Legislative Changes to Govern the Performance of Foreign and International Roles
The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No. 3) Bill was introduced in Parliament on 6 November 2023
The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No. 3) Bill was introduced in Parliament today. The Bill will create a legal framework for the President and Ministers to accept appointments in foreign and international organisations in their private (i.e., personal) capacities, if required by the national interest.
Background and overview
From time to time, the President or Ministers are invited to take up key positions in foreign and international organisations. Accepting such positions can enhance Singapore's international standing and help to advance our national interest.
These organisations typically invite individuals to serve in their private capacities instead of their official capacities. However, the Constitution currently does not provide for the President, as the Head of State, to take up public roles where he acts in his private capacity.
The Bill therefore proposes to amend the Constitution to create a framework that enables the President to perform foreign and international roles in his private capacity, when Cabinet advises that it is in the national interest for him to do so.
The law currently does not prohibit Ministers from serving in foreign and international organisations in their private capacities.1 Nevertheless, to ensure more comprehensive coverage, the Bill will put in place a similar framework for Ministers.
Key details of framework
The proposed amendments will enable the President to accept and hold an office in a foreign or international organisation in his private capacity under the following conditions:
The President must not be prohibited, by virtue of Article 19A(1) of the Constitution,2 from performing the functions of that office.
The Cabinet must advise the President that it is in the national interest for the President to accept and hold that office.
The President, acting in his discretion, concurs with the advice of the Cabinet.
The Cabinet may from time to time advise the President against saying or doing anything in performing the functions of such an office. The President must also relinquish the office, if so advised by the Cabinet.
Similarly, the proposed amendments provide that a Minister may accept and hold an office in a foreign or international organisation in the Minister’s private capacity under the following conditions:
The Minister must not be prohibited, by virtue of Article 33 of the Constitution,3 from performing the functions of that office.
The Prime Minister considers it to be in the national interest for the Minister to accept and hold that office and gives permission for the Minister to do so.
The Prime Minister may from time to time instruct the Minister against saying or doing anything in performing the functions of such an office. The Minister must also relinquish the office, if so instructed by the Prime Minister.
Any acceptance or relinquishment of an office under this framework by the President or a Minister, must be published in the Gazette.
The second reading debate of the Bill will be held at the next sitting of Parliament.
 Subject to Article 33 of the Constitution, which prohibits a Minister from holding any office of profit or actively engaging in any commercial enterprise.
 Among other things, Article 19A(1) prohibits the President from being actively engaged in any commercial enterprise.
 See footnote 1, above.
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