Govt’s response to Dr Tan Cheng Bock is that he “has not raised any new points that require response”?

I refer to the article “Tan Cheng Bock calls for Presidential Election to be open election” (Channel NewsAsia, Mar 31).

It states that “Speaking on behalf of the Government, a spokesman from the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said Dr Tan “has not raised any new points that require response”.

The MCI spokesman added for more than a year, the matter has been considered and debated extensively, including the forming of a Constitutional Commission chaired by the Chief Justice which undertook extensive consultations and public hearings on the Elected Presidency.

“Dr Tan did not participate in those hearings or give his views to the Commission. The Government gave its response to the Commission’s report in a White Paper, and Parliament debated the matter over three days, before passing amendments to the Constitution,” said the spokesman.”

I think most Singaporeans who read the above may be even more confused like I was when I read it.

What does the Government expect Singaporeans to do? – Individually try to research what actually transpired in the “extensive consultations and public hearings on the Elected Presidency”, find and read the Government’s “response to the Commission’s report in a White Paper”, and search Hansard to read what transpired when “Parliament debated the matter over three days”?

Dr Tan said in his press conference, “I would urge the Government to explain, or refer AGC’s opinion to Court to confirm whether AGC’s advice is in sync with the Commission’s spirit and purpose for having reserved elections.”

This is in regard to the AGC advice that Wee Kim Wee is to be counted as the first elected President in Singapore which deems the upcoming 2017 Presidential Election as a reserved election for minority candidates. Which is in contrary to common understanding that Mr Ong Teng Cheong is Singapore’s first elected President.

During the three day debate on the matter, the only response on the AGC advice was by Minister at the Prime Minister Office, Chan Chun Sing, who said,

“Ms Lim once again questioned the Attorney-General’s advice. I am a bit bewildered by this. I would like to clarify: (a) Is Ms Lim suggesting that the Attorney-General did not give the Government the appropriate advice? Or (b) that the Prime Minister has not been truthful with the Attorney-General’s advice? If it is the first, then I think Ms Lim, as suggested by Deputy Prime Minister Teo, can challenge this in the courts. But if it is the second, then I am afraid it is a very serious issue to cast aspersions on the integrity of our Prime Minister. Ms Lim, you are a lawyer; I am not a lawyer. You will know that when you get advice, you do not freely publicise your advice and you may have various reasons why you do not publicise all your advice. And as a lawyer, I think you will know this better than me. So, I think we should not impute motives on this Government or the Prime Minister.”

How is it in anyway a debate, when the Minister responded with a challenge to the MP, who asked the question, to go to the courts if she was not convinced with the advice?

Why can’t the Government just respond to Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s questions and remarks – so that Singaporeans can understand and accept this arguably, contentious matter better?

As an analogy – if you go to school and ask your teacher a simple question and the response is “you are not raising any new points that require a response” – what do you think the whole class of students may think or feel?

Specifically, if I may cite just one example – I would like to ask whether Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s question – “to explain whether the AGC’s interpretation is correct, or to check with the courts to verify its accuracy” was ever asked, debated or answered by anyone?

This entry was posted in Opinion.