Ong Teng Cheong (he was elected by a narrow margin, over the unwilling contestant Chua Kim Yeoh) tried to make something useful of the Presidency by looking into, and actually looking after, our nation's reserves, and was treated as pariah for daring to do so. "They said it would take 56-man years to produce a dollar-and-cents value of the immovable assets," said the late Ong, "The government would not need to give me the dollar-and-cents value, just give me a listing of all the properties that the government owns."
Oh well, maybe the President can grant a pardon to save a life, such as the young life of Yong Vui Kong, who was only 19 when arrested for carrying 47.27 grams of heroin. Or so we thought.
According to the High Court, in the opinion of Justice Steven Chong, the authority to grant pardon rests firmly within the Cabinet:
"The President has no discretion under the Constitution... to grant pardon. The power to do so rests solely with the Cabinet." That's how he interpreted Articles 21(1) and 22P(I) of the Constitution, which states that the President shall "act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet."
Ex-Attorney General Walter Woon had commented similarly in March this year. During a Court of Appeal hearings over whether the mandatory death penalty was constitutional, Professor Woon had said that "although in theory it is the President who exercises the perogative of mercy, in fact it is the Cabinet who makes the decision."
It looks like the irony rests not only in the title Nathan selected for his first literary effort, which had drawn public responses ranging from, "I also want to know why he is here!" to "He needs to justify his existence?" to "Our President so free to write book, ah?" Maybe the sequel should be named, "Why Should The President Be Paid Millions?"