Referring to the comments of Law Minister K Shanmugam at a dialogue on the pending constitutional changes to the Elected Presidency, the 2011 presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock asked if the Minister had decided ahead of debate in parliament that the White Paper is law.
Channel NewsAsia reported on the dialogue and quoted the Minister answering to a question: “How will the Government respond to the view that all these changes are just to ensure that some individuals will not get elected?”
The Minister (as reported) said: “You might as well mention the name of Tan Cheng Bock… Dr Tan won’t qualify (under the new eligibility rules) because he didn’t actually run a company. He was (a) non-executive. And of course the company is not S$500m shareholders’ equity. So I think the key thing in this is to really, first leave aside the individual and look at the system. And ask yourself logically, whether… do we, as a Government, do what is right, based on the system, or do we worry (that) some people are going to say this is to knock out people we don’t like? You know, more than 1,000 people will qualify from the private sector. Do you think we know who they are and we can make sure that they are all going to be OK? It’s not possible.”
Dr Tan claimed that Mr Shanmugam said: “Sorry, Dr Tan Cheng Bock you are disqualified to stand in PE 2017,” at the dialogue on 15 September.
Dr Tan was formerly a member of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and a Member of Parliament from 1980 to 2006. He was the first non-Cabinet minister elected into the PAP Central Executive Committee (1987–96).
Dr Tan took issue that Mr Shanmugam singularly identified him although his name was not mentioned by the audience, and opined further that Dr Tan cannot qualify under the new rule change.
“Has he decided that the White Paper is law ahead of parliament debate? Is there some truth after all that the changes in the rules was to make sure l would not be eligible?”, Dr Tan asked.
“It would be a sad day for Singaporeans if a Constitutional change was made because of an individual,” he added.
The report by Channel NewsAsia and a video on its website does not mention the Minister specifically saying “Sorry, Dr Tan Cheng Bock you are disqualified to stand in PE 2017.”