Mandatory for a by-election in Tanjong Pagar GRC?

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By Bryan Lim

I refer to TOC's article, "By-election in Tanjong Pagar – A legal analysis".

There is indeed a legal loophole that allows a by-election in Tanjong Pagar GRC to take place. In fact, it makes the by-election mandatory.

Article 49. —(1) Whenever the seat of a Member, not being a non-constituency Member, has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election in the manner provided by or under any law relating to Parliamentary elections for the time being in force.

Article 49 is the supreme law because it's part of the Constitution and Article 4 makes this clear:

This Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic of Singapore and any law enacted by the Legislature after the commencement of this Constitution which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

Article 49 makes it very clear that elected seats must have by-elections. It does not care if it's a SMC or GRC. It just says the vacancy must be filled by any parliamentary elections for the time being. Thus, Article 49 does not condone a parliamentary elections law that advocates not filling the vacancy for the time being.

Parliamentary Elections Act Section 24(2A) states that:

In respect of any group representation constituency, no writ shall be issued under subsection (1) for an election to fill any vacancy unless all the Members for that constituency have vacated their seats in Parliament.

Therefore, the only logical resolution that satisfies the terms of both Article 49 and PEA S24(2A) is that a by-election needs to be called for the GRC to fill the vacancy, and this by-election is exceptional for it does not require a writ to be issued.

Conclusion: As per Article 49 and PEA S24(2A), a by-election in Tanjong Pagar GRC is mandatory since the current parliament has not been dissolved. No writ is required for this by-election so it won't be issued. It does not matter if a GE may be called later this year or next year because Article 49 is only talking about the time being (the period before the GE).

  • Samson

    Thank you, this makes sense. If the law says any member who left a GRC need not be filled, then the person who made that law is saying that GRC is not really needed, but yet we want GRC. What for? Only this person knows.

    Law must make sense otherwise it is “something I write on a piece of paper” (Saddam), worthless and of no use. Those who claim to know the law yet accept and follow non-sense law are worse than those who do not know the law.

    So we now know that the PM is breaking the law if he does not carry out a bi-election. But what are we going to do in a country that citizens have zero rights?

  • masked crusader

    If the government refuses to declare a by-election in Tanjong Pagar GRC on the grounds that the other MPs can cover the duties of the deceased (which most people suspect has been going on for a few years anyway), then shouldn’t political parties be able to contest a GRC in the next GE with fewer than the number of candidates required using the same reason that they feel confident that they can manage the GRC with fewer members thereby offering a better value proposition to the taxpayer?

    In fact, if the government argues that a by-election isn’t required even if the GRC’s only minority member is unable to continue serving, then opposition parties should be able to contest a GRC without an ethnic minority being represented. This, of course, means no GRCs are necessary.

  • Richard Lee

    “MP’s resignation or expulsion should not “force the Government to put aside more important national issues to focus on a by-election”. Citizen’s democratic rights are not an important national issue. “It [by-elections] is a waste of time and money, and it does not advance representative democracy.” – Hri Kumar Nair, for the PAP’s famed Min. of Truth in 2012

    • Samson

      One word – Flabbergasted.

    • Hardeep Saini

      Richard Lee, I have come across many absurd suggestions in many different forums.

      Your statement has got me speechless.

      What stupidity.

      “Citizen’s democratic rights are not an important national issue”.
      Citizens democratic rights is the reason we have elections.
      It is the most fundamental concept in any democracy.
      Do not try to take away the democratic rights of the people.

      • Richard Lee

        Hardeep Saini, these aren’t my words.

        They are from PAP MP Hri Kumar Nair in 2012. You may like to check Straits Times for details. PM Lee Hsien Loong agreed with him.

        • Hardeep Saini

          I understand.
          By quoting it you have taken responsibility for it as you seem to agree with this MP.
          If you had not agreed with it than you would not have published this quote.
          By now saying that it is not my quote because of some alternative comments here, it is a classic cop out.

    • JanaDeborahTay

      I think you are not objective.
      If a seat is vacant, there should be an election.
      It will add pressure to ensure all parties file healthy Candidates in the first place.

    • Richard Lee

      JanaDeborahTay & Hardeep Saini, these aren’t my words.

      They are from PAP MP Hri Kumar Nair in 2012. You may like to check Straits Times for details. PM Lee Hsien Loong agreed with him.

      • JanaDeborahTay

        No worries, Is this your position?
        It would be best to state your positions in future.
        Otherwise, it’s like wasting everyone’s time.
        I am sure you are you own man and have an opinion of your own, especialy the quality of prints today are highly questionable.

  • Richard Lee

    JanaDeborahTay & Hardeep Saini, my original post mentioned the PAP’s famed Min. of Truth. You might like to Google this. Are Singaporeans so politically naive not to recognise or understand the reference? Is it no longer taught in school?

    I say this with sadness as my school mates including George Yeo, Tan Jee Say, Lim Hng Kiang and some other dignitaries would have instantly recognised it. It was an important lesson before the present Dignity seekers took over Parliament.

    Just a reminder that the PAP’s famously efficient Min. of Truth is dedicated to Improving History.

    PS I hope yus guys recognise the ‘Dignity seekers’ reference too.