetary policies as well as over the appointments of key positions in the Civil Service, government companies and statutory boards.

A 6-member Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) advises the President in the exercise of his custodial and discretionary powers. The President is obliged to consult the Council in the exercise of his discretionary veto powers in matters such as the Government’s budgets and key appointments.  If the Council agree with the President’s veto, then the veto is final and Parliament must comply. If the Council disagree, the President can still use his veto, but Parliament can override the veto with a two-thirds majority.  In other matters, such consultation is optional.

In many ways, the current Constitutional framework does not give due cognizance to the fact that the President is popularly elected and enjoys such moral weight and electoral authority that is implied from popular election.

This Post highlights the practical reality of the Elected Presidency as a separate, unaccountable and unequal “branch” of the political governance structure of Singapore.

The Constitution expressly and deliberately subordinates the Presidency to Parliament even though its s23(1) has first pronounced that “the executive authority of Singapore shall be vested in the President”.  The Constitution then proceeds to dilute the same “executive authority” by distributing its exercise jointly among the President, the Cabinet or any Minister authorised by the Cabinet.

The Constitution [s24(2)] further explicitly vests the executive power to run the Government in the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, who “shall have the general direction and control of the Government and shall be collectively responsible to Parliament”.

Elsewhere, the Constitution also empowers Parliament ie the Cabinet and Members of Parliament (MPs), but not the President, to “enact laws conferring executive functions on other persons”, and the President is mandated to give his assent as long as such laws did not interfere with his discretionary powers [s22H(4)].

The Elected President does not have any law-making powers. In other words, the Constitution did not provide the EP with any tool or “tooth” for the execution of his Constitutional “executive authority”, the bulk of which were “separated” and delegated or assigned by the Constitution to the Prime Minister (and his Cabinet).  And in their exercise of such executive powers supposedly vested in the Presidency by the Constitution [s23(1)], the Prime Minister and his Cabinet is accountable to Parliament, not the Presidency.

In further clear and unambiguous language, the Constitution in s21(1) pronounces that the President shall, “in the exercise of his functions under this Constitution or any other written law, act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet”.  The President cannot behave or act unilaterally without Cabinet’s approval.

This “distribution” of executive powers by the Constitution among the Elected President, Parliament and the Prime Minister (and his Cabinet) impacts the efficacy of the Presidency by confusing their separation of powers and frustrates the EP’s critical role as the national reserve watchdog vis-a-vis government’s financial prudence and possible indiscretion.  In fact, many of the EP’s powers, and its decisions even on critical discretionary matters are not absolute and can be “overruled” by a two-third majority vote in Parliament acting in accordance with Constitutional provisions.

The popular election of the President was meant to imbue the Office with moral weight and democratic electoral authority for the exercise of its functions, especially on matters relating to past reserves and the appointment/removal of key office holders.  This is however misconceived and an exaggerated expectation of democratic elections.

The Elected President may be popularly elected, but it is not a “democratic” institution by any measure since nothing in the Constitution requires the EP to be responsible and accountable to the electorate.  There is also no key performance indicator (KPI) to assess the EP performance during his tenure. This further confirms the lack of executive function and authority in the EP.

Unlike MPs, as well as the Prime Minister (and his Cabinet) who must regularly renew their electoral mandate, the Elected President faces no such prospects even though there is nothing in the Constitution preventing the EP from being elected again, as indeed President SR Nathan.

To what extent therefore is the Elected President “accountable” to his electorate?

Answer: The Elected President is NOT accountable to the electorate.

To the extent “approved” by the Prime Minister (and his Cabinet), the EP can publish in the Official Gazette his opinion and the case for his support or veto of the Government’s request to use the national reserves.  No provision exists in the Constitution for the EP to engage in public communication or debates in order to allow questioning and probing by the electorate regarding his opinion to agree or his grounds for veto, whichever the case may be.  It is clearly not the intention of the Constitution for the Elected President to be an alternate political power centre to that of the duly-elected Government.

The Singapore Elected Presidency, with its Constitutionally-vested “executive powers” tremendously diluted by the very same Constitution, is a separate and unequal branch of the political governance structure.  Constitutionally, it is also not accountable to its own electoral constituency.  

Having “consulted” his CPA, should the Presidential use of veto power be absolute? There is no constitutional provision for the President to obtain a second opinion outside the CPA.  The Constitution creates an anomalous and ironic incongruity by requiring an Elected President to accept the opinion of his unelected members of his CPA; but where they disagreed to his veto, the Elected President could very well face a two-third Parliamentary veto overturn.

Should a veto by the Elected President in his discretionary decisions be challenged and over-ruled by Parliament?

Or only by a National Referendum? 

A simpler mechanism is to bypass the need for Presidential approval for the spending from national reserves if, and only if, two-thirds of Parliament has already approved the expenditure.   

Separate, unaccountable and unequal, whither the future of Singapore Elected Presidency?

A “big picture” perspective is necessary to remove the anomalies in the Elected Presidency innovation.  The EP remains very much a work-in-progress in Singapore’s political governance landscape.  A custodial Presidential oversight responsibility over sovereign reserves and appointment of senior public officials does not necessarily confer any viable executive authority onto the Elected President.

The current review of the Elected Presidency should examine all the constitutional provisions relating to the EP, Cabinet and Parliament. To avoid ambiguities with regard to who has final and ultimate executive authority would require expressed and explicit statements to the effect. In a democracy, it is the Cabinet, supported by Parliament, who has true electoral mandate and therefore the ultimate executive authority to be responsible and accountable to the electorate.

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