In a Facebook post written by Law Minister K Shanmugam on Sunday (8 October), the Minister alleged that Dr Tan Cheng Bock was splicing and rearranging his remarks in a Facebook post written by Dr Tan on Saturday.
Mr Shanmugam noted that Dr Tan claimed that he had said that the Government would publish AGC’s advice, and that this is inconsistent with what he said in Parliament last week.
"This is untrue," he stressed.
According to the Minister, Dr Tan has spliced his remarks, rearranged them, and put them together in a way to suggest something which he did not say.
Here is what he said in full:
“Q: When would the circuit-breaker (to hold a reserved election after a racial group has not been represented in Presidential office after five continuous terms) come into effect?
Mr Shanmugam: The most direct answer is actually, the Government can decide. When we put in the Bill, we can say we want it to start from this period. It’s… a policy decision but there are also some legal questions about the Elected Presidency and the definition and so on, so we have asked the Attorney-General for advice. Once we get the advice, we will send it out. Certainly by the time the Bill gets to Parliament, which is in October, I think we will have a position and we will make it public. At present, there are a number of legal questions… including whether such provisions are consistent with the Convention to eliminate racial discrimination, how you draft it, whether you count all presidencies, elected presidencies, which is the first elected president – there are a number of questions we have to sort out.”
"As the context makes clear, I was asked when the circuit breaker for holding reserved election will come into effect," he wrote.
He then stated that he had answered by making the following points:
1. It is a policy decision, for the government to make;
2. The Bill can state when the term count begins, and that will determine when the circuit breaker comes into effect;
3. But there were a number of legal questions to sort out before the Bill could be finalised, and we were getting AGC’s advice on those questions;
4. The Government will decide on the term count after we received AGC’s advice, and will then set out its position [I said ‘ we will send it out’];
5. At the latest, the Government will have a position on the term count by the time the Bill gets to Parliament. And at that point, it will make its position public.
"Clearly, I was referring to making the Government’s position (and not the AGC’s advice) public. The question was when the circuit breaker will come into effect. My answer was that we would make our position clear after we had sorted out some points; and at the latest, we will make our position clear by the time the Bill gets to Parliament," he added.
He then stressed, "As it so happened, the Prime Minister himself made clear the Government’s position on the term count when Parliament debated the Constitutional amendments. He said we would start counting from President Wee Kim Wee’s second term. As the Court of Appeal has said explicitly, the Prime Minister was clear."
The Minister then wrote that Dr Tan may be bitter, but that is no excuse for engaging in these elaborate charades.
Referring to the question as to why the Minister – and not the PM, DPM Teo or Minister Chan Chun Sing – replied to Ms Sylvia Lim's Adjournment Motion, Mr Shanmugam wrote, "I’m surprised Dr Tan should ask me this question. Surely as a former parliamentarian he knows that adjournment motions have strict time limits. The MP moving the adjournment motion has up to 20 minutes; and someone else has all of 10 minutes to respond. That’s it. As Law Minister, I responded on behalf of the Government,"
Supporters of the ruling party criticise Dr Tan's posting
Something that is not seen elsewhere on the news reports on the matter happened on the Minister's Facebook post.
Instead of critising the government non-transparency on the matter, many commenters took to criticise Dr Tan's Facebook posting. But the names of these individuals should be pretty familiar to those who frequent social media posts on current affairs in Singapore, they are also commonly known to frequent fanpages that trash opposition and activist figures and praise the ruling party to seventh heaven, such as "Fabrication of PAP" and "FLOP".
Jason Chua Chin Seng – The administrator of "Fabrication of PAP" – wrote, "Dr Tan Cheng Bock needs skill future credits to learn English."
Eunice Chia-Lim, the chairwoman of PAP Women's wing at Bedok wrote, "Think TCB should just give up the idea to be president, he didn't get voted in in 2011, he won't get voted in 2017. His action these last six years have made many lose respect for him. And what he did to Min Shan's statement is a new low."
Surya Kumra wrote, "Dr. C.B. Tan's FB cover pic states "Unifying Figure for Singapore". I have categorically stated to him that, in my view, I have never seen a more divisive figure in Singapore in my lifetime.
Now, this is one more clear example that substantiates my view. Please, Dr. Tan, change your cover picture because it is a blatant untruth, similar to your post on Min Shan. You are more like a wolf in sheep's clothes. Do not insult the majority of Singaporeans through the use of that title. I am so glad that you will never be President. You undoubtedly will dissect and divide our people. You have just shown your devious 'dissection' skills."
Julie Chin wrote, "All that TCB stood for when he was an MP, all lost now. Why has he become such a selfish and bitter man? Is it because he lost everything when he quit the PAP in order to run for the PE? He lost his MP position. He lost his power. He lost his connections. He lost his prestige. After all that, he lost the Presidency."
She also wrote, "TCB used to stand up for the truth and fair play. Now he is twisting words to suit his agenda. Very much like Sylvia and Co. have been doing. Not enough that a man who aspired to be the President of Singapore engage in a public protest against the Government, he needs to fabricate statements too?"
Tommy On wrote, "TCB has turned all his merits (before) into sad remnants of his own moral beings what's little left today."
Robert Ko wrote, "Tan Cheng Bock has come out very ugly in all this as a sore loser. A country's presidency is not about an individual. He's said it himself as a former MP! He's the one contradicting himself."
Qiu Yan wrote, "Another indication of just how desperate TCB is to be president. He had already got to court twice, engaged even a queen's counsel, and his own lawyer agreed with the court that AG's advice to the government was irrelevant to him and yet there he was, still attempting to stir. Not a unifying figure, is he?"
Ellenisia Goh wrote, "The records speak are clear and speak for themselves. Dr Tan Cheng Bock has been dishonest.
Just wants to turn people against the Govt by twisting the facts. Sore and bitter loser indeed."
Ed Sim wrote, "No one from the public talked about the Presidential Election until the day after ELD announced the issuance of the Certificate of Eligibility. The changes in the constitution for EP was heavily debated in Parliament over several sessions. However, there are some prominent members of the public chose to NOT read the proceedings and jump to their own silly conclusion base on public sentiments. Perhaps people like Dr Tan and Sylvia Lim can pay better attention before making any remarks."
Danny Ngiam wrote, "Dr Tan is a very sore old man. Lost all my respect for him."
Junjie Boo wrote, "If Tan Cheng Bock cannot read a speech properly, then lucky he's not President. Probably cannot read our financial spreadsheets properly either!"
Daniel Ng wrote, "I wonder why he is doing all these, he still does not qualify under the 500Million benchmark so all else is moot as far as he is concerned. Parliament, as the law making body of our country has the absolute right to pass legislation to protect our long term multi-racism. I wonder which part of this Sylvia didn't understand. And now the two of them are patting each other on back. Sylvia, I can understand but I am thoroughly disappointed with CB Tan who is an ex PAP man!"
Swee Heng wrote, "Disappointing that ego and bitterness have driven TCB to stoop so low."
Mark Ko wrote, "It's very sad to see the man I used to respect going down the route of what alternative media do on a daily basis. Anyway, a lot of people love using a sad day for this and that. Well, this is a sad day for us indeed to see how TCB turns into a man we don't recognise anymore."
Malcolm Goh wrote, "Mr Tan should just retire and go have a good rest and relax. His time serving the nation has past and was done with much dignity and respect and it should be and must be remembered as such."
Desmond Pek wrote, "Used to respect TCB a lot but lost it all over the years. wise man says that time will tell if a person truly is honourable with values."
Huang Dayu wrote, "Poor TCB. The desire to become president had consumed him so much that he now tries every mean and way to stay relevant and act like he is the voice of the people."
Gary Ngiam wrote, "Dr Tan seems to be searching for attention all these while. All for the wrong reasons ."
Yew Ah Tee wrote, "Sad case.From an honourable to a "Instigator" to create confusion for his own motive."
Kieth Tay wrote, "Dr Tan Cheng Bock, is he alright ? Seems to me these few incidents he is desperately trying not to be forgotten or something?"
Vicky Lee wrote, "TCB? What is wrong with him? Can someone ever be so bitter just because he cant be president?"
Suhaimi Hafidz wrote, "Sir, TCB only eyes for being president, not serving the people of Singapore!"
Joseph Tan wrote, "Aiya. He seems to be sour grapes. Eyes sore.
He just wish for second opportunity to be opportunist. However, too bad. He bet wrongly. He has since loss more and more respect and supporters."
PK Ang wrote, "He (TCB) needs supporters, now WP comes in at the right time, they needed one another."