SEPARATION OF POWERS
James Cook has once famously espoused, “Governments without separation of powers commit the worst crimes.” This means that without the separation of powers, laws imposed are ineffective. Hence, this is shown in Singapore, where there is a separation of 3 arms of government, namely Legislature, Executives and Judiciary. This is to ensure that the law is passed down correctly and fairly to everyone in the state.
Firstly, the Legislature consists of the Singapore Parliament and the President of Singapore. The Singapore Parliament is based on the westminster model where it is unicameral and is mostly elected by the citizens, giving them the freedom to vote. However, their position would only last up to 5 years. To be part of this committee, the people must have the qualifications under article 44 and not be disqualified under article 45. The Legislature are the people with the power to make and adjust law through introducing bills and three stages of reading before the president’s assent and finally being gazetted.
Secondly, the Executive comprises of the Elected President, Prime Minister, Cabinet, Civil Service, Police, Attorney General’s Chambers. Their purpose is to administer the law, run the country, set policies and implement new laws. The Executive are also known as The Government as they are the leaders of the country. To be the President of Singapore, one must follow article 19 and not be disqualified by article 45. While the Prime minister is appointed by the President and the Prime minister will appoint his cabinet. These people are responsible for government policies as well as day to day administration of the affairs of the state. They are also responsible for the parliament.
Lastly, the Supreme Courts, State Courts and the Family Justice Courts along with the Chief Justice and his judges represent the Judiciary. They are there to interpret and uphold the law. They do not need to pass judgements based on what the government wants, but based on what the law says.
Purpose of Checks & Balances
The purposes of checks & balances in Singapore is to prevent any domination in the government. It also protects the rights and liberties of people in Singapore, ensuring that they have a say. Furthermore, decisions made would be sound and approved by the citizens. The Government would be accountable for its decisions, building trust in citizens towards the government, enabling them to build an interactive and balanced relationship with citizens.
How does each branch keep in check on one another?
How do the three branches keep check of each other? It is through the principle of Constitutional Supremacy, that the three arms can exercise their authorities without fear of the other arms.
Firstly, the judicial review, where the judiciary has the power to review the laws made by the legislature. If the law made by the legislature is against or inconsistent to the Constitution, the judiciary has the power to declare the law as invalid and void. This is to ensure that the legislature are not repugnant to the doctrines of rule of law and separation of power.
Next, the security of tenure is the divine protection given to judges such that no one can interfere with their career as a judge. This is so that the judges can uphold and interpret the law with fairness and democracy. It also gives confidence to all as they know their case will be judge strictly to the Singapore law with no biasness to the Government or any other party.
Thirdly, the government whip keeps a check on the Legislature by ensuring good communication with the party and contributes to the smooth running of the party’s parliamentary machinery. As he is often referred to as the Disciplinarian in his respective party, the whip ensures there is sufficient party members in the chamber to support the party’s position and that MPs vote according to the party’s line. On special occasions, he may ‘lift the whip’ and allow members to vote on their conscience.
Last but not least, during the Question Time in parliament, the legislature ask questions to Executive about the amendments to the bills passed or issues they wanted to discuss during the forthcoming Parliament Sitting. This is to ensure that the Executives are doing their jobs in running the country correctly by following the rules and laws of the constitution of Singapore.
Besides all this, Separation of powers doctrine entailed that the courts should not interfere with the exercise of the prosecutorial discretion unless it had been exercised unlawfully. The source of this power is found in Article 35(8) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, which states “The Attorney-General shall have power, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for any offence”. (https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/news/case-summaries/public-prosecutor-v-lam-leng-hung-and-others)
Another country which follows the separation of powers just like Singapore, would be Australia. However, though they are following the separation of powers, there are differences between our law systems.
Just like Singapore, Australia’s government has three branches : the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The constitutional framework of Australia is a combination of the Westminster and United States systems of government.
Legislature : The legislature has the power to make laws. Unlike Singapore, the legislative power is exercised by the Federal Parliament and the other State/Territory Parliaments. The Federal parliament comprises of two houses – The House of Representatives and the Senate which is the Lower house and Upper house respectively. It is headed by the Crown, which is represented by the Governor General. Similarly , the State parliament includes the Legislative assembly and the Legislative Council and is headed by the Governor. In Australia, each state has its own constitution. However, if there is a conflict between the State law and the Commonwealth law, the Commonwealth law is to be followed.
Executive : The executive has the power to administer the law made by the legislature. The executive power is exercised by the Governor General, such actions are performed on the advice of Prime Minister and the Cabinet(Senior Ministers). The Executive also comprises of the Junior Ministers and the Parliamentary Secretaries. The ministers are in charge of the various government Departments. The government departments are also part of the Executive.
Judiciary : The Judiciary includes the Federal Court System and the State Court System. With regards to appeal matters on both federal and state laws, it would be taken up to the High Court, which is the highest in Australia. Federal court System comprises of the Family Court, The Federal Court and the High Court whereas the State Court System consists of the Magistrate Court(Lower Court), District Court(Intermediate Court) , Supreme Court and also Court of Appeal.
The Institute supports processes which maintain checks and balances on government in Australia such as the role of the High Court as the ultimate independent and impartial arbiter of judicial review. In addition, the accountability of Government Departments, agencies and statutory bodies to the Parliament. Fundamental characteristics of laws in terms of the way in which they delegate power, and do not include arbitrary, overly discretionary or retrospective provisions.
The North Korean Government has three branches – executive, legislative and judicial which are dependent on each other.
The Chairman of the State Affairs Commision, is the supreme leader of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-un. He controls the State Affairs Commission, the highest leadership institution in North Korea and is the supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army. In other words, he has the authority to direct the State’s Affairs, to sign or revoke treaties and to declare war. The Cabinet of North Korea, is the administrative and executive body and a general state-management organ in the North Korean Government. It is guided by the Workers’ Party and is in charge of implementing the state’s economic policies. North Korea is divided administratively into nine provinces – Chagang, North Hamgyong, South Hamgyong, North Hwanghae, South Hwanghae, Kangwon, North Pyongan, South Pyongan and Ryanggang. There are people’s committees (discharge administrative functions) and people’s assemblies (perform legislative functions) for provincial and city alike. The leading party, KWP (Korean Workers’ Party), which directs all political activities, is currently led by Kim Jong-un and maintains central, provincial and city party committees to “guide” the other branches of government, legislative and judicial. WPK highlights the importance of sovereignty (self-government), nationalism (patriotism) and a socialist ideology.
The SPA (Supreme People’s Assembly), is the unicameral legislature of the DPRK, North Korea. Based on the Constitution, SPA is the highest organ of state power in the country. Members elected has five-year terms. When not in session, the Presidium acts for the Assembly, though the Presidium still has to be accountable towards SPA. Some of the functions of SPA includes election, appointment of cabinet members, determining state policy and budgets and to adopt/amend/supplement enactments to the constitution. Besides this, SPA has three parliamentary committees – the Foreign Affairs Committee, Budget Committee and the Bills Committee. They also exercises legislative powers. When they are not in session, the SPA Presidium can exercise it.
North Korea’s judiciary includes the Supreme Court of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Provincial or special-city level Courts, People’s Courts or Special Courts. The Supreme Court of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (also called the Central Court), is the supreme court, highest court, court of appeal and the highest organ in the judiciary of North Korea. The court is lead by the President or Chief Judge, with two Associate Chief Judges/Vice Presidents and an unknown number of regular Justices. The Judges of the Central Court are elected by SPA for three-year terms. The Constitution states that justice is administered by the courts, which are accountable to the SPA, or the Presidium. Unlike Singapore, there is no judicial independence in North Korea. This is evident from article 157 of the Constitution, “cases are heard in public, and the accused is guaranteed the right to a defense; hearings may be closed to the public as stipulated by law” and article 11 of the Prosecution Supervisory Law, “the prosecutor(s) shall supervise whether the trial or arbitration of a case is accurately deliberating and resolving the legal requirements and in a timely manner”. Judicial Independence is important as it prevents external pressures (from the other branches of the government or private interests) from interfering in the cases. With judicial independence, cases will be decided fairly, based on the law. The lack of an independent judiciary, in addition to arbitrary arrests, torture in custody, forced labor, and executions results in fear and control. However, though they may seem to have separation of powers, they do not keep check of each other.
China is a communist country without any Separation of Powers. The power is concentrated at the Standing Committee(Politburo) and National People’s Congress. The organs of the state do not keep a check on one another. The other organs of the government State Council, Military Affairs Commission and the Courts.(Collectively known as “Courts and Prosecutors”)
Firstly, National People’s Congress which is the highest organ of the state according to the 1982 constitution. The congress consists of nearly 3000 delegates elected by Chinese Provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and the armed forces. The delegates are elected for a term of five years and holds one session per year. The irregular and unmanageable nature of the congress indicates that the real power lies in the hands of a 150 member standing committee. The NPC elects the Premier of the State Council, the President of the Supreme People’s Court and the Procurator-General of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. With over 3000 members, it is also the largest parliament in the world.
Standing Committee is another important chamber of the Chinese government. The NPC standing committee is composed of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary-General and other members. They are elected by the NPC for a term of five years. The standing committee meets once in every two months and also calls for interim sessions if there is a special need. The NPC and the standing committee holds the right to enact and amend laws. The standing committee enacts and amend all laws except those should be enacted and amended by the NPC members. It has the power to oversee the enforcement of the constitution. It oversees the work of the State Council, the Central Military Commission, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. It has the power to revoke the administrative decisions made by the State Council which contravene the constitution. The standing committee takes decisions about the international agreement and treaties. It also has the power to appoint and remove important officials of the state organs.
(Colin later expand) State Council The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China, forming the executive body of the supreme organ of state power. It composed of the Premier; the Vice-Premiers; the State Councillors; other Ministers; the Auditor-General; and the Secretary-General.
Moving on to the Judicial System of China frequently known as the “Courts and Prosecutors” . The Supreme People’s Procuratorate is the highest legal supervisory body. The national people congress is usually the ones behind law making regarding human rights and taxation. However in other areas, the state council and local governments can legislate too. But even when the law is passed, people might not respect them. In China, the rule of law is not allowed to undermine the party’s and states interest. The Supreme people’s procuratorate is the highest legal supervising body. In charge of safeguarding the constitution, laws and people’s rights.
Military Affairs Commission is the organization under the Party’s Central Committee responsible for political and legal affairs. The organization oversees all legal enforcement authorities, including the police force, making it a very powerful organ. All the Party committees of provinces, municipalities, counties and autonomous regions establish respective politics and law commissions.
Difference between countries
For North Korea, unlike Singapore who keeps checks and balances, they do not check on each other. Due to them being a socialist country, the SPA has the most power. Hence, even though there is a separation of powers, all other arms are held accountable to SPA. Unlike Singapore, there is no judicial review in North Korea. This is evident from article 157 of the Constitution, “cases are heard in public, and the accused is guaranteed the right to a defense; hearings may be closed to the public as stipulated by law” and article 11 of the Prosecution Supervisory Law, “the prosecutor(s) shall supervise whether the trial or arbitration of a case is accurately deliberating and resolving the legal requirements and in a timely manner”. Judicial Independence is important as it prevents external pressures (from the other branches of the government or private interests) from interfering in the cases. With judicial independence, cases will be decided fairly, based on the law. The lack of an independent judiciary, in addition to arbitrary arrests, torture in custody, forced labor, and executions results in fear and control. Hence, they do not practice judicial review unlike Singapore. This means that the security forces interfere with the judiciary so often that many decisions are waved. Moreover, the supreme court serves as the highest called