Refusing to give up after being blocked from raising an adjournment motion regarding the upcoming Presidential election at the last Parliamentary sitting, on 11 Sept, the Workers’ Party (WP) has re-filed the motion for the next parliamentary session to be held on 2 Oct.
The WP does not seem to think it’s too late to debate the adjournment motion titled “Counting from President Wee Kim Wee or President Ong Teng Cheong – policy decision or legal question?” even though President Halimah Yacob has since assumed office in the reserved election by means of a walkover.
The WP had previously raised the same adjournment motion for debate on 28 August – well before the Presidential Election went underway.
The motion was filed to debate parliament’s decision to count from appointed President Wee Kim Wee instead of elected President Ong Teng Cheong, on the recommendation of the Attorney-General’s Chambers, to trigger a reserved election set aside for Malay candidates since there hasn’t been a Malay president for the last 5 consecutive terms.
If the Government had chosen to count from President Ong Teng Cheong, the last election would have been open to all races. Only the election after this would have been a reserved one, under new amendments to the Elected Presidency scheme that were instated this year.
Two competing bids were suddenly filed before the WP could speak on the matter and Members of Parliament (MPs) eventually chose to debate People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Murali Pillai’s “Community Sentencing and Other Rehabilitative Options” over the PE2017 issue. Another ruling party MP, Vikram Nair, had also filed an adjournment motion on “The Future of National Service” that was part of a ballot yesterday:
“For the Parliamentary sitting on 11 Sep, Ms Sylvia Lim had on 28th August 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 30th August Parliament notified MPs that there were two other adjournment motions filed on 29th August, namely “Community Sentencing and Other Rehabilitative Options” by Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) and “The Future of National Service” by Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang). MPs were further advised that the adjournment motions filed would be subject to ballot under Standing Order 2(8)(d).
“We wish to inform everyone that at the ballot conducted today, the topic by Mr Murali Pillai was picked. Accordingly, Ms Sylvia Lim would not be able to speak on her adjournment motion on 11th September.”
Although some may question whether the issue of counting Presidential terms is till relevant, netizens responding to the WP’s latest post have largely encouraged them for their decision to refile the motion:
The Party’s motion to debate the issue in Parliament comes after veteran politician Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s failed legal challenge over the same issue. The High Court upheld Parliament’s decision to count from President Wee Kim Wee and said that the decision falls outside the remits of the court.
The presidential hopeful who had intended to contest this year’s election after losing PE2011 by 0.34% of votes appealed the High Court’s decision. A panel of five appellate judges at Singapore’s highest court of law, the Court of Appeal, also threw out his application after initially reserving judgment.
In his first statement after the final rejection of his application, Dr Tan had said:
“Some may say that my court application was a fool’s errand. But I do not see it that way. When MP Sylvia Lim asked the Government in Parliament why they chose to start the count of 5 presidential terms with President Wee Kim Wee (resulting in 2017 being a reserved election year), the Government challenged her to go to Court for an answer. That is wrong and I felt the need to respond. I firmly believe the Government should have answered in Parliament instead of challenging a Parliamentarian to go to Court.”
When Sylvia Lim filed the motion to debate the issue once again last month, the Party said:
“In the wake of intense public discussion after the parliamentary debates and a court case on the reserved presidential election, the Workers’ Party believes it is in the public interest for the Government to clarify this issue surrounding the election of our Head of State.”
The only opposition party elected into Parliament may still receive a chance to debate the topic in the House, if no other last-minute motions are filed again this time.