In a Channel News Asia report dated 4 October (Wednesday), it is reported that the Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam stressed in Parliament that the call to start counting from Dr Wee Kim Wee's second term as President for the purpose of holding a reserved Presidential Election was a policy decision.
Mr Shanmugam was responding to Aljunied GRC Ms Sylvia Lim who filed an Adjournment motion to ask the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister of Prime Minister Office, Chan Chun Sing if they misrepresented to the Parliament on the counting of the first President from which the Reserved Election was based on.
During the Parliament held on Monday, Ms Sylvia Lim asked, "Did the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, and Minister Chan Chun Sing make misleading statement to the House that the question of which President to come from was illegal question? Did the Government all along make a policy itself to count from President Wee Kim Wee?"
"Did the Government merely use the AGC advise to avoid full Parliamentary debate on why the count was not starting from President Ong Teng Cheong?"she added.
Responding to the question, Mr Shanmugam said, "In a dialogue session held, after the Government released the White Paper, I was asked the following question. The most direct answer is actually the Government can decide."
The Minister then stated, "When we put on the Bill we say we wanted to start from this period. It is a policy decision. A Court of appeal has confirmed that it was for Parliamentary to decide."
"Ms Lim said she was present, she heard this judge asked that question, that was said, this was said. Why didn't you read the judgement? There is only one person in this House whom the Court have held to be misleading Parliament. And he is not from the PAP. Only one person, after evidence is held, Ms Lim knows whom the High Court held was misleading Parliament. So, I suppose, Ms Lim knows all about misleading Parliament," he ended.
Many netizens commented that Mr Shanmugam's statement would suggest to Singaporeans that he and the party are above the law.
Diu Lei wrote, "There you go, he is basically telling you they are above the law and they can do whatever they want whenever it serves their agenda."
Ken Chee wrote, "K Shanmugam is very right. Government can decide. They can even convert Indian to Malay. What else the government cannot decides. Sylvia Lim, if you are not careful, the government can decide to change you from female to male."
Hoe-leong Wong wrote, "What an arrogant guy- does he understand he works for the people of Singapore, not the reverse? The government did not decide, they changed the rules!"
Sakhti Alderwereid wrote, "He just shot himself in his foot by telling everyone that the law is in their pockets and they can manipulate it to their advantage just to get things done their way."
Conrad Li wrote, "Of course any government can do what it wants with absolute power. If race can be changed, what else cannot?"
Wee-How Lim wrote, "I think MIW is saying government is the law and they decide what is the law as deem appropriate. This is absurd. There is no rule of law in another word. Who make them there in the first place? MIW, you are not communist, please wait for year 2020 to taste your fruits you have planted."
Jonus Jun wrote, "The decision has to be fair and just, it has to be accountable to the nation. This government is telling us because they are in power, they can do whatever they like, whatever seems to fit to their plan. And worst they can be above the law. I think I am scared, very scared."
Huey Yap wrote, "The more they tried to explain, the worst it got. The truth is just so obvious. Do not be arrogant Mr Minister. You work for the people and your gahmen is only the caretaker. Like what you said, no one is above the law right? Oh well."
Jeremy Tan wrote, "'The government can decide' does not even sound democratic for a democracy."
Balkis Gany wrote, "Lol! The government can decide. Why drama? Just assigned Halimah. Hu ha huha so much of wayang . Singaporean are frustrated with such poor production of tele drama."
Shaikh Annuar wrote, "Definitely, the government makes rules and law. We had voted them to be the lawmakers aren't they? We chose them to do this right?"
Lawrence Soh wrote, "My respect for this minister dropped by a few notches after listening to him skirt the question and tries to cause further confusion and ambiguity on the whole issue. Looks like they can say one thing today and do another thing tomorrow. Must be truthful and consistent."
Boon Chua wrote, "Perhaps when one day we would totally lose our rights to make any changes. That is when we will regret why we never look further and be more interested in understanding what is our rights as a Democratic country."
Ke Man wrote, "WP said it is unconstitutional, the PAP said the govt can decide on any policy and its conclusion. So are we suppose to think with no Parliament debate, the PAP can do things in non-constitutional manner? ACG listen to who? the Courts listen to who? Silvia Lim gave a good summary and showed us how the PAP do things illegally."
Wee Kiat Lee wrote, "He is arrogant and definitely affect his PR .Of course a policy can be made with 2/3 majority. Giving that this is a constitutional question especially on whom to count from, why was there a rush to move and declared the reserved Presidential election .Why didn't a debate on whom to count fro instead of the why to have reserved president. Singaporeans are not against reserved President but the counting and transparency. What is elected president? We should go back to official records from the idea was mooted by LKY and the white paper. What is the objective of elected president. Voted by Singaporeans so that the president have the moral authority to guard the reserves. Why now the government can make a policy decision to count from Mr Wee Kim Wee. The minister has not gone to the basics of the elected president."
Andy Wong wrote, "<<The government can decide>>, meaning the law and policies are for all to follow, except PAP (ruling government)? Is this democracy? Shanmugam are you telling all its "PAP way or the highway"? Our minister is finally revealing their conceited mentality and manners. You are no different from Najib.
70 percent, look what have you done, and what kind of government you have put into power?"
Yong Ching Goh wrote, "Nobody is challenging whether government has the right to decide, but rather whether this policy is right.
Unlike a fiscal policy, the success and results can be measured in numbers. This policy is aimed to improve multi racialism and harmony among Singaporeans. But clearly it did not achieve its objective judging from the level of disagreement and dissatisfaction generated, that till today after the EP is over, government officials are still trying to justify this to us and still debated in parliament."
Khairullah bin Osman wrote, "I still dont understand why we say our National Pledge. It really contradicts. Can someone (government) enlighten me? Or do we need to change our Pledge?"
Cheryl Lim wrote, "I do not really care about whose our president, but I care about what a joke Singapore politics looks like to the world now with all these saga and all."
Lye Danny wrote, "No point and useless to question further as they have already decided before the selection and you cannot do anythings against it as they are above the law. Anythings they said is right and lawful. This is Singapore way the govmen works."
Ho Samuel wrote, "Of course you can, you are the government isn't it? But is it right? Is it constitutional? If it was, why do you need to amend the Singapore Constitution before announcing it?"
Lilian Lum wrote, "Going forward they will make and amend laws as they so wish. This is telling Singaporeans they are above all laws. This is like bullies in schools. Very sad!! How to progress as a nation. Nothing. They are more concern of their posts are intact with exorbitant paycheck. Sad!"
Ibnu Nawfal wrote, "The only government in the world that can do no wrong. All perfect. They work for the people or for themselves?"
Kris Wong wrote, "PAP= Power Above Power. Where Did they get this power from? They can do what they want and when they want because their energies and power came from those who voted for them. So like it or not, bo pian leow."
Some stated that the Government has twisted the plot by pointing to the racial issue, while in fact, it was the process that Singaporeans really disagree.
Desmond Khoo wrote, "They still do not understand or do not want to understand what has pissed people off. It is not about who has become the president or whether the government can or cannot decide. It is the process which is distasteful."
Hanyang Lee wrote, "His mistake was allowing this special president election in the first place, there should be no president at all, then people will not complaint which race is the president."
Some also asked Singaporeans to wake up and vote for a change.
Herman Zain wrote, "If "government can decide" is his answer, then all of you still sleeping uh?? Election time, vote against those PAPs ah!! Talk so much and be keyboard warriors also pointless. Walk the talk then. Vote for the CHANGE! Citizens can also decide!!"
Jeffrey Anthony wrote, "So there you have it. When this sick Gov wants to do something they can simply say its policy and do so and we can do nothing about it. It seems when they want to make things in favor for themselves they just own self check or own self create. So folks, if that the way the Government should work for themselves or for us. Please, think properly when next GE comes."
Joan Siah wrote, "Of course government can decide. Sylvia Lim is basically asking for transparency in their decisions. Don't like what they do, don't vote for them, it is that simple."