Tan Cheng Bock claims K Shanmugam contradicted his own words: Does the govt publish legal opinion or not?

The minster said last year the government will publish legal opinions but recently in Parliament said the government doesn't.

Belmont Lay | October 08, 2017, 06:16 PM

Former presidential hopeful Tan Cheng Bock has pointed out an "apparent contradiction" in Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam’s statements during a parliamentary session on Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Tan made this point in a Facebook post on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

In Tan's opinion, it is about something the minister said last year and in Parliament recently that doesn't tally.

Does or does not publish legal opinion?

In the recent Oct. 4 session, Shanmugam said the government does not publish legal opinions that it gets as a general rule.

This was after Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim asked the government to publish the Attorney-General’s Chamber’s advice on the timing of the reserved presidential election.

What Shanmugam was quoted as saying last September

In his Facebook post, Tan pointed out that Shanmugam was quoted by the Singapore mainstream media in September 2016, saying that the government would make such advice public.

Shanmugam was quoted in a Channel News Asia report then:

“Once we get the advice, we will send it out. Certainly by the time the Bill gets to Parliament, which is in October, I think we will have a position and will make it public.”

However, it is not clear which part of the quote Tan was referring to.

This is so as the first sentence in the quote that mentioned "the advice" said that the government "will send it out". There was no further elaboration on to whom the advice will be sent to.

The second part of the quote mentioned "a position" and the government "will make it public". It does not explicitly say whether the position to count Wee Kim Wee as the first elected president will be a result of AGC's advice.

Nevertheless, Tan asked if the minister would “explain to Singaporeans his apparent contradiction”, and said that the report “appears to have words opposite to what the Minister mentioned” in Parliament.


Singapore's top leaders should have responded instead of Shanmugam

Tan also took issue with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing, who “sat quietly behind” as Shanmugam responded to the adjournment motion by Lim.

Tan said Lim’s motion should have been answered by the three ministers as they were the ones who gave their statements to Parliament and have been asked if they had indeed misled the house.

“One would have expected the PM, DPM or Minister Chan to speak for themselves and clarify their own words. After all, they are the government’s top leaders,” Tan said.

“In fact, PM Lee should be the one answering Ms Lim. This debate started with PM’s statement on taking AG’s legal advice. Why he remained silent during this parliamentary debate continues to baffle many Singaporeans.”

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