The Singapore Democratic Party has called on President Tony Tan to revoke Lucien Wong’s appointment as Attorney-General after allegations of abuse of power volleyed at the Prime Minister in June revealed that Wong worked as the PM’s personal lawyer before being appointed to his post.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is believed to not have investigated the allegations thrown against the Prime Minister during the public Oxley dispute. It has, however, confirmed that it trawls private Facebook posts when it commented that it is “looking into” Li Shengwu’s private post linking an article about the Oxley dispute.
Wong is the first AG to have never had any experience on the Bench, and to never have acted for the State in legal matters. He was a corporate lawyer.
Wong was also appointed AG at age 63, to replace V. K. Rajah, who had to retire at age 60. When asked about Article 35(4) of the Constitution, which states that the Attorney General shall hold office until he turns 60 years old, Law Minister Shanmugam argued that the Government can arbitrarily decide to appoint someone above the age of 60.
Several others have called Wong’s appointment into question. During the parliamentary debate on the Oxley dispute in early July, Workers’ Party Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang and party chairman Sylvia Lim challenged Wong’s role in the Oxley Road saga, and questioned his integrity in discharging his duties without deferring to the interests of the PM.
We republish SDP’s statement in full here:
The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has refused to look into Dr Lee Wei Ling’s and Lee Hsien Yang’s allegations that PM Lee Hsien Loong had abused his powers and made false statements in Parliament.
In its reply to the SDP on 21 July 2017, the AGC said that it “does not undertake investigations into the matters alleged in the letter. The persons who are the subjects of any criminal offence alleged to have been committed may lodge a police report.”
This is a curious, if not altogether hypocritical, stance. The AGC recently indicated that it would “look into” Mr Li Shengwu’s private Facebook posting which criticised the judicial system even though there was no mention that anyone had made a police report against Mr Li.
Surely, if the AGC could “look into” private Facebook messages, it can look into the serious accusations of the abuse of power by the Prime Minister.
Also, in 1997, then AG Chan Sek Keong had investigated the matter of Mr Goh Chok Tong and other ministers entering polling stations on voting day even though they were clearly not authorised to do so.
As in the 1997 incident, the “persons who are the subjects” of the alleged offence are the people of Singapore. If AG Chan – despite his inane answer that Mr Goh and company had not committed an offence as they were inside the polling station and not waiting outside it – could investigate the incident, surely AG Lucien Wong can investigate the present matter.
The added problem, of course, is that AG Wong was the PM’s personal lawyer prior to his appointment. This crucial fact was not disclosed to the public at the time the appointment was made.
Given the situation, the SDP has written to President Tony Tan to revoke Mr Lucien Wong’s appointment. Under Section 22(1) of the Constitution, the President is empowered to do so.
Mr Lucien Wong was sworn in as AG on 16 January 2017. However, the fact that Mr Wong was the PM’s personal lawyer was revealed to the public only in June 2017. The President may not have been aware of this fact or its full implications.
The association of Mr Wong with PM Lee prior to his becoming the AG has created an acute conflict of interest which cannot be ignored. It is important that President Tan does the right thing in the interest of the people of Singapore and revoke Mr Lucien Wong’s appointment as AG.
Any further delay or refusal to act will cause even greater erosion of confidence in our public institutions.