Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former Member of Parliament and candidate in the Presidential Election 2011, responds to the decision by Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) that there is no need for response on the questions that he had raised.
Dr Tan held a press conference on Friday last week to ask the Singapore Government, whether it is correct to set the Presidential Election 2017 as a reserved election under the newly introduced amendments to the Elected Presidency.
The Government has said that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) advised Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that 2017 will be the first reserved election. This is based on AGC counting 5 consecutive presidential terms beginning with President Wee Kim Wee.
In response to media queries on Dr Tan’s questions, MCI said he “has not raised any new points that require response” and its spokesman said that the matter of the Elected Presidency 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.
Dr Tan wrote in his Facebook post that MCI has missed his point totally, that he did not dispute the Constitutional Commission’s report or the White Paper but disagreed with the way the Government has triggered the reserved election.
He wrote that he has given his reasons why Singapore should should rightly count the reserved election from the 1st openly elected President, Mr Ong Teng Cheong.
“It’s the government’s turn to give their reasons why they choose to count differently, having accepted the report. Why change the format?” wrote Dr Tan.
He noted that when asked in Parliament by a Member of Parliament, the question was brushed off with challenges to go to court and no debate took place.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in November last year that the upcoming Presidential Election 2017 will be a reserved election for a Malay president.
He said in Parliament, “We have taken the Attorney-General’s advice. We will start counting from the first President who exercised the powers of the Elected President, in other words, Dr Wee Kim Wee. That means we are now in the fifth term of the Elected Presidency.”
During his press conference on Friday, Dr Tan said, “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.”
Below is Dr Tan’s Facebook post in full.
The Government brushes off my press conference. MCI has missed my point totally.
I do not dispute the Constitutional Commission’s report or the White Paper. However, I disagree with the way the Government has triggered the reserved election.I am simply asking if the government’s counting from President Wee Kim Wee FOLLOWED the SPIRIT AND PURPOSE that was proposed by the Constitutional Commission. The Constitutional Commission has said that a reserved election will be triggered if 5 open elections produce no minority President. So far we have 4 open elections with no minority Malay President. So 2017 must remain an open election and if no minority Malay President wins in 2017, than a reserved election will be triggered in 2023.The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) used a different format. AGC advised the Government to count the 5 year hiatus using “ 5 consecutive terms of Presidents who exercised elected powers” to include 1 nominated President and 4 openly elected Presidents. This is not in line with the spirit and purpose of the Constitutional Commission’s Report of 5 open elections.
I’ve given my reasons why we should rightly count from our 1st openly elected President Ong Teng Cheong. It’s the government’s turn to give their reasons why they choose to count differently, having accepted the report. Why change the format?
When asked in Parliament by an MP as recently as February 2017, it was brushed off with challenges to go to court and no debate.
Singaporeans need to know the truth on such an important Constitutional matter.
This is a chance for the Government to explain.
They should not brushed it off again.