Dr Tan Cheng Bock announces that the High Court hearing to determine whether the legislation that specified President Wee Kim Wee’s term of office as the first term to be counted was unconstitutional, will be held on 29 June.
The former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament and candidate in the Presidential Election 2011 had officially announced on 8 May that the High Court has accepted his application, which was made on 5 May.
Under the amendments, a reserved election is set aside by the government for a minority race if no candidate from a particular minority group has been elected as the President after five open elections.
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.
Dr Tan in his a press conference on Friday (31 March) asked the government whether it is correct to set the Presidential Election 2017 as a reserved election under the newly introduced amendments to the Elected Presidency and questioned whether AGC’s method of counting is actually in line with the spirit and purpose put forward by the Constitutional Commission for having a reserved election.
Dr Tan earlier wrote on his Facebook page:
“I would like to announce that this morning, the High Court accepted my application (HC/OS 495/2017), which seeks the Court’s determination on whether a piece of legislation (section 22 Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 6 of 2017 which counted President Wee Kim Wee as the first Elected Presidency term for the purposes of calling a Reserved Election), is consistent with our Constitution (Articles 19B(1) and 164(1) which introduced the mechanism of a Reserved Election into our Constitution).
…Since this is a matter of national importance, I sought to find the legal answer and consulted the best constitutional lawyer I could find. He is Queen’s Counsel Lord David Pannick. I gave Lord Pannick the Commission Report, White Paper, all relevant Hansard parliamentary reports from 7 Nov 2016 to 6 February 2017, our Constitution and all related statutes on this issue. I asked him one question: whether the AG correctly advised the Government to specify President Wee’s term as the first to be counted on the basis that he was the first President to exercise elected powers.
Lord Pannick has advised that he disagrees with the AG’s advice, and that section 22 Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 6 of 2017 as it stands is unconstitutional. After receiving Lord Pannick’s reply, I felt I could not keep his legal opinion to myself. It would be in public interest to have the Court decide which legal view is correct – Lord Pannick or the AG.
…I believe this question can be answered without confrontation or hostility. Both the Government and I have the nation’s best interest at heart. It is in nobody’s interest to have a Reserved Election that is unconstitutional.
Dr Tan also took the opportunity to thank many Singaporeans from all walks of life, young and old, for their well wishes and encouragement and wrote, “I am deeply touched by your heart warming and overwhelming show of support. Thank you.”
Dr Tan who nearly won the election from the People’s Action Party endorsed candidate, Dr Tony Tan back in 2011, losing a mere 0.34% after a recount, also said that if the Government simply accepts AGC’s advice without explaining why they accepted the accuracy of the opinion, he is concerned that the Elected Presidency will always be tainted with the suspicion that the reserved elections of 2017, was introduced to prevent his candidacy.