Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In my idle time, I've decided to let my curiousity about the workings of the Singapore government carry me to discover all those online documents that support the transparency that working democracies need. I was not disappointed. In fact, I'm even glad. I had expected the statutes and government gazettes to only be available in printed form, hence justifying "transparent" government but leaving citizens with very limited (or expensive) access.

Anyway, I'm taking the first leg of my rediscovery of Singapore democracy by taking a look at the Singapore Constitution ( The first thing that struck me (just first impressions), is how much the Constitution works its way around laws as opposed to my impression of the US Constitution where the reverse is true (any laws are tested against the constitution). If you don't get what I mean, read the section of the Constitution pertaining to Civil Liberties. There are many provisions in the Constitution that basically say that the law of the day trumps it. I suppose it allows for a flexible Constitution, but it also seems awfully vulnerable to abuse. Perhaps this is a reflection of our insecurities as a new nation?

The USA on the other hand lays down its founding principles in its document, giving future generations the mechanism to change these principles to accomodate the modern needs of the nation. I think I like that approach better ... we state what our ideals (of the day) are for our nation and allow for it to be adjusted based on future needs/contexts. The Singapore Constitution just seems to be very focused on the mechanics of government, imho kinda like "we'd like to express these ideals, but we're building into our text the mechanics for how the government could have a free hand to institute new rules without having to rewrite this document.".

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