He Ting Ru quotes Pritam Singh on FICA checks & balances: 'Ownself check ownself'

He proposed amendments to the foreign interference bill, which she said would provide better checks against the government.

Sulaiman Daud | Low Jia Ying | October 04, 2021, 11:26 PM

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Workers' Party Member of Parliament (MP) He Ting Ru signalled her disapproval of the Foreign Interference Countermeasures Bill in parliament today (Oct. 4), and said that the current provisions in the bill do not allow for sufficient checks and balances on power.

Quoting the Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh, she said that because there is no judiciary to review the decisions made under the bill, that this is a "classic case" of "ownself check ownself".

He: FICA gives Minister "unfettered" powers

He raised concerns that the proposed bill would give the minister "wide ranging powers that are largely unfettered", barring a reviewing tribunal that has a "narrow scope".

She cautioned that the foreign interference bill may be a "slippery slope" that leads to less checks on power, and may end up being abused by "future rogue Ministers and officials".

He then proposed amendments to the bill that she said would "protect citizens against an abuse of power by the Government of the day".

In its current form, the Reviewing Tribunal, which reviews the Minister's decision in the event of an appeal, is made up of three persons who are appointed by the government, only one of whom must be a Supreme Court Judge.

Appeals process under current bill is a "classic case" of "ownself check ownself"

He proposed that appeals should be heard by the High Court instead, as this would be "in line with the doctrine of the separation of powers".

She stressed that the Reviewing Tribunal is "clearly not an effective substitute for the Courts".

As the Tribunal is appointed by the Cabinet, He said that this creates a situation it is "effectively a check, by the executive, on an executive decision".

He said:

"This is a classic case of, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, 'Ownself Check Ownself'."

He: Judicial review ouster clause is unconstitutional

He pointed out that Clause 104 of the bill states that the Courts may not review the Minister's decision under FICA, and that the Reviewing Tribunal's decision is final.

This, He said, "offends" Article 93 of the Constitution, which states that judicial power in Singapore should be vested in a Supreme Court.

He added that this ouster clause is a "breach of the principle of the separation of powers", as the government should not use its legislative powers to overstep the "rightful constitutional oversight" of the Judiciary in Singapore.

She asked why constitutional amendments were allowed to be made in the case of the Elected Presidency and the Council of Presidential Advisers in the name of protecting against "the possibility of irrational or unreasonable behaviour by top decision-makers", and questioned:

"Why do these safeguards not apply here, especially as we are granting wide-ranging powers to the Minister?"

He ended her speech by saying that "greater powers need greater oversight", and added that her proposed amendments would help guard against the "over-expansive use of government powers".

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