WP Chairman Sylvia Lim files motion in Parliament to debate decision to count Elected Presidency from Wee Kim Wee

Is it a policy decision or legal question? Singapore wants to know.

Sulaiman Daud | August 28, 2017, 05:07 PM

After 2011 runner-up Tan Cheng Bock failed in his legal challenge against the decision to count Wee Kim Wee as Singapore's first Elected President, Workers' Party chairman and MP for Aljunied GRC Sylvia Lim is seeking a Parliamentary debate on the same topic.

In a Facebook post, the Workers' Party announced on Monday that Lim had filed an adjournment motion on whether counting from President Wee Kim Wee or Ong Teng Cheong as the first Elected President is a policy decision or a legal question, for the Parliament sitting on Sep. 11.

In case you can't see it, here's what the Facebook post says:

"Counting from President Wee Kim Wee or President Ong Teng Cheong - policy decision or legal question?

Sylvia Lim, MP for Aljunied GRC, has filed an adjournment motion with the above title for the sitting of Parliament on 11 September 2017. 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."

Not the first time

This is not the first time Lim has raised concerns over the government's changes to the elected presidency. On Feb. 6 2017, during the Parliamentary debate on amendments to the Presidential Elections Act, she said the following in her speech:

"I have been reflecting on the decision to use President Wee as the reference point. I realised that this decision to count from President Wee was not a matter of getting legal advice to interpret any existing laws. If one looks at this Bill and the Schedule, the government is asking Parliament to simply make it the law that President Wee is the first one to be counted.

Why not count from the first elected President, Mr Ong Teng Cheong? Is it because if President Ong was the first one to be counted, we would have to go through this year’s elections as an open election, and risk a contest by Chinese or Indian candidates who may not be to the government’s liking? Isn’t the decision to count from President Wee an arbitrary and deliberate decision of the government, to achieve a desired outcome?"


Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing responded to this, saying she could "challenge this in the courts":

"Are you suggesting the Attorney-General did not give the government the appropriate advice? Or that the Prime Minister has not been truthful with the Attorney-General’s advice?

If it’s the first, then I think Miss Lim, as suggested by DPM Teo (Chee Hean), can challenge this in the courts. But if it’s the second, then I’m afraid it’s a very serious issue to cast aspersions on the integrity of our Prime Minister.”

Lim later clarified that she was not casting aspersions on the integrity of the PM, and Chan accepted her point.

Tan Cheng Bock's appeal

After this, if you recall, Tan filed a suit in the High Court to ask why the count should start from the late President Wee Kim Wee and not Ong Teng Cheong.

His suit was dismissed by the High Court, and Tan's appeal was also dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Tan accepted the judgment gracefully, putting up a Facebook post on Aug. 23 outlining his thoughts on the matter.

In the post, Tan alluded to Lim's speech in Parliament while explaining his rationale for the legal challenge:

"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.

So I filed a case to argue what most Singaporeans felt was proper, that the count should start with the 1st Elected President Ong Teng Cheong (which would result in 2023 being a reserved election year). The Court of Appeal, however, decided that as a matter of law, the Government has discretion to start the count with President Wee Kim Wee."

Lim's move comes on the same day, but a couple of hours prior to PM Lee's issuance of the Presidential Writ of Election. Nomination Day is slated for Sep. 13.

One thing's for sure — if Lim's motion is accepted, the Parliamentary sitting on Sep. 11 promises to be a lively affair.

Top image from Worker's Party Facebook page and website