Tagged: Singapore Constitution

Wielding “Real Power” to Disagree: Amendments to the Council of Presidential Advisers Framework

The Istana, Singapore,

The Istana, which is the official residence of the President of Singapore. (By Sengkang [copyrighted free use], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Benedict Chan Wei Qi
Third-year LLB undergraduate
School of Law, SMU

THE RECOMMENDATIONS of the Constitutional Commission on the Elected Presidency have generated much national debate even before they are tabled before Parliament. While the spotlight has largely been on the recommendations relating to securing minority representation in the nation’s highest office, perhaps we should also pay heed to the wise men and women behind the decisions of the Elected President – the Council of Presidential Advisors (“CPA”).

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Who Is an Elected President?

President S. R. Nathan on 31 December 2006

President S R Nathan (1924–2016). (Photographed in December 2006 by Calvin Teo, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

REPORTING the death of former President S R Nathan at the age of 92 on 22 August 2016, The Straits Times of 23 August stated in the first paragraph on its front page that he was “Singapore’s first elected and longest-serving president”.[1]

It was soon pointed out that the first presidential election was held in 1993 and led to Ong Teng Cheong being elected to the highest office in the land. (ST couldn’t change its print edition, of course, but did update its website by removing the words first elected and, and publish a correction in the next day’s newspaper.)[2]

However, some have questioned whether Nathan can be regarded as having been ‘elected’ at all, since the 1999 and 2005 elections he had participated in had been walkovers – he had been the only candidate declared eligible by the Presidential Elections Committee.

This raises an interesting question: who can be considered an elected President?

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Online Election-time Engagement Tricky as Ever

Wait, are you sure you can post that?

Wait, are you sure you can post that? (By María Tobías [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

IT’S BEEN INTERESTING to see that a post I made in 2012 at the time of the Hougang by-election has been seeing a surge of visits, as people try to figure out what they can or can’t post on cooling-off day and polling day of the 2015 general election (10 and 11 September).

The law hasn’t changed since then, so what I said in that post still applies today. This means online election-time engagement still remains a tricky issue for many.

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Hougang By-election Case: What Court Decision on By-election Reveals

A poll card issued for the 2011 general election

A poll card issued for the 2011 general election. (Photograph by Jacklee [public domain or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

THE COURT OF APPEAL’S judgment of 5 July in Vellama d/o Marie Muthu v Attorney-General[1] – popularly known as the Hougang by-election case – shows that the Court sees its role as policing the margins rather than involving itself in the heart of politics.

The decision came as a surprise to those used to a judicial stance that is fairly deferential towards the Government. It is one of only a handful of cases in which the courts have not accepted the Government’s interpretation of the Constitution.

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NCMPs as Punggol East By-election Candidates

Gerald Giam photographed in April 2011

Workers’ Party NCMP Gerald Giam in April 2011. Will the opposition parties field one of their NCMPs as a candidate in the forthcoming by-election? (Photograph by NewNation.sg. [CC-BY-2.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

I’M INTRIGUED that the media has been reporting that the Workers’ Party may field one of their existing Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) as a candidate in the forthcoming by-election in Punggol East Single Member Constituency.[1]

This possibility, which I have previously blogged about, arises because of the way Articles 46(2A) and 46(2B) of the Constitution[2] are drafted. These provisions state:

46(2A) A non-constituency Member of Parliament shall vacate his seat as such a Member if he is subsequently elected as a Member of Parliament for any constituency.

(2B) A nominated Member of Parliament shall vacate his seat as such a Member —

(a) if he stands as a candidate for any political party in an election; or

(b) if, not being a candidate referred to in paragraph (a), he is elected as a Member of Parliament for any constituency.

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Shock Resignation of Speaker Michael Palmer – Another By-election in the Offing?

Parliament House photographed in August 2010

Parliament House, Singapore, photographed in August 2010. (Photograph by Smuconlaw [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

THE SHOCK RESIGNATION of Michael Palmer as Speaker of Parliament, Member of Parliament for Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC), and member of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) due to a personal indiscretion has once again raised the intriguing possibility that a by-election may be called.

Things would have been different if Punggol East had been a Group Representation Constituency (GRC). No by-election may be called in a GRC unless all the MPs representing that constituency vacate their seats.[1]

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The Past, Present and Future of the Internal Security Act

Handcuffs

Illustration by Vectorportal.com [CC-BY-2.0],
via Flickr.)

Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

MORE THAN 60 YEARS have passed since a law permitting detention without trial first took effect in Singapore. The need for the current version of this law, the Internal Security Act (ISA), has been questioned on many occasions, most recently last year when Malaysia announced that it was reviewing its own version of the Act. Each time, the Government has reaffirmed the statute’s relevance. Is this statute still necessary in modern-day Singapore? Continue reading