Making the Singapore Constitution: Amendments as Constitution-Making
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
14(1) Journal of Comparative Law 72-93 (2019) (with Andrea Ong Hui Xian)
This article posits that constitution-making and constitutional amendment are not always clearly distinguished. We argue that within the Singapore context, one can identify two important but qualitatively different exercise in constitutional amendments. The first is between 1979 and 1991, which involves foundational amendments which should be seen more properly as a constitution-making, rather than as a constitution-amending exercise. The second is the period post-1991, which involves “tweaks” to the Constitution these changes do not fundamentally change the constitutional system already in place, but seek to calibrate the system for a variety of reasons involving efficiency and political interest entrenchment. Thus, amendments to the Constitution between 1979 and 1991 should be seen as a long process of accretion that gradually brought about a Constitution that could be said to have attained its character as a supreme law. This is reflected not only in political discourse but also in constitutional jurisprudence. This article thus examines how the constitution has been changed through the amendment process, interrogates the discourse over the amendments, and evaluates the final outcomes in Singapore.