Parliament passed changes to the Constitution on May 9, 2022, in particular to how a person can be disqualified as a MP.
With the changes, a MP will be disqualified if they have been convicted of an offence and fined at least S$10,000 or if the person is jailed for at least one year. The previous fine quantum was S$2,000. The disqualification period is five years.
88 members voted in favour, with no objections or abstentions.
Other than this, the Elections Department (ELD) also proposed the following changes:
– Expand the disqualification criterion due to convictions by a court of law in Singapore or Malaysia to include convictions by a court of law in any foreign country
– Remove the exception from being disqualified as MPs if a person has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland
Petir.sg tries to explain all the amendments.
Revise the fine quantum for disqualification as MPs from “not less than S$2,000” to “not less than S$10,000”
The answer? Simple, it’s to account for inflation.
According to the ELD, the change serves to account for inflation over the years and brings the revised sum to correspond to the sentences handed down by the courts in Singapore today for relevant offences.
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is also Minister-in-Charge of the Public Service, told Parliament that the fine quantum has not been revised since Singapore’s independence.
He also answered why the need to change it now.
“As part of the review undertook by ELD after GE 2020, ELD noted that the MP disqualification criteria has not been revised since independence and thus initiated the review of the criteria. While there was a related amendment to the Constitution in 2002, the focus of the amendment was to deal only with the anomalous situation of a disqualified MP not being able to continue sitting or voting in Parliament while his appeal is pending and did not cover the MP disqualification criteria per se,” he explained.
Why no changes to the length of the jail term then?
Minister Chan said that ELD examined the criteria from selected commonwealth countries such as Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand and assessed that Singapore’s imprisonment term of one year remains at an appropriate threshold and does not require further revision for now.
Expand the disqualification criterion due to convictions by a court of law in Singapore or Malaysia to include convictions by a court of law in any foreign country
ELD wrote: “With more Singaporeans living, travelling and doing business in other countries besides Malaysia, convictions in other countries should be included in the disqualification criteria.”
Added Minister Chan: “These overseas convictions must be for offences that would have been punishable by a court in Singapore if they had been committed locally.”
Remove the exception from being disqualified as MPs if a person has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland
Basically, this exception is outdated and is not relevant today.
Rounding up his speech, Minister Chan spoke about three standards that ensure MPs are persons with integrity and fit for the House.
“Besides the rules that we have, there are three other important keys, if I may use the words of Mr Murali. One, the standard of the respective political parties hold themselves accountable to. Two, the standards that each and every one of us hold ourselves to. Third, and most importantly, the standards which our public hold ourselves to.”
Cover photo credit: Parliament Facebook page