Dr Tan Cheng Bock said that the choice is obvious between holding an early election and potentially causing a far worse health crisis; and delaying the upcoming General Election (GE) to 2021 and face a possible constitutional problem if the election cannot be held by April 2021.
“We are now talking about life and death. Real lives are at stake . We must put all our energies and resources to fight COVID-19. The GE can wait.” said Dr Tan, Secretary General of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP).
This was said in a Facebook video posted on Saturday morning by PSP on their official Facebook page.
Dr Tan was responding to Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean’s speech in Parliament on Wed (25 Mar) where the Senior Minister said that it is unconstitutional to delay elections in the absence of a state of emergency.
“He may have missed my main point. Which is simply this. In view of COVID-19, The government must now make a choice. It is either to call an early general election in 2020 or to wait until the last possible date in 2021.” said Dr Tan.
The former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament repeated his earlier message that if the government chooses to call an early GE, they will expose over 2.6 million Singaporeans to the COVID-19 virus and run the risk of creating a health crisis.
Referring to Senior Minister Teo’s other point that an early General Election will allow Singapore to decide who they want to captain the ship into the future, Dr Tan asked if the Senior Minister accept that an early GE means, that the ship will potentially carry many more Singaporeans infected with COVID-19?
“Is this the risk he is prepared to take with our over taxed health crisis?” further asked Dr Tan.
The Ministry of Health has announced 49 new cases just yesterday with 9 unlinked cases of COVID-19 infection. Earlier on 25 March, 73 additional cases of COVID-19 infected were confirmed with the announcement of two new clusters at PCF Sparkletots Preschool Fengshan branch and Dover Court International School, the highest daily increase announced so far.
Dr Tan, who was also a practicing doctor for 50 years, opine that it is “a realistic hope” for an election may take place at a later time when the COVID-19 situation has improved, pointing at vaccines being tested and the doubling down on social containment measures.
“We remain hopeful that we will not see a rise in imported cases after the recent few waves” said Dr Tan as the whole world has stepped up in their COVID-19 fighting measures with China being a good example of an improving situation.
He argues that Singapore deserves to be given the fighting chance to wait out this season without having to worry about a potentially hazardous early GE.
Even if his prediction is wrong and the COVID-19 situation becomes so bad that the government cannot hold general elections by April 2021, Dr Tan reminds that there are laws to cover an emergency situation such as the Emergency (Essential powers) Act.
Section 2 of the Act states that “the president may make any regulations (referred to in this act as essential regulations) which he considers desirable or expedient for securing the public safety , the defence of Singapore , the maintenance of public order and of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.”
The only question is, how will the President exercise those powers. the risk here is, but a legal constitutional problem as to whether a caretaker government can be formed, said Dr Tan.
“However, a constitutional problem does not infect people with COVID-19. A constitutional problem will not take away the life of loved ones. A constitutional problem can be overcome.”
The answer is obvious, said Dr Tan, adding that real lives are at stake so all the country’s energies and resources to fight COVID-19.
Dr Tan noted that the ministers and ministries are already hard pressed and that if an election were to occur, they would have to spread themselves out even thinner. Asking if there is even possible to carry out the process of the elections safely.
He reminds the government that its utmost priority now, is to prevent a health crisis and focus on the next 12 months on virus containment.
“Singaporeans must be given the chance and hope that in the 12 months, we will have a safer Singapore through the tremendous efforts of the international health community, our frontline fighters, and the resilience of our people.”
Referring to Senior Minister Teo’s analogy used in his Wednesday speech, Dr Tan said, “A captain can steer the ship but if there’s anything we’ve learnt in the last few months, It’s that if the people on the ship are sick and infection is spreading it can take a long time to find safe harbour.”
In that scenario, the $48 billion dollar resilience package would sadly be a futile exercise, cautioned Dr Tan.
In support of their message to defer the GE to a later date, the party also shared a list of elections that have been postponed due to COVID-19 on the Facebook video.