Thursday, 6 April 2017

2017 Presidential Election to be reserved for Malay candidates


PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Parliamentary Debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill
Madam Speaker, I support the Bill

Since the opening of Parliament in January, we have had a full programme. We have implemented Silver Support and MediShield Life, and we have expanded SkillsFuture. We have been busy building our infrastructure, housing and transport.

These are all good policies, but all not possible without good politics. It is good politics that enables Singapore to have a Government that produces good policies. One that is responsible and does the right thing, serves the people, safeguards our stability and success and leads the country to greater heights.

That is why in January, I raised the subject of the Elected President, and then appointed a Constitutional Commission to review the Elected Presidency scheme. The Elected President sits at the apex of our political system and of our country. He is the Head of Ste, representing Singaporeans of all races and religions and he holds the second key over reserves and over public service appointments. The Elected Presidency scheme is working, there has been no pressure to change the system.

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2017 presidential election will be reserved for Malay candidates
PM Lee Hsien Loong speaking in Parliament on the elected presidency. FOTO: VIDEO SCREENGRAB

The next presidential election, due in 2017, will be reserved for candidates from the Malay community.

PM Lee Hsien Loong, announcing this in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 8), said: "That means if a qualified Malay candidate steps up to run, Singapore will have a Malay president again... this would be our first after more than 46 years, since our first president Encik Yusof Ishak."

Having reserved elections is one of the proposed changes to the elected presidency being debated in Parliament this week. It is meant to ensure that minority presidents are elected from time to time.

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Tan Cheng Bock’s court action pits CC against AG on definition of “elected president”

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, presidential candidate in the 2011 elections, is reported to have filed a submission with the courts, to compel the Attorney General (AG) to explain changes to the Elected President scheme.

Namely, Dr Tan wants the AG to explain why the late Dr Wee Kim Wee, Singapore’s 4th government-appointed president, is also considered the nation’s first Elected President.

Dr Tan, who narrowly lost in the 2011 elections, had announced last year that he would again participate in this year’s contest . However, with the changes to the scheme to make this year’s contest a Reserved Election, Dr Tan no longer qualifies.

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Tan Cheng Bock files suit in High Court to ask why S’pore Elected Presidency starts from Wee Kim Wee
The last time we heard from 2011 Presidential candidate and former PAP veteran MP Tan Cheng Bock, he held a press conference in April to question the decision that Singapore’s Elected Presidency started with Wee Kim Wee and not Ong Teng Cheong

Okay, just to get you up to pace, in case you don’t know why this matters — last September, we learned of a change to presidential elections in Singapore: from now on, if five terms of Elected Presidents go by without any of them coming from a minority race, a closed election would have to be held for the members of that race only.

In other words, when applied to reality, Tan cannot stand in this year’s Presidential Election if we start counting from Wee, because this means a closed election must be held for the Malay community.

However, Tan wouldn’t have qualified even if the election is not a closed or reserved election.

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Tan Cheng Bock questions presidential election changes
"I am concerned that our elected presidency will always be tainted with the suspicion that the reserved election of 2017 was introduced to prevent my candidacy"

Former MP & one-time presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock yesterday questioned the Government's reasons for reserving the upcoming presidential election for Malay candidates & suggested that the changes were made to disqualify him from contesting.

A central plank for his disagreement with the move was the Government's decision to include the term of the late former president Wee Kim Wee in calculating when a reserved election should be held.

Dr Tan, 76, said Mr Wee, who served from September 1985 to September 1993, did not contest an election.

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Next Presidential Election to be reserved for Malay candidates: PM Lee

The next Presidential Election due next year will be reserved for Malay candidates, based on the hiatus-triggered model, said PM Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 8).

Mr Lee also said that as the Constitutional Amendment Bill states that the Government should legislate on when the racial provision should start, it intends to do so when amending the Presidential Elections Act in January next year. It will start counting from the 1st President who exercised the powers of the Elected Presidency, who was Dr Wee Kim Wee.

He was speaking during the parliamentary debate on proposed changes to the Elected Presidency system, which started on Monday.

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Next presidential election to be reserved for Malay candidates

Singapore could see the its 1st elected Malay President in over 40 years come the Presidential Election due next August, with the Government intending to entrench a hiatus-triggered model in January that ensures minority representation in the highest office of the land.

PM Lee Hsien Loong announced the move on the 2nd day of parliamentary debate on the proposed amendments to the Elected Presidency (EP) scheme, which at times saw heated exchanges over the workings of the Workers’ Party’s (WP) proposal of an elected Senate as an alternative to the EP, and why the opposition party was only mooting the idea now.

Among the 16 lawmakers who rose to speak on the matter on Tuesday (Nov 9), the higher bar for aspirants from the private sector was also one concern. Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza, for example, noted that Singapore’s first 4 presidents — who had gone on to achieve great things for the nation — would have struggled to meet the new criteria.

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New Singapore laws could see first elected Malay president in 2017

Singapore could have its first-ever elected Malay president next year, according to a proposed constitutional change.

As one of Asia's wealthiest economies, the island-nation is known for successful management of a peaceful multicultural society but race politics remain a hot-button topic in the Chinese-majority country. According to official statistics, 74 percent of the population is of Chinese ethnicity, while 13 percent are of Malay heritage and 9 percent of Indian.

In an effort to ensure racial equality in government, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong proposed a new model for presidential elections on Tuesday. The country is set to elect its next president some time in the first half of 2017.

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CERTIFICATE OF ELIGIBILITY AND COMMUNITY CERTIFICATE

All prospective candidates in a Presidential election, regardless of a reserved election or an open election, have to submit a community declaration to the Community Committee. The 3 main communities are the Chinese community, the Malay community, and the Indian and other minority communities.

If the Community Committee is satisfied that the declarant belongs to that community, the Community Committee will issue the declarant with a Community Certificate to that effect.

In a reserved election, only prospective candidates belonging to the community to which the election is reserved, qualify to stand for election.

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Parliament passes changes to Presidential Elections Act

Parliament passed changes on Monday (Feb 6) to the Presidential Elections Act that will give prospective candidates more time to prepare their applications, & for authorities to better assess their eligibility. Under amendments to the Constitution, which were passed last year, the next Presidential Election will be reserved for Malay candidates.

Like previous elections, prospective candidates can apply for the certificate of eligibility (COE) from Jun 1, or 3 months before the end of the incumbent President’s term. But their deadline to apply for a COE will now be extended to 5 days after the Writ of Election is issued, compared to three days previously.

Changes were also made to the timeline leading up to Nomination Day, which is when candidates present their papers and certificates to the Returning Officer. It is also on this date when the Returning Officer declares if the only nominated candidate will be elected as President, or if there will be an election based on how many candidates are nominated. Nomination Day will now be held at least 10 days after the Writ is issued, an increase from the current five days

related: Presidential Election to be held in September to avoid National Day celebrations

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Tan Cheng Bock calls for Presidential Election to be open election

Former presidential hopeful Dr Tan Cheng Bock has called on the Government to make the upcoming Presidential Election an open election.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Friday (Mar 31), he asked if it was correct to make the upcoming election a reserved one.

Under changes to the Constitution passed in November, if there is not a President from a particular racial community for 5 consecutive terms, then the next term will be reserved for a President from that community. Last March, Dr Tan announced that he would again contest the next Presidential Election. But the announcement in November that the next election - to be held in September this year - would be reserved for Malay candidates precluded him from running.

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Tan Cheng Bock questions government's decision on reserved election
Former presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock called on the S'pore government to explain its decision to include the term of former president Wee Kim Wee in deciding when to trigger a reserved election. FOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES

FORMER presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock called on the Singapore government to explain its decision to include the term of former president Wee Kim Wee in deciding when to trigger a reserved election.

Calling a press conference on Friday, Dr Tan, 76, said the late Mr Wee was not elected but nominated into office, even though he performed the role of an elected president after changes to the presidency took effect in 1991.

Dr Tan, a former People's Action Party backbencher, said: "In all my years in Parliament, we have always referred to Mr Ong Teng Cheong as the 1st elected president."

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Tan Cheng Bock questions timing of reserved election for president
Dr Tan (left) greeting Mr Tan Kin Lian during a press conference yesterday. Dr Tan argued that there had been only 4 terms since the EP scheme was introduced & the presidential polls in September should be an open election. Photo: Jason Quah

Former presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who said he disagreed with the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) advice on when to trigger a reserved presidential election, has called on the Government to apply for a court review on the recommendation.

Calling a press conference yesterday, he argued that there had been only four terms since the Elected Presidency (EP) was introduced, with Mr Ong Teng Cheong becoming Singapore’s first elected president. Thus, the presidential polls in September — which the Government had said earlier would be reserved for the Malay community — should be an open election, Dr Tan said, trotting out numerous references from Hansard records and Istana press releases over the years to justify his point.

“In all my 26 years in Parliament, we had always referred to Mr Ong Teng Cheong as the 1st elected president. Our Presidents, past and present, & ministers and MPs in parliament have all referred to President Ong Teng Cheong directly or indirectly as Singapore’s 1st elected president,” he added.

related:
Dr Tan Cheng Bock calls for open polls to pick Singapore's next President
Amendments to Elected Presidency, NCMP scheme tabled
The Workers' Party's position paper on proposed changes to the Elected Presidency
Elected Presidency is a long-term stabiliser for our system: PM Lee (CNA)
Elected Presidency cannot be a second centre of power: President Tony Tan (CNA)

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Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock questions changes to elected presidency
Dr Tan Cheng Bok says Presidential Election 2017 should be an open election.ST VIDEO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Former MP and one-time presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock yesterday questioned the Government's reasons for reserving the upcoming presidential election for Malay candidates & suggested the changes were made to disqualify him from contesting.

A central plank for his disagreeing with the move was the Government's decision to include the term of the late former president Wee Kim Wee in calculating when a reserved election should be held.

Dr Tan, 76, said Mr Wee, who served from August 1985 to August 1993, did not contest an election.

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Tan Cheng Bock calls on Govt to explain timing of changes to elected presidency
Former presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock questioned the government's decision to include Mr Wee Kim Wee's term in deciding when to trigger a reserved election, saying that the next presidential election should be an open election

Former presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock said on Friday (Mar 31) the upcoming presidential election should be an open election which candidates from all races can contest, not one reserved for Malay candidates.

He called on the Government to explain why it decided to implement changes to the presidency this year, & questioned the Government's decision to include the term of former president Wee Kim Wee in deciding when to trigger a reserved election.

Dr Tan, 76, said the late Mr Wee was not elected, even though he performed the role of an elected president after changes to the presidency took effect in 1991.

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On why he is raising the issue now, & his plans
Dr Tan greeting his supporters at the press conference yesterday. "At the end of the day, if you ask me, I want to serve you", he said. ST FOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Here is an edited excerpt of some of the questions posed to Dr Tan Cheng Bock at his press conference yesterday, & his responses.

Q: On his call on the Government to ask the courts to decide if its method of counting when a reserved election should take place is legal. Would he seek a judicial review if the Government did not?

A: I think the courts should be the last avenue for us to answer a question like this. The elected Government has that responsibility to explain questions that are put to it by ordinary Singaporeans. There is no need to avoid this very simple question: Why did you choose that particular method? So, going to the court, I think, is not nice... I keep all my options open. I don't think I want to go to court. But if I am pressured, I keep my options open.

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Elected President: CC vs AGC
COURT APPLICATION ACCEPTED

The following is a press release by Dr Tan Cheng Bock:
  • I would like to announce that this morning, the High Court accepted my application (HC/OS 495/2017), which 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 our Constitution (Articles 19B(1) and 164(1) which introduced the mechanism of a Reserved Election into our Constitution).
  • I am the Plaintiff and for the purposes of serving Court papers on the Government, the Defendant is the Attorney General.
  • The application was filed on 5 May 2017. The Court accepted my application this morning, and has fixed a pre-trial conference on 22 May 2017.

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A Tribute to Singapore’s First Elected President
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SM Emeritus Goh Chok Tong recognisd Ong Teng Cheong as Spore's 1st Elected President

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The National Library Board calls Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first president to be elected into office

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HistorySG, a government-run portal called Ong Teng Cheong the first elected president

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Our National Archives shows that Ong took part in and won Singapore’s first presidential election

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Then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong also called Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first elected president in a condolence letter to to Ong Teng Cheong’s wife on his passing in 2002

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The Istana website calls Ong Teng Cheong the first president to be popularly elected by the people

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Even international news calls Ong Teng Cheong Singapore’s first elected president

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So, government records say Ong Teng Cheong is Singapore’s first elected president

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related:
Elected President: CC vs AGC
2017 Presidential Election to be reserved for Malay candidates
Public Forum on Elected Presidency cancelled due to poor response
White Paper on Elected Presidency scheme