Deputy AG’s comment on Dr Tan Cheng Bock, highly inflammatory and encroaches into dangerous racial politics

Former PAP MP and Presidential candidate in Presidential Election 2011, Dr Tan Cheng Bock has commented on the judgement by the High Court on his application to determine whether the legislation that specified President Wee Kim Wee’s term of office as the first term to be counted was unconstitutional and also the comments allegedly made by Deputy Attorney-General (DAG) Hri Kumar Nair.

Justice Quentin Loh had dismissed Dr Tan ’s constitutional challenge on Friday. Dr Tan’s application which was made on 5 May, 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 Singapore Constitution (Articles 19B(1) and 164(1) which introduced the mechanism of a Reserved Election into Singapore Constitution).

In his Facebook posting on Friday evening, Dr Tan wrote that he is disappointed with the result and will announce whether he will appeal, after this weekend. He also shared that his lawyers are studying the 65-page judgment in which Justice Quentin Loh acknowledged that he has “put forward serious arguments on the start of the count”.

Dr Tan noted that he is more disappointed with a Channel News Asia (CNA) report made on 7 July 2017. In the paragraph titled “Dr Tan “Selfishly” Trying To “Undermine” Multi Racial Presidency’, the report quoted: ["His motives are purely selfish and he has shown no regard for the principle of multiracial representation which Parliament intended to safeguard,” Deputy Attorney-General (DAG) Hri Kumar Nair said.]

He said that the report gave the impression that Justice Loh accepted the DAG’s remarks about Dr Tan, which is both unfair and untrue.

Dr Tan noted that the judge did not entertain this submission anywhere in his judgment, presumably because that submission was irrelevant to the case. He also pointed that he had championed multi-racialism throughout his political career and continue to do so.

Highlighting that he was fortunate enough to take care of a constituency comprising 27% Malay constituents. He and his constituents served together well and they graciously supported him with record high election percentages including 88% in 2001. He expresses his thanks for the great rapport he had with his Malay constituents and grassroot leaders – some of whom still continue to visit his home during Chinese New Year until this day.

Dr Tan wrote, “For the DAG to call me “selfish” and having “no regard for the principle of multiracial representation” is hitting below the belt, highly inflammatory and encroaches into dangerous racial politics. The DAG is a public servant and an ex-PAP MP. He should not have made such a statement, which is now widely reported by the press.”

He emphasises that the case is not about race but about process, procedures and upholding the Constitution and hopes to keep it that way.

DAG’s comment is illogical

On 15 June, the High Court dismissed the legal challenge mounted by non-practising lawyer M Ravi on changes to the Elected Presidency scheme, on the grounds that he had no standing on the matter to submit the application.

Mr Ravi had tried to argue that reserving elections for particular races goes against the Constitution but the court said that as a private citizen, Mr Ravi had no legal standing to mount the challenge on a public law matter, as he did not meet at least one of the criteria set out, such as having personal interest in the matter, or having suffered special damages.

Mr Ravi had also argued that the qualification criteria to run for presidency, and reserving an election for a community that has not held the office for five or more consecutive terms were unconstitutional. But the court disagreed.

Mr Ravi was ordered to pay S$6,000 in legal fees, and reimburse the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) for costs.

So how is it logical that DAG who so happens to be a former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament, to suggest that Dr Tan is running a case that is entirely self-serving when it is exactly because Dr Tan had the ability to stand for election in the first place that his application was heard by the High Court. What is AGC’s purpose in making such unfounded accusations on Dr Tan’s intention of challenging the decision of the counting.

Also AGC has not revealed the advice that it gave to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to suggest that President Wee is the first elected President instead of President Ong Teng Cheong.