Thursday, 11 May 2017

Elected President: CC vs AGC

Update 1 Jun 2017: Court hearing set for 29 June 2017

On 31 May 2017, the Elections Department announced that PE 2017 is a reserved election and that application forms for the Certificate of Eligibility can be obtained from the Elections Department from 1 Jun 2017 onwards.

Following this news, many people have asked me whether my case is over. The answer is “Not yet.” To recap, on 5 May 2017, I applied to Court to determine whether the legislation that specified President Wee Kim Wee’s term of office as the first term to be counted was unconstitutional.( refer 8th May post) The case will be heard in Court on 29th June 2017.

Let me take this opportunity to thank many Singaporeans from all walks of life, young and old, for your well wishes and encouragement. I am deeply touched by your heart warming and overwhelming show of support. Thank you.

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High Court accepts Tan Cheng Bock’s application challenging reserved Presidential Election

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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Tan Cheng Bock goes to court to challenge reserved EP timing
Tan Cheng Bock goes to court to challenge reserved EP timing

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has made a legal challenge in the High Court against the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) finding that Dr Wee Kim Wee was Singapore’s 1st Elected President. The decision formed the basis for triggering a reserved election for Malay candidates for the polls in September.

The application, filed last Friday, was accepted by the court on Monday (May 8).

A pre-trial conference has been fixed on May 22, said Dr Tan in a FaceBook post.

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Tan Cheng Bock applies to High Court for clarification on upcoming Presidential Election

Former presidential hopeful Tan Cheng Bock said on Monday (May 8) that the High Court has accepted his application questioning the basis of the upcoming reserved Presidential Election.

In a FaceBook post on Monday, Dr Tan said that he had filed an application last Friday to seek the Court's determination on whether a piece of legislation counting President Wee Kim Wee as the 1st elected president for the purposes of the upcoming reserved election was consistent with the Constitution.

A Supreme Court spokesperson confirmed Dr Tan's filing on matters relating to Section 22 of the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 2017.

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Tan Cheng Bok files Lord Pannick’s legal view in Court to challenge PAP’s interpretation of Wee Kim Wee as first Elected President

Former Presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bok has filed a court application to challenge the Govt’s interpretation of President Wee Kim Wee being the first Elected President of Singapore and not President Ong Teng Cheong.

Because the PAP Govt counted President Wee as the first Elected President, it would trigger the Reserved Election – something that they introduced into our Constitution. The Reserved Election would entail that the next PE would be reserved for minority candidates only. The talk is that PAP would push Halimah to become the next President.

Dr Tan said, “To recap, on 31 March 2017, I held a press conference explaining why in my layman’s opinion, starting the count from President Wee’s term appeared to be inconsistent with the spirit and purpose for reserved elections. I then invited the Government or AG to explain the legal reasons for their count.”

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Counting presidents before they are elected

I AM glad that Dr Tan Cheng Bock applied to the courts for a decision on whether the G’s calculations on when to call a reserved presidential election is constitutional. After a quick burst through Parliament albeit after six months of deliberation by a constitutional commission, the judiciary will now have a look at the trigger mechanism.

This is a contentious portion, couched by the G as a way to preserve minority representation but seen by Dr Tan’s fans as a way to keep him out of the coming contest. This is due in September, so it’s likely that the courts will move fast and make a speedy decision.

Opposition MPs who have raised questions about the timing of reserved elections during the debate on the changes to the presidency have been given short shrift. The G’s tactic was to turn the guns on the MPs, suggesting that they were impugning the office of its top lawyer by asking for more details on how he came to the conclusion that Singapore was now in its fifth presidential term without a Malay president.

related: Cheng Bock stirs the presidential pot

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Tan Cheng Bock Goes To Court Over Reserved Election

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has filed an application in the High Court to question the Government's decision to reserve the upcoming presidential election for Malay candidates.

He wants the court to decide if the Government's counting of the five presidential terms needed to trigger a reserved election is consistent with constitutional amendments to the elected presidency.

In his application, which includes a statement from top British constitutional lawyer David Pannick, Dr Tan contends that the counting of five terms should start with Mr Ong Teng Cheong. The Government had started counting from the term of Mr Wee Kim Wee, the first president vested with the powers of the elected presidency.

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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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Former PM Goh Chok Tong contradicts the Govt on how to count reserved elections

Following Dr Tan Cheng Bock's press conference last weekend, there has been heightened public discourse on the Government's curious interpretation of the following words: "the most recent 5 consecutive terms of the Elected Presidency."

These words are from the latest amendments to our ever-amenable Constitution. They can be found in Article 19B, which was introduced to Parliament on 7th November 2016.

If the man on the street were asked to interpret Article 19B, he would most probably conclude that before a "election for the office of President is reserved for a community", 5 open elections must proceed it. Following that line of logic, we have only had 4 terms of Presidents who were elected since the Presidential Elections were introduced in 1993. (1 Term of President Ong Teng Cheong, 2 Terms of President S R Nathan and 1 Term of President Tony Tan.) Therefore, using President Ong as a reference point, the reserved election should be held in 2022 and not this year.

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The Commission vs the AGC

At the very heart of the controversy here is the definition of the term “elected president”.

Is the Elected President someone who merely exercises the duties and responsibilities of the elected presidency, or should the person also have gone through an actual open electoral contest and has won the majority vote?

Here, it would seem the Constitutional Commission, chaired by the Chief Justice, and the Attorney General, who advises the Government, hold different views.

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Workers' Party MPs oppose changes to Presidential Elections Act
WP's Sylvia Lim questioned the manner in which the Government came to determine the schedule for this year’s Presidential Election, which is reserved for Malay candidates

Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Workers' Party (WP) on Monday (Feb 6) voiced their unanimous opposition to changes to the Presidential Elections Act, and reiterated the party’s stand of opposing the system of the Elected Presidency.

In her speech, WP's Sylvia Lim questioned the manner in which the Government came to determine the schedule for this year’s Presidential Election, which is reserved for Malay candidates.

During the Bill’s second reading, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing said the schedule sets out the terms of office that are counted and the communities that the Presidents who held the terms belonged to.

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Who Is an Elected President?

When most people use the term ‘elected President’, they mean someone who has been elected by the people.

However, in one sense, all of Singapore’s Presidents since independence have been elected. This is because Article 17(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1980 Reprint) used to say that the President was to be “elected” – by Parliament, not the electorate.

Thus, it would technically not be wrong to say that Yusof Ishak, Benjamin Sheares, C V Devan Nair and Wee Kim Wee were all ‘elected Presidents’. It just wouldn’t be in the commonly understood manner.

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The conundrum of the Elected Presidency

Singaporeans are so inured to the sophistry of the PAP demagogues that they now take it in their stride for its face value.When the whole of Singapore had not the slightest doubt that the establishment of the Constitutional Commission on the Elected Presidency was a political scheme of the PAP wallahs to prevent Dr. Tan Cheng Bock from contesting the EP, PAP leaders, especially PM Lee Hsien Loong, could be so tongue-in-cheek to try to convince the public that it was not aimed at Dr. Tan but was for some obscure altruistic reasons.

Dr. Tan has for some unknown reason hitherto been reticent on this point but for some very good reasons now openly said in a press conference "that out elected presidency will always be tainted with the suspicion that the reserved election of 2017 was introduced to prevent my candidacy."

Quite significantly,Dr. Tan has questioned the PAP Government's decision to include the term of the late former president Wee Kim Wee in calculating when a reserved election should be held which in the eyes of the public is considered too far -fetched. President Wee Kim Wee was never by any stretch of imagination an elected president and for the Attorney-General to start counting the five continuous terms from the term of president Wee is utterly incomprehensible and may be against the nature of justice. Dr. Tan said that there was no proper explanation as to why the A-G advised the Government to start the count from Dr. Wee's term and suggested that the Government can refer the Attorney-General's opinion to court for independent judicial verification.

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The 5th Elected President of Singapore may be a 'tainted' President

Dr Tan Cheng Bock yesterday urged the Government to make the next Presidential Election (PE) an open one and not one reserved for a minority candidate. Under the Constitutional Amendments passed in November, if there is not a President from a particular race for five consecutive terms, then the next term will be reserved for a President from that community.

The Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) had earlier advised the Prime Minister to start counting the five terms from President Wee Kim Wee - who served one term from 1985 to 1993 - in looking at the new electoral process. Dr Tan called the AGC's advice to the Government into question.

Dr Tan did not dispute the Constitutional Commission's Recommendations for amendments to the PE, but referencing several Parliamentary records, newspaper clippings, and the fact that the Prime Minister had only issued 4 writs of PE, he asked how the AGC arrived at the conclusion that President Wee was the first Elected President (EP).

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Cheng Bok takes the govt to court

Tan Cheng Bock finally filed his case to the court for a legal interpretation on the Elected President yesterday. His main point is to seek a court ruling on how the counting of President Wee Kim Wee as the first elected president is deemed legal and proper to justify an EP election this year.

We will now have to wait to hear what the court has to say and whether the ruling is constitutional. The AG's office would have to explain come they come about with their recommendation to the PM.

This is probably the first constitutional challenge in this island since independence.

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Why is Ong Teng Cheong not recognised as Singapore’s first Elected President?

The changes to the Elected Presidency (EP) scheme were passed by Parliament on Monday, 7 February.

The Government have also announced that the next EP will take place in September 2017.

This next presidential election will be a special one which is reserved only for Malay candidates.

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The Curious Question of Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s Timing

Tan has broken his silence on the Government’s changes to the Elected Presidency. Sure he has had nearly a year to participate in hearings and give his views. Even Sylvia Lim piped up in Parliament though God knows why as it always used to be in the WP manifesto, derived from JBJ,  that the EP is an infringement on the sovereignty of Parliament so Lim and the other WP MPs should by rights have boycotted the debate.

But I am not going to argue that Dr TCB is late by a year. I am going to argue that his lateness in speaking up and his reticence go back way further than that. It is clear that Dr Tan’s failure to speak up goes back at least to the first Presidential Election contest in 1993 when he was still a PAP MP.

For those whose memories do not stretch back that far, 1993 saw the “election” of Ong Teng Cheong, who so far has been the only EP who was prepared to give the role some teeth and not just treat it as an overpaid sinecure for elderly ex-Ministers and cronies of the Lee family. (After all what other job pays over $1 million p.a., which used to be $3.5 million before the Government cut it after the 2011 election, while allowing plenty of siesta time and opportunities to improve your golf handicap coupled with luxury foreign travel with first class flights and accommodation thrown in all courtesy of the taxpayer!).

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Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who contested in the 2011 Presidential Elections in Singapore, has questioned the government’s decision to recognise the late Wee Kim Wee, instead of Ong Teng Cheong, as Singapore’s first Elected President.

At a press conference on 31 March, Friday, Dr Tan also called for the next presidential elections to be an opened one.

He said that the government’s decision to reserve the next presidential elections for minority-race candidates only “will always be tainted with the suspicion that the reserved election of 2017 was introduced to prevent my candidacy.”

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Mandates, Majorities and the Legitimacy of the Elected President

The Elected Presidency was created as a knee-jerk reaction to the People’s Action Party’s (PAP’s) worst nightmare: that in a ‘freak election’, ‘irrational’ voters might cause a seismic shift in voting patterns to bring into office an irresponsible and profligate government.

The Westminster parliamentary system of government, with its fusion of executive and legislative powers, would provide no check on such a government if it had a parliamentary majority. It was thus necessary to create a countervailing force to put the brakes on the excesses of such a government.

Back in 1984, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s solution was to transform the office of the President into an elected one. The logic behind the need to elect the President has been enunciated and emphasized many times: If you want someone to check on an elected government, you need to cloak him or her with the requisite moral authority to do so and this can only come from being elected.

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Singaporean presidential election, 1993

The Singaporean presidential election of 1993 was the first presidential election held in Singapore. Polling day was 28 August 1993. Former Deputy Prime Minister Ong Teng Cheong became Singapore's first directly elected President. He defeated former Accountant-General Chua Kim Yeow, with a vote share of 58.69% to 41.31%.

In January 1991, the Constitution of Singapore[1] was amended to provide for the popular election of the President. The creation of the elected presidency was a major constitutional and political change in Singapore's history as, under the revision, the President is empowered to veto the use of government reserves and appointments to key civil service appointments. He or she can also examine the administration's enforcement of the Internal Security Act[2] and Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act,[3] and look into investigations of corruption.

By virtue of transitional provisions in the Singapore Constitution,[4] Ong's predecessor Wee Kim Wee exercised, performed and discharged all the functions, powers and duties of an elected president as if he had been elected to the office of President by the citizens of Singapore, until Ong took office.

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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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Full Coverage:
Tan Cheng Bock goes to court to challenge reserved EP timing
Tan Cheng Bock goes to court over reserved election
Dr Tan files High Court Y S'pore Elected Presidency starts frm Wee Kim Wee
Tan Cheng Bock files suit in High Court to ask why S'pore Elected
Tan Cheng Bock applies to High Court to challenge reserved
Former PM Goh Chok Tong contradicts the Govt on how to count
Tan Cheng Bock Files Lawsuit with High Court to Challenge
Tan Cheng Bock finally breaks his silence
Tan cheng bock goes to court to challenge reserved
The Curious Question of Dr Tan Cheng Bock's Timing
Cheng Bock questions Govt's decision to not recognise Ong Teng
The Curious Question of Dr Tan Cheng Bock's Timing
Tan Cheng Bock applies to High Court on upcoming Presidential
Why is Ong Teng Cheong not recognised as Singapore's first Elected
Tan Cheng Bock files suit on Elected Presidency in High Court: Too
Under The Angsana Tree: 2017 Presidential Election to be reserved
Cheng Bok takes the govt to court - The title of your home page
The 5th Elected President of Singapore may be a 'tainted' President
Singapore Recalcitrant: The conundrum of the Elected Presidency
Elected Presidency White Paper - If Only Singaporeans Stopped to Think
Tan Cheng Bock applies to High Court for clarification on upcoming
Dr Tan applies to High Court for clarification on upcoming Presidential Election
Tan Cheng Bock really taking on S'pore government via court challenge
High Court accepts Dr Tan's application challenge reserved Presidential Election
Dr Tan Cheng Bock - Home | Facebook
Tan Cheng Bock - Wikipedia
Tan Cheng Bock applies to High Court for clarification on upcoming
Tan Cheng Bock goes to court over reserved election, Singapore
Tan Cheng Bock files suit in High Court to ask why S'pore Elected
Tan Cheng Bock really taking on S'pore government via court
Tan Cheng Bock comments on Elected Presidency. Why now
Dr Tan Cheng Bock announces application to seek Court's
Tan Cheng Bock goes to court to challenge reserved EP timing
2017 Presidential Election to be reserved for Malay candidates
PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Parliamentary Debate on the Constitution (Amendment) 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 State, 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.