Thursday, 5 October 2017

Decision On Who Was Singapore’s First Elected President Was Decided By Govt, Not AGC: Minister Shanmugam

imgflip: Why is the Law Minister answering a Policy issue?


Update 10 Nov 2019: Reserved presidency a 'political minus' but right thing to do: PM Lee
The move gives minority ethnic groups an assurance that their place in society will always be safeguarded, he said, just like how the group representation constituency system - which guarantees at least one candidate per constituency is from a minority race - ensures there will always be MPs from minority races in Parliament

The PAP secretary-general was referring to public unhappiness over the Constitutional amendments passed in November 2016, to reserve the elected presidency for candidates of a particular racial group if there had not been a president from the group for the five most recent presidential terms.

Critics said the decision went against Singapore's meritocratic values, and hundreds protested in Hong Lim Park days after the first election, reserved for Malays, saw Madam Halimah Yacob sworn in as President on Sept 14, 2017.

Mr Lee cited the issue as an example of how Singapore is proactively strengthening the institutions that support its multiracial and multi-religious society.

related: President Halimah's inauguration:Don’t overlook this key moment in Spore’s history

PAP must never be afraid to do what is right for Singapore: PM Lee
The reserved Presidential Election in 2017 saw Madam Halimah Yacob elected unopposed

The People’s Action Party (PAP) must never be afraid to do what is right for Singapore, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Nov 10), noting that not all Singaporeans agreed with the need for a reserved Presidential Election to ensure minority races in the Republic’s highest office.

“If you ask me, overall from a short-term perspective, this issue is probably a political minus for the Government, for the PAP. But this is part of governing. I am convinced that we did the right thing. We must never, ever be afraid to do what is right for Singapore,” said Mr Lee to around 2,500 party activists at the PAP65 Awards and Convention at the Singapore Expo. The conference was held to mark the 65th anniversary of the PAP’s founding on Nov 21, 1954.

The reserved Presidential Election in 2017 saw Madam Halimah Yacob elected unopposed, and Mr Lee also said then that he recognised the move was unpopular and could cause the ruling party to lose votes.

related:

Did the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) tell Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to recognise the late Dr Wee Kim Wee as Singapore’s first elected President? According to Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, no they didn’t.

Instead, the Government were simply asking the AGC to advise them on a number of questions — including who Singapore’s first elected President is. Despite being the legal adviser to the Government of Singapore, their word was “irrelevant as to a matter of law”, but were nonetheless consulted to “see whether there are any impediments”.

This seems odd, given that we were always under the impression that the AGC had defined the identity of our first elected president, given that PM Lee had said he had “taken the Attorney-General’s advice” when announcing the amendment to the hiatus-triggered model. His exact words were:
"We have taken the Attorney-General’s advice. We will start counting from the first President who exercised the powers of the Elected President, in other words, Dr Wee Kim Wee."
But apparently, the AG’s advice wasn’t actually to start counting from Dr Wee.

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Question remains as to why PM Lee 'stayed silent' during motion on EP: Tan Cheng Bock


Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock (left) and Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam crossed swords online over the reserved presidential election.
  • In a response to Law Minister K Shanmugam’s post accusing him of engaging in “elaborate charades”, former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock said on Sunday (8 Oct) that his question as to why the Prime Minister “stayed silent” during the adjournment motion on the Elected Presidency remains unanswered.
  • On Saturday (7 Oct), Tan had commented on Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam’s statements during a parliamentary session last week, saying that Shanmugam made an “apparent contradiction” about whether the government would make public the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) advice on the timing of the reserved election.
  • Citing a Channel NewsAsia report from 2016 that quoted Shanmugam as saying “Once we get the advice, we will send it out”, Tan noted that the minister had told the House last Tuesday (3 Oct) that, as a general rule, the government does not publish legal opinions that it gets.
  • Tan said that the report “appears to have words opposite to what the Minister mentioned”, and asked if the Minister would “explain to Singaporeans his apparent contradiction”.
  • Shanmugam responded on Sunday by accusing Tan of “splicing and rearranging” his remarks. The minister also said he was referring to making the government’s position public, and not making the AGC’s advice public.
  • In a Facebook post written two hours after Shanmugam’s rebuttal, Tan reiterated his question about why the prime minister did not speak during Sylvia Lim’s adjournment motion. Shanmugam had said that adjournment motions have strict time limits, and that he spoke on behalf of the government as Law Minister during Lim’s motion.
  • Tan said in his latest post, “But I never asked about parliamentary procedure. I simply asked why the PM stayed silent. PM could have spoken during those 10 minutes since his statement was being challenged.”
  • Tan said he would let readers decide whether the minister answered adequately, and whether Tan had unfairly misquoted him.
  • Shanmugam had said that Tan should not engage in “elaborate charades” even if he “may be bitter”.
  • Tan added, “On my part, I can assure the Minister that I am still cheerful. But I think the Minister, who said ‘I’m happy to be confronted with anything else I might have said’ didn’t sound so happy when he saw my questions.”

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Dr Tan Cheng Bock raises questions on Law Minister’s contradictory statements on AGC’s advice and wonders why PM did not answer Ms Lim’s questions himself


Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former People's Action Party Member of Parliament and candidate in the Presidential Election 2011 posted a Facebook post to question Mr K Shanmugam, Minister of Law and Home Affairs for contradictions in his statements made during a dialogue session and what he said in the Parliament just this week. He also commented that since the questions filed by Ms Sylvia Lim, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC from Workers' Party, was on the Attorney General's advice raised by the Prime Minister, he should be the one answering Ms Lim instead of the Minister of Law.

Ms Lim had earlier filed an Adjournment Motion, "Counting From President Wee Kim Wee Or President Ong Teng Cheong For Reserved Presidential Election – Policy Decision Or Legal Question?" on 3 October 2017 (Tuesday), seeking an explanation from the government on whether did the PM, DPM Teo Chee Hean and Minister Chan Chun Sing make misleading statements to the Members of Parliament that the question of which President to count from was a legal question

She also asked whether did the government all along make a policy decision itself to count from President Wee Kim Wee and merely use the AGC’s advice as a cover to avoid full Parliamentary debate on why the count was not starting from President Ong Teng Cheong.

Mr Shanmugam had denied that PM Lee has misrepresented the matter to the Parliament and insisted that it has always been clear that the decision to count Mr Wee Kim Wee as the first President for the purpose of the reserved presidential election is a policy decision by the parliament and not a legal matter.

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Shanmugam’s response to Sylvia Lim on reserved election has ‘apparent contradiction’: Tan Cheng Bock

  • Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has questioned the ‘apparent contradiction’ in Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam’s statements during a parliamentary session earlier this week.
  • In the session on Tuesday (4 October), Aljunied Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim had asked the government to publish the Attorney-General’s Chamber’s advice on the timing of the reserved presidential election, to which Shanmugam replied that, as a general rule, the government does not publish legal opinions that it gets.
  • However, as Tan pointed out in a Facebook post published on Saturday (7 October), Shanmugam had told the media last September that the government would make the advice public.
  • The Minister was quoted in a Channel News Asia report, “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 will make it public.”
  • Tan said that the report “appears to have words opposite to what the Minister mentioned”, and asked if the Minister would “explain to Singaporeans his apparent contradiction”.
  • Additionally, Tan took issue with the fact that Shanmugam responded to the adjournment motion by Lim, while Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing “sat quietly behind”.
  • Given that Lim’s motion questioned the three ministers’ statements to Parliament and whether they had indeed misled the house, they should have been the ones answering it, instead of Shanmugam, said Tan.
  • “One would have expected the PM, DPM or Minister Chan to speak for themselves and clarify their own words. After all, they are the government’s top leaders,” Tan said.
  • “In fact, PM Lee should be the one answering Ms Lim. This debate started with PM’s statement on taking AG’s legal advice. Why he remained silent during this parliamentary debate continues to baffle many Singaporeans.”

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imgflip: Why aren't PM Lee, DPM Teo or Minister Chan answering Ms Sylvia Lim's Question?

Did Minister K Shanmugam deflect responsibility for PM Lee, DPM Teo and Minister Chan?


Ms Sylvia Lim, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC from Workers' Party had filed an Adjournment Motion, "Counting From President Wee Kim Wee Or President Ong Teng Cheong For Reserved Presidential Election – Policy Decision Or Legal Question?" on 3 October 2017 (Tuesday), seeking an explanation from the government on whether did the PM, DPM Teo Chee Hean and Minister Chan Chun Sing make misleading statements to the Members of Parliament that the question of which President to count from was a legal question.

She also asked whether did the government all along make a policy decision itself to count from President Wee Kim Wee and merely use the AGC’s advice as a cover to avoid full Parliamentary debate on why the count was not starting from President Ong Teng Cheong.

Instead of the three whom Ms Lim had addressed in her speech, Mr K Shanmugam took the podium on their behalf. With the three sitting just at his back, he addressed Ms Lim's questions.

related:
PM Lee's speech to the Parliament when he announced in Nov 2016 that the Presidential Election in 2017  will be a Reserved Election.
The debate between DPM Teo and Ms Lim when asked about the exact advice given by AG to PM Lee in Nov 2016,"
Minister in Prime Minister Office, Chan Chun Sing replied Ms Lim's question on the AG advice in Feb 2017

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K Shanmugam Clarifies Sylvia Lim’s Suggestion That The ACG Had Decided For PM Lee
It’s simple. The Government decides. Source

PM Lee’s initial statements: "We have taken the Attorney-General’s advice. We will start counting from the first President who exercised the powers of the Elected President, in other words, Dr Wee Kim Wee." Source

Confirmed by DPM Teo Chee Hean: "On the reserved elections and how to count, I would like to confirm that this is indeed the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ advice. And if not, and you do not think that is correct, I think it is possible if you wish to challenge judicially." Source

Minister Chan Chun Sing enters the fray: "The Government is confident of the advice rendered by the Attorney-General." Source


Deputy AG clarifies on AGC advice: "The Prime Minister never said that the AG advised PM to start the count from President Wee. What PM said is that the AG advised that what the Government was proposing to do was legitimate." Source

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Channel NewsAsia Yesterday at 17:00


“The most direct answer is, actually, the Government can decide”: Minister K Shanmugam Sc on the timing of the reserved Presidential Election.

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Next Presidential Election to be reserved for Malay candidates: PM Lee
PM Lee Hsien Loong says the Government has taken the Attorney-General’s advice that racial provisions in the review of the Elected Presidency will start counting from Dr Wee Kim Wee

The next Presidential Election due next year will be reserved for Malay candidates, based on the hiatus-triggered model, said Prime Minister 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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Parliament: 2017 presidential election will be reserved for Malay candidates, says PM Lee


There have been questions on when the 1st reserved election would be, as it was previously unclear which past president the Government would begin counting the period of 5 continuous terms from.

Mr Lee said the Constitutional Amendment Bill stated that the Government should legislate on this point, adding that it has received advice from the Attorney-General.

He said the Government will start counting the five continuous terms from the term of President Wee Kim Wee, who was the 1st president to be vested with the powers of the elected president. Mr Wee was in office when the elected presidency came into effect in 1991.

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Han Yue 11 hrs

From Andrew Loh's FB:

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Sylvia Lim Asks If Parliament Was Misled On Elected Presidency, K Shanmugam Says She Knows All About Misleading


The WP Chairman sought to clarify whether the Government’s decision to count from President Wee Kim Wee instead of President Ong Teng Cheong was due to legal reasons or a policy decision. After all, in November 2016, PM Lee said that the reserved presidency amendment would come into effect, after advice from the Attorney-General.

In her Parliamentary speech, Ms Lim questioned if Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, and Minster in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Seng had misled the house into thinking that the decision to count from President Wee Kim Wee was a legal one.

Instead of getting a reply from any of the aforementioned ministers, the former lawyer was rebutted by a fellow member of the bar, Law Minister K Shanmugam.

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“Ms Lim protests far too much” – Law Minister rebuts Sylvia Lim’s questions on reserved PE2017


Lim first quoted PM Lee’s speech in parliament on 8 Nov 2016 during the debate on the Constitutional Amendment Bill, when raising her motion:
  • “Prime Minister told the House the following, ‘The symbolic role of the president is just as important as his custodial role. As a symbol of the nation, the race of the candidate is relevant. So, while individually a good candidate of any race will be satisfactory, collectively, over a period of time, we need that mix of presidents of different races and the election mechanism must be designed to produce such a mix over time. This is what the hiatus-triggered model delivers. When should the racial provision start counting? The Constitutional Amendment Bill states that the government should legislate on this point. The government intends to legislate when we amend the Presidential Elections Act in January next year. We have taken the Attorney-General’s advice. We will start counting from the first president who exercised the powers of the elected president. In other words, Dr Wee Kim Wee. That means we are now in the fifth term of the elected presidency. Therefore, by the operation of the hiatus-triggered model, the next election, due next year, 2017, will be a reserved election for Malay candidates.’
  • “The clear impression given was that this was based on the AGC’s advice. That was why the prime minister sequenced his sentences as he did. The Prime Minister did not say that the government intended to count from President Wee Kim Wee and that the AGC had merely confirmed that it was acceptable to do so.”
She then took issue with DPM Teo’s clarification on the term count triggering the reserved election, which he made in Parliament on 9 Nov 2016. DPM Teo had said:
  • “On the reserved elections and how to count, I would like to confirm that this is indeed the Attorney-General’s Chamber’s advice. And if not, and you do not think that is correct, I think it is possible if you wish to challenge judicially.”
Lim also raised Minister Chan’s views when the term count issue was again raised in parliament on 6 Feb, this year. Lim said:
  • “3 months later, on 6th February, this House held the second reading debate on the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill. What struck me in preparing for the debate was that the Bill contained a new schedule with a table stipulating that the count was to start from President Wee Kim Wee. It dawned on me then that the government had simply wanted parliament to make new law to stipulate that the count should start from President Wee Kim Wee. It was completely a government decision.
  • “When I put it to the government that counting from President Wee Kim Wee was an arbitrary and deliberate decision to achieve a desired outcome, Minister Chan Chun Sing rejected my assertion. He told the House that the government had decided not to publish the AGC’s advice.
  • “Minister Chan further said, ‘The government is confident of the advice rendered by the Attorney-General. We proceeded on that basis during the debates on the constitutional changes in this House. Prime Minister Lee explained to all why we need the hiatus-triggered mechanism and he passed the Constitution Amendment bill. We are here today to put the nuts and bolts in place for a decision made clear by Prime Minister during the debates in November and we will not go through this again’.
  • “He continued, ‘Ms Lim once again questioned the Attorney-General’s advice. I’m a bit bewildered by this. I would like to clarify: A) Is Ms Lim suggesting that the Attorney-General did not give the government the appropriate advice? Or B) that the Prime Minister has not been truthful with the Attorney-General’s advice? If it is the first, then I think Ms Lim, as suggested by Deputy Prime Minister Teo, can challenge this in the courts. But if it is the second, then I’m afraid it is a very serious issue to cast aspersions on the integrity of our prime minister.’
  • “So we should note what happened here – instead of confirming that it was the government who made the decision start counting from President Wee, Minister Chan explicitly said that the government was confident of the AGC’s advice and proceeded on that basis to make the constitutional changes.
  • “He said he did not want to reopen the debate on the count from President Wee even though parliament was then asked for the first time to enact the table stipulating the count from President Wee. Here we were debating a law that would practically rewrite history by deeming President Wee as the first elected president. Yet, instead of the government using the opportunity to clarify the matter and any misimpressions created, it chose instead to impute sinister intentions to me. And that was how the parliamentary debates on the reserved elections ended.”
However, Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair contradicted the government’s stance by saying that the AGC’s advice was “irrelevant,” according to Lim:
  • “Before the High Court on 29th June 2017, the Deputy AG said, and I quote, ‘The Prime Minister never said that the AG advised PM to start the count from President Wee. What PM said is that the AG advised is that what the government is proposing to do was legitimate.’ This is from the official court transcript. Mr Kumar further submitted that the decision on which president to count from was a policy matter for the government and not a legal question. He argued, and I quote, ‘The AG was in no position to tell the government where to start the count from.’
  • “On 31st July, before the Court of Appeal of five judges, the Deputy AG repeated his position even more vividly. He submitted that the AGC’s advice was ‘irrelevant’. He also tried to explain away the PM’s speech on taking the AGC’s advice. He said, and I quote, ‘One should not look at speeches like statutory instruments. The PM had made it clear from his speech that President Wee was not a popularly-elected president but a president who had exercised the powers of an elected president. Then he says fifth term of elected president – a convenient term used in his speech. He wasn’t defining presidency in this context as elected presidency.’ That was Mr Nair’s submission to the court.
  • “Sir, I was in court when he made that submission, which to me was astonishing. Was the Deputy Attorney-General saying that we should not take the PM’s speech literally, but loosely? That we should not place too much weight on the terms PM used in making a keynote speech to parliament to amend the Constitution?
  • “The government’s reference to the AGC’s advice has confused MPs and also the courts. The ministers consistently kept referring to the AGC’s advice as the basis for the legislative changes. Yet, the Deputy AG says in court that the advice is ‘irrelevant’."
Lim finally accused the government of legitimising its actions under the veil of the mysterious AGC’s advice that she noted has still not been produced.

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PE2017: Were MPs misled by the G?


Ms Lim and Mr Shanmugam disagreed on how PM Lee’s words could be interpreted in Parliament on Nov 8 last year. Ms Lim quoted this part of PM Lee’s speech:
  • “The symbolic role of the President is just as important as his custodial role. As a symbol of the nation, the race of the candidate is relevant. So, while individually, a good candidate of any race will be satisfactory, collectively, over a period of time, we need that mix of Presidents of different races, and the election mechanism must be designed to produce such a mix over time. That is what the hiatus-triggered model delivers.
  • When should the racial provision start counting? The Constitutional Amendment Bill states that the Government should legislate on this point. The Government intends to legislate when we amend the Presidential Elections Act in January next year.
  • We have taken the Attorney-General’s advice. We will start counting from the first President who exercised the powers of the Elected President, in other words, Dr Wee Kim Wee. That means we are now in the fifth term of the Elected Presidency.”
  • Ms Lim added: “The clear impression given to members was that the Government’s decision to count from President Wee was based on the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) advice.
  • That must have been why the PM sequenced sentences as he did, that having taken the AGC’s advice, the Government was counting the five terms from President Wee.
  • The PM did not say that the Government intended to count from President Wee, and that the AGC had merely confirmed that it was acceptable to do so.”
Ms Lim’s backup:
  • “The impression that it was AGC who advised the government to count from President Wee was perpetuated the next day 9th November by DPM Teo Chee Hean. During clarification time, I rose to expressly recall that the PM had said that the decision to count from Dr Wee Kim Wee was based on the Attorney-General’s Chambers advice on how to count the terms.
  • I asked whether the government was prepared to publish that advice. DPM Teo did not reply immediately. After a cabinet huddle, DPM Teo eventually rose and responded as follows: ‘On the reserved elections and how to count, I would like to confirm that this is indeed the Attorney-General’s Chambers advice and if not, and you do not think that is correct, I think it is possible if you wish to challenge judicially.’
  • Any reasonable person hearing those words would assume the following: One, that the AGC had advised the government how to count. Two, that the AGC’s advice involved a question of law. Why else would I be asked to challenge it judicially?”
Ms Lim added that when she raised the question again on Feb 6 in Parliament, Minister Chan Chun Sing’s response:
  • was that she could challenge the AGC’s decision in court if she thought the “Attorney-General did not give the Government the appropriate advice”. He did not want to reopen the debate and instead wanted to focus on the details.
  • Mr Chan had added that if Ms Lim suspected PM Lee was not being truthful about the AGC’s advice, then: “I am afraid it is a very serious issue to cast aspersions on the integrity of our Prime Minister…  I think we should not impute motives on this Government or the Prime Minister.”
  • Said Ms Lim yesterday: “[Mr Chan] said he did not want to reopen the debate on the count from President Wee, even though Parliament was then asked for the first time to enact the table stipulating the count from President Wee.”
Mr Shanmugam’s backup:
  • “The Court of Appeal’s judgement makes clear… the PM’s speech in Parliament, on the constitutional amendments, made it clear that Parliament intended to give itself the discretion to specify the last term of President Wee as the first term to be counted for purposes of deciding whether an election is reserved… They said the Prime Minister has been very clear.”
  • The Law Minister added that the role of the Court is to judge if a decision is constitutional or not. To that end it can refer to parliamentary debates if the legislative provisions are unclear.
  • Said Minister Shanmugam: “In that context, what one party, the Government’s lawyers told the government, or what the other party’s lawyers told the other party, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, are completely irrelevant. And that’s a legal argument the AGC put forward… a point that the Court of Appeal also makes. But that’s quite different, from the Prime Minister in Parliament explaining that look, these are the steps we have taken. We have also taken AGC’s advice. He is telling that to the members. It’s the truth, but it’s irrelevant as a matter of law.”

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Deciding who is the first Elected President is a policy decision, not a legal matter: K Shanmugam

Did the decision come after AGC’s advice?
  • “To cut to the chase – did the PM, DPM Teo Chee Hean and Minister Chan Chun Sing make misleading statements to the House that the question of which President to count from was a legal question?
  • Did the government all along make a policy decision itself to count from President Wee Kim Wee? Did the government merely use the AGC’s advice as a cover to avoid full Parliamentary debate on why the count was not starting from President Ong Teng Cheong?”
That was the main thrust of Lim’s speech. Earlier on, she had made a reference to a speech given by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong 0n Nov 8. 2016, in which he said:
  • “We have taken the Attorney-General’s advice. We will start counting from the first President who exercised the powers of the Elected President, in other words, Dr Wee Kim Wee. That means we are now in the fifth term of the Elected Presidency.”
Lim pointed out that a “clear impression” was given that the government’s decision to count from President Wee was based on the AGC’s advice. She said that PM Lee had not said that the government intended to count from President Wee, and that the AGC’s advice merely confirmed it was acceptable to do so.

Lim said that this impression was “perpetuated” on Nov. 9, 2016 by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. During clarification time in Parliament, Lim asked whether the government was prepared to publish the AGC’s advice. At the time, Teo responded as follows:
  • “On the reserved elections and how to count, I would like to confirm that this is indeed the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ advice. And if not, and you do not think that is correct, I think it is possible if you wish to challenge judicially.”
Said Lim in her motion:
  • “Any reasonable person hearing those words would assume the following, one, that the AGC had advised the government how to count. Two, that the AGC’s advice involved a question of law. Why else would I be asked to challenge it judicially?”
Shanmugam’s response:
  • Shanmugam fielded the response for the government. He reiterated the point that it was government policy to choose where the count for the first elected President should begin, and not a legal matter.
  • “The Court of Appeal judgment makes clear a number of things. First, the Constitutional text is clear that Parliament can choose from any of the five terms preceding the 2017 elections. Second, the PM’s speech in Parliament on the constitutional amendments made it clear that Parliament intended to give itself the discretion to specify the last term of President Wee as the first term to be counted for purposes of deciding whether an election is reserved. Members can read the part Ms Lim quoted from the Prime Minister.
  • I don’t see anything that is ambiguous. The point is this, and we’re not changing history here, Ms Lim’s a lawyer, she knows this, Dr Wee’s second term exercised the powers of an elected President. There is nothing ambiguous about that. That is a matter of clear law.”
He emphasised the point that it was up to Parliament to make the decision, and that the government had consulted the Attorney-General just to check if there were any legal impediments that prevented the government from counting from President Wee’s term.
  • “We will usually ask AGC for advice on these things. If you look at the context, we decide and we check with AGC. Prime Minister said it, DPM Teo said it, and Minister Chan said it a few months later.”
He also added that the government, as a rule, generally does not publish the legal opinions that it gets.

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Sylvia Lim badly wants to talk about reserved election though the whole world is over it

Sylvia Lim’s speech - So Sylvia Lim was given 20 minutes to drive across her point(s) yesterday evening. Her motion was on the Government’s decision to start the count of the first elected President from President Wee Kim Wee instead of President Ong Teng Cheong for the Reserved Presidential Election. She insinuated that the Government has been making a policy decision all these while but had used the Attorney General Chamber’s (AGC) advice (Government’s lawyer) as a cover to avoid full parliamentary debate.

Previously debated in Parliament - Minister Chan Chun Sing, previously explained in Parliament that late President Wee was the first to exercise the powers of the Elected Presidency. So even though President Wee was elected by Parliament (not by the electorate), the constitution was amended in 1991 to allow him exercise all the discretionary powers of an elected President. Take a look at how the provision was carefully worded:
  • “The person holding the office of President immediately prior to 30th November 1991 shall continue to hold such office for the remainder of his term of office and shall exercise, perform and discharge all the functions, powers and duties conferred or imposed upon the office of President by this Constitution as amended by the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1991 (Act 5 of 1991) […], as if he had been elected to the office of President by the citizens of Singapore […]”
That was in 1991. Last year, the constitution was amended to allow an election to be reserved for a certain racial community if no one from that community has been President for five consecutive terms. It was also drafted in a way to enable Parliament to start counting from President Wee and the Court of Appeal has also ruled that it was a policy decision.



K Shanmugam’s response to Sylvia - Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam responded to Ms Lim in Parliament yesterday and he only took 10 mins to do it. In his feisty reply, he reiterated the point that the counting of first elected President was a policy decision and not a legal issue.
  • “The Court of Appeal judgment makes clear a number of things. First, the Constitutional text is clear that Parliament can choose from any of the five terms preceding the 2017 elections. Second, the PM’s speech in Parliament on the constitutional amendments made it clear that Parliament intended to give itself the discretion to specify the last term of President Wee as the first term to be counted for purposes of deciding whether an election is reserved. Members can read the part Ms Lim quoted from the Prime Minister.
  • I don’t see anything that is ambiguous. The point is this, and we’re not changing history here, Ms Lim’s a lawyer, she knows this, Dr Wee’s second term exercised the powers of an elected President. There is nothing ambiguous about that. That is a matter of clear law.”
So the Government was clear that they wanted to amend the constitution so that Singapore can have a minority President from time to time. In other words, we don’t have to wait another 46 years to have a minority President. So make no doubts about it. The Government had this intention of amending the constitution to trigger a reserved election before they sought the AGC’s advice. Legal advice is important because the Government needs to find out if their considerations for the reserved election had any legal impediments.

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Readers comment that Minister Shanmugam’s response to Ms Sylvia Lim, suggest Government is above the law
"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?"

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?"

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PAP nervous? PM, ESM, 2 DPMs & 2 other ministers have addressed Elected Presidency anger


Six heavyweight ministers - In order of their appearance in the immediate lead-up to and after Sept. 14, 2017 when President Halimah Yacob was sworn in:


  • [Sept. 8, 2017] Law and home affairs minister K Shanmugam said at the Institute of Policy Studies forum a reserved election will preserve the unifying role of the president and it is one of the efforts by the government to actively promote racial harmony. [Source]
  • [Sept. 8, 2017] Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing said at the same IPS forum that a reserved presidential election will cost the PAP votes but it is for the greater good of Singapore. [Source]
  • [Sept. 14, 2017] Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong admonished Singaporeans to get behind President Halimah after her walkover victory, as she ironically became the divisive figure in the non-existent PE. The former prime minister said the process is controversial but the president is not. [Source]
  • [Sept. 20, 2017] Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said during a dialogue at the Nanyang Technological University that the strong reaction to the reserved presidential election is encouraging as people view race to not matter these days and it is good to have this aspiration, but it is not realistic — yet. [Source]
  • [Sept. 27, 2017] Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the elected presidency is part of many far-sighted moves put in place by the government and its justification will reveal itself in the future, apparently. [Source]
  • [Sept. 29, 2017] Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the elected presidency topic head-on for the first time and his comments were widely reported in the mainstream media. However, his take on the PE was actually made at a closed-door dialogue on Sept. 23, but only revealed publicly on Sept. 29, almost a week later — after the transcript of his comments was edited. This effectively gives him the last word on the issue that has divided a large swath of Singaporeans. [Source]

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The Public was Misled: The Key Issues Raised by WP’s Sylvia Lim on the Reserved Election Count
redwire-singapore-lee-hsien-loong-reserved-election-parliament

“Did the government all along make a policy decision itself to count from President Wee Kim Wee? Did the government merely use the AGC’s advice as a cover to avoid full parliamentary debate on why the count was not starting from President Ong Teng Cheong?”

Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim raised the issue of the reserved election count yesterday in parliament, saying that the government hid behind the “AGC’s advice” to avoid stating outright the count leading up to PE2017 being a reserved election was a policy decision.

Ms Lim brought up speeches made by PM Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy PM Teo Chee Hean and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing, saying that they used evasive language to distract the public and avoid debate on the count in parliament. She said the government “should not have evaded the debate by using the AGC’s advice as a distraction and then gone to court to say that the AGC’s advice was irrelevant.”
  • Ms Lim first quoted the speech by PM Lee in parliament on 8th Nov during the debate on the Constitutional Amendment Bill
  • Ms Lim also brought up DPM Teo’s “clarification” on the counting decision on 9th Nov in parliament.
  • Ms Lim also raised Minister Chan’s skirting of the issue in parliament on 6th Feb when the counting question was again raised in parliament.
  • Ms Lim said, Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair contradicted the government’s stance by saying that the AGC’s advice was “irrelevant”.
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Law Minister K Shanmugam Tries to Put Sylvia Lim in Her Place during Debate on Reserved Election Count

“The government has always been clear that when it comes to the counting, it is a policy matter for parliament to decide and Ms Lim protests far too much.”

He brought up the legal challenge mounted by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, saying the court had made it clear that the government was the one to decide on the count.
“The Court of Appeal has confirmed that it was for parliament to decide. Ms Lim said she was present, she heard that this judge asked that question, that was said, this was said – why didn’t you read the judgment? There is only one person in this House whom the Courts have held to be misleading parliament, and he is not from the PAP.”
He said that the courts have made it clear that parliament can choose which president to start the count from, and that PM Lee had made it clear that it intended to start the count from the last term of Dr Wee Kim Wee’s presidency as he had exercised the powers of an elected president during that term.

Mr Shanmugam said that legal advice was sought from the AGC as a matter of making sure things were done right.

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SYLVIA LIM’S ADJOURNMENT MOTION WAS LIKE A COURT ROOM SPARRING SESSION…WELL, ALMOST
Sylvia Lim
Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim (by a stroke of good luck), has finally managed to pass her motion on the Elected Presidency

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin announced yesterday that Ms Lim’s motion was picked during a ballot.

But here’s the thing, while whatever Ms Lim raised in her adjournment motion was not new, what was interesting was Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam responding to her motion.

And watching it on the news, it was almost like a court room sparring session between the two legal eagles (well, almost…).

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Workers’ Party Fails Bid To Talk About Elected Presidency Again, Tan Chuan-Jin Says Nothing Odd Was Done

Workers’ Party Unsuccessful In 2nd Attempt To Speak At Parliament, Tan Chuan-Jin Says No Foul Play Involved

Last week, we talked about how The Workers’ Party (WP) Chairman Sylvia Lim re-filed her adjournment motion to discuss the recognition of Singapore’s first elected President. This was the 2nd attempt made by the Aljunied GRC MP after having previously been not selected due to random balloting earlier in the month.

If at this point, you’re expecting her persistence to finally payoff, we’ve got some bad news for you.

Because on Tuesday (26 Sept), WP posted on their Facebook that Ms Lim’s bid not been selected.

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WP’s motion on reserved election term count is finally picked for parliamentary debate


The Workers’ Party’s adjournment motion on the term count triggering the reserved presidential election has finally picked for debate in parliament tomorrow, through a ballot conducted today.

The party’s chairman Sylvia Lim’s motion was picked today after two failed attempts in previous ballots. She seeks to clarify whether the decision to count from President Wee Kim Wee’s term or President Ong Teng Cheong’s term in office was a policy decision or a legal question, through her motion.

Lim first raised this question in Parliament on 6 Feb, where Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing told her that she could “challenge this in the courts.”

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No excuse for “bitter” Tan Cheng Bock to engage in “elaborate charades”: Shanmugam

Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said today that Dr Tan Cheng Bock “spliced my remarks, rearranged them, and put them together in a way to suggest something which I did not say.” He was referring to the remarks he had made in Parliament this week, with regards to the term count that triggered the reserved Presidential Election that disbarred Dr Tan from contesting the election.

Dr Tan alleged that the Minister’s arguments about the term count were contradictory, in a Facebook post yesterday.

Responding on his own Facebook page, the Minister clarified the comments he had made in Parliament before saying, “Dr Tan may be bitter. But that is no excuse for engaging in these elaborate charades”:

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In the 80s people really thought Lee Kuan Yew would be Spore's first Elected President

In the 1980s when the Government released its first White Paper on Elected Presidency, the people really thought that Lee Kuan Yew would become Singapore’s first Elected President. Dr Tan Cheng Bock who was then the chief of Government’s feedback channel confirmed this in Parliament during the debate of the Bill.

“They see Mr Lee Kuan Yew as the next President and Mr Goh Chok Tong as the next Prime Minister and ask, is not everything the same except in name?” – Dr Tan Cheng Bock in Parliament. Now, a former Senior Political Correspondent at Straits Times, Ismail Kassim, in a Facebook note has suggested that Dr Tan’s feedback was accurate. “At that time (late 1980s), the hot topic was succession.,” he wrote.

Adding: “It seemed then to many people that Singapore was going to adopt the Taiwan model where for a number of years the elder Chiang was president and the younger Chiang was the prime minister – a father and son combination.”


Ismail Kassim added 2 new photos 19 September 2016

At that time, the hot topic was succession.

It seemed then to many people that Singapore was going to adopt the Taiwan model where for a number of years the elder Chiang was president and the younger Chiang was the prime minister - a father and son combination.

Subsequently, I think because of adverse feedback, he chose to be SM.


Where are you, Mr Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin?



"An Indian Muslim can be a Malay but a Malay Christian cannot be a Malay"

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