Dr Tan Cheng Bock to file appeal against judgement of constitutional challenge on reserved election

Dr Tan Cheng Bock is filing an appeal against the decision by the High Court to dismiss his constitutional challenge to determine whether the legislation that specified President Wee Kim Wee’s term of office as the first term to be counted was unconstitutional.

TOC understands that Dr Tan is filing the appeal through his lawyers today.  Today is also the deadline for his appeal to be filed.

Following the dismissal of his application on Friday by Justice Quentin Loh, Dr Tan posted on Facebook that he is disappointed with the result and will announce whether he will appeal. 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’s application (HC/OS 495/2017) 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).

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.

According to court documents, AGC accused Dr Tan of “running a case that is entirely self-serving”.

“He is advancing a strained interpretation of the Constitution so that he can apply to stand as a candidate in the coming Presidential elections. His motives are purely selfish and he has shown no regard for the principle of multiracial representation which Parliament intended to safeguard through (recent amendments to the Constitution).”

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair defended the Government’s decision to count President Wee as Singapore’s first elected President. Article 164 of the Constitution “does not impose any requirement on which President, or which category of Presidents the Legislature must choose or choose from”.

In his written submissions to the High Court, Mr Hri Kumar argued that “the power to specify any past President enables the Legislature to end the hiatus for any community sooner rather than later”, and called Dr Tan’s challenge one that “undermines the longstanding imperative for multiracial representation in the office of the President, which the reserved election framework seeks to safeguard”.

The former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament noted that the Legislature had “full discretion” in this respect, and did not make an unconstitutional decision.

According to media reports, Justice Loh said: “I do not know what the Attorney-General’s advice was. But more importantly, the reason I have placed weight on the relevant statements is because they reflect Parliament’s intention.”

The judge said that ultimately, Parliament had decided on the reserved elections with the knowledge that it allows Mr Wee’s term to be counted. “Whether this was based on the Attorney-General’s advice or otherwise is not relevant, he added.”