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RP's Statement on Hougang By-Election

Press Statement from the Reform Party

We note the announcement of the PM’s decision to hold a by-election for Hougang on the 25th May. We are disappointed that he has prevaricated for so long and then called the by-election with only a week’s notice. It only came after a lawsuit filed by a resident of Hougang that was opposed by the Attorney General.  We can only assume the embarrassment of having to go to court to try and prevent judicial scrutiny of his prerogative was a factor in his decision.

The Reform Party has previously made two statements on the Hougang by-election:

“Delay in Holding a By-Election in Hougang is a Violation of our Democratic Rights” dated 17th February 2012 (here)

“We Respond to the PM’s statement about Hougang By-Election” dated 9th March 2012 (here)

Our position has not changed. As we said there the decision when to hold a by-election should be the prerogative of the incumbent party and not be at the discretion of the Prime Minister.

By-elections must be held in a timely manner, normally three months. This is the convention in the Westminster model on which our Parliamentary system is based.  This would also stop the current government practice not to hold by-elections for vacated PAP seats between general elections, an interval that has frequently lasted several years. This denies the residents in those constituencies their democratic right to equal representation enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The arrogation by the PM of the right to decide when and whether to hold a by-election is yet another example of how our elections are neither free nor fair.  We do not have an independent Elections Commission to prevent government manipulation of the electoral process, just a department within the Prime Minister’s Office. In addition the government totally controls the media  and still considers it acceptable to threaten and/or bribe voters through their control of public housing.

Hougang has historic ties to the founder of the Reform Party, J. B. Jeyaretnam. He was leader of the Workers Party at the time but was unjustly prevented from standing in the 1991 general election when Low Thia Kiang was first elected as the MP.  However the Reform Party will not be contesting this by-election because we consider it more important to give the previous incumbent the best possible chance and not to split the vote.

The reason the PM has the right to decide when to call a by-election is because the PAP have a sufficient majority to amend the Constitution at will. Whether there are five or six Opposition seats out of eighty-eight will not make much difference to this. Neither will it provide effective Parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive. The only way for this to happen is for the people of Singapore to elect Opposition MPs to more than one-third of the seats in Parliament.

The Reform Party will continue to campaign for the restoration of our constitutional rights, freedoms and democracy. Without democracy there can be no inclusive prosperity.

 

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

Secretary General