The Oath of Office (Next GE and Beyond)

The Oath of Office (Next GE and Beyond)

Amongst other (shrewd) observations, former ISD director Yoong Siew Wah writes that “GE 2016 is very much an epoch-making election to watch.”

So far I have read some very interesting blog posts and/or status updates on the matter, as curated by The Singapore Daily and whatever I happen to see on online media.

It led me to think about certain things on a basic, fundamental level, with regard to how actions speak louder than words.

According to The Law Dictionary, an Oath of Office is defined as follows:

What is OATH OF OFFICE?

A person assuming a position in a public office either through election or appointment is expected to take this formal oath which reminds them of their obligations to the public and to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.

singapore_oath_office
Former Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew takes his oath of office as senior Minister in the new Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s (L) government, next to President Wee Kim Wee (R) at the City Hall 28 November 1990. | Image: AFP / Roslan Rahman

Schedules are lists in the Constitution that categorize and tabulate bureaucratic activity and policy of the Government.

At the time of this posting, the First Schedule: Forms of Oaths section of the Singapore Constitution states:

1. Oath of Office of President.
I, …………………………… , having been elected President of the Republic of Singapore, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as such to the best of my ability without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, and without regard to any previous affiliation with any political party, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Republic, and that I will preserve, protect and defend its Constitution.

2. Oath of Allegiance.
I, …………………………….. , having been appointed to the office of …………………………. , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Republic of Singapore and that I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.

3. Oath as Member of Parliament.
I, ……………………………………… , having been elected as a Member of the Parliament of Singapore, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as such to the best of my ability, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Republic of Singapore, and that I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.

4. Oath for due execution of Office of Prime Minister.
I, …………………………… , being chosen and appointed as Prime Minister of Singapore do solemnly swear (or affirm) that —
(a) I will, to the best of my judgment at all times when so required, freely give my counsel and advice to the President (or any person lawfully exercising the functions of that office) for the good management of the public affairs of Singapore. . .

6. Oath of Office of Chief Justice, a Judge of the Supreme Court and a Judicial Commissioner.
I, ……………………………. , having been appointed to the office of ……………………….. , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my judicial duties, and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the Republic of Singapore without fear or favour, affection or ill-will to the best of my ability, and will preserve, protect and defend its Constitution.

Part IV of the Singapore Constitution is to do with “Fundamental Liberties” of citizens.

Here is some of the text from that section which is meant to protect citizens’ rights:

Equal protection
12.
—(1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
(2) Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.

Freedom of speech, assembly and association
14.
—(1) Subject to clauses (2) and (3) —
(a) every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) all citizens of Singapore have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; and
(c) all citizens of Singapore have the right to form associations.
(2) Parliament may by law impose —
(a) on the rights conferred by clause (1)(a), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or to provide against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence;
(b) on the right conferred by clause (1)(b), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof or public order; and
(c) on the right conferred by clause (1)(c), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, public order or morality.
(3) Restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by clause (1) (c) may also be imposed by any law relating to labour or education.

So if new labour laws hurt Singapore, to what exact extent can citizens’ rights be “restricted” to form an association (for, say, minimum wages) because of clause (3) above?

If all persons are “equal before the law,” why has there been a long history of contempt towards opposition politicians or anyone that criticises the PAP government?

The National Pledge practically states that Singapore citizens, as “one united people,” are committed to building “a democratic society: based on justice and equality.”

The pledge was written by S. Rajaratnam, and the pledge was to reflect the dream was about building “a Singapore we are proud of.”

It is basic logic that sincere and competent leaders would strive to do what they pledge to do during the Oath of Office.

Since The Singapore National Pledge is an oath of allegiance to Singapore, that is what the government should be striving to do WITH THE PEOPLE — whether it is the PAP or a united opposition that wins the people’s trust and votes.

* * *

More Information:

(1) “Transparent is as transparent does” (Chris Ho)

(2) “PAP: What They Say Vs. What They Mean” (Martyn See)

(3) Chee Soon Juan: “Democratically Speaking” (independent book review by an analytical Virgo)

(4) “[PM LHL’s] speech focuses more on ‘fixing the opposition’ than the PAP itself” (Ariffin Sha)

(5) “1994 – 2012: A Chronology of Authoritarian Rule in Singapore” (Singapore Rebel)

(6) “The authorities may be empowered to smack down cartoonists, authors, and journalists, but it’s the Singaporean people who truly suffer the most harm” (HRW 2013)

(7) “The judiciary lacks independence and systematically returns verdicts in the government’s favor” (Freedom House: Singapore 2013)

(8) “Considering the mediocre performance of many of the run-of-the-mill type of ministers…” (Singapore Recalcitrant)

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