The Elections Department (ELD) has proposed to raise the minimum fine for disqualification for Members of Parliament (MP) from S$2,000 to S$10,000, in a bill tabled in Parliament on Apr. 4, which seeks to make amendments to Singapore's Constitution.
If passed, this will mark the first time since Singapore's independence that the fine quantum has been revised.
Fine quantum revised to "account for inflation"
In a media release, the ELD explained that the bill was part of its "review of Singapore's electoral processes and legislation".
The bill seeks to amend Article 45 of the Constitution, which relates to the disqualification as a MP, and Articles 37E and 72 of the Constitution, which relates to the disqualifications of members of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) and the Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR), respectively.
"These amendments ensure that the disqualification criteria for membership for Parliament and memberships for CPA and PCMR are updated and remain relevant in ensuring that members are persons with integrity and who adhere to high standards of conduct."
Currently, under Article 45(e), a person who has been convicted of an offence and is fined "not less than S$2,000" or is sentenced to a jail term of one year or more will no longer be qualified to be an MP.
ELD proposed that the fine quantum be increased to "not less than S$10,000" to "account for inflation over the years".
It added that the fine quantum has not been revised since Singapore's independence.
ELD said the revised sum of S$10,000 corresponds to the "sentences handed down by the courts in Singapore today for relevant offences".
These offences, ELD elaborated, are those that are "relevant to the integrity of the person", such as tax evasion and corruption.
Disqualification criterion expanded to convictions in any foreign country
The bill also proposed that the criterion to disqualify MPs be expanded to include convictions in any foreign country.
Currently, it only covers convictions in a court of law in Singapore and Malaysia.
"With more Singaporeans living, travelling and doing business in other countries besides Malaysia, convictions in other countries should be included in the disqualification criteria," the ELD explained.
These changes to the disqualification criteria for MPs will also be applied to the president of Singapore, ELD said, as the disqualification criteria of the president (Article 19) makes reference to Article 45.
The bill also proposes a change to an outdated clause which relates to disqualification when a person acquires foreign citizenship.
The clause provided an exception from being disqualified as an MP if the person voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland.
ELD said this clause was no longer relevant as any Singapore citizen who voluntarily acquires a foreign citizenship will be disqualified as an MP.
ELD noted that the proposed amendments will apply to convictions by a court of law in Singapore or elsewhere before, on or after the date of commencement of the amendments.
"For individuals who were fined at least S$2,000 but less than S$10,000 and are currently disqualified, they will cease to be disqualified once the amendments come into operation," said ELD.
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Top photo via Parliament of Singapore/FB