Just after 5pm, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Tan Chuan-Jin made their shock announcements that Tan would be nominated to be Speaker of Parliament.
The flurry of discussion and news that followed almost made us miss a pretty crucial statement from Singapore's opposition Workers' Party roughly an hour later: WP Chairman and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim will not get to speak on her tabled motion regarding the upcoming reserved presidential election.
What happened was:
- On August 28, Lim filed an adjournment motion to speak on the topic of how the first Elected President was decided upon, and whether it is a policy decision or a legal question.
- Two days later, Parliament told all the MPs that there were two more adjournment motions filed on August 29. These were:
- "Community Sentencing and Other Rehabilitative Options" by Bukit Batok SMC MP Murali Pillai
- "The Future of National Service" by Sembawang GRC MP Vikram Nair
- The ballot for who would get to speak on their adjournment motion was conducted on Tuesday, and the one that was picked is Murali's motion.
- Therefore, Lim won't get to speak.
Here's the text update uploaded to the Workers' Party's Facebook page:[related_story]
Here's the text in full:
WP’s Adjournment Motion on Elected Presidency Balloted Out of 11th September Parliamentary Sitting
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.
Recap: What happened regarding this matter
Initially, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing told Lim when she asked that question in Parliament the following:
“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.”
So, take it to court somebody did. 2011 Presidential runner-up Tan Cheng Bock went to the High Court, and argued that the decision to name Wee Kim Wee as Singapore's first Elected President is unconstitutional.
Regrettably, his case failed and was turned down by the Court of Appeal, which said this question is one to be decided upon by legislators (i.e. Parliament). Tan eventually gracefully bowed out of the race that he was hoping to be able to participate in.
And now, Lim filed this adjournment motion to bring the question back into Parliament, where the Court of Appeal appears to have said the discussion should be held.
But unfortunately, we won't be finding out what she or our government will have to say about this on Monday, September 11's Parliament sitting.
Instead, we will hear about community sentencing and other rehabilitative options.
Here are some totally unrelated but equally interesting stories:
Top photo via The Workers' Party Facebook page