Monday, April 6, 2015

By-Election Rumbles

"Whenever the seat of a Member, not being a non-constituency Member, has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election in the manner provided by or under any law relating to Parliamentary elections for the time being in force." - Constitution of Singapore, Article 49

When the expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong in mid-February 2012 triggered Speaker Michael Palmer to declare the Hougang Single Member Constituency seat vacant, there was much hemming and hawing as to what should be done. Hougang resident Vellama Marie Muthu, represented by human rights lawyer M Ravi, brought the by-election issue up in court.

Justice Philip Pillai concluded on Aug 1, 2012, that “there is no requirement” in Singapore’s constitution to call elections to fill elected Member of Parliament (MP) vacancies, and therefore no prescribed time such elections must be called. Pillai explained that the term "election" in Article 49 (1) in Part VI of Singapore's constitution carries two possible interpretations:
  • One, it could refer to an event, making the holding of a by-election mandatory.
  • Two, it could refer to the process of election, indicating only that the way in which the process of filling a vacated seat in parliament is by election.

Ergo, Pillai ruled that the Parliamentary Elections Act "merely provides the mechanism to hold such an election (the by-election) should the Prime Minister decide to call one", instead of determining whether or not one should be held, much less when.

In simple Singlish: law say by-election must hor, but didn't say when, leh.

Constitutional law professor Thio Li-ann and adjunct law professor Kevin Tan, both of whom lecture at the National University of Singapore (NUS), as well as assistant professor in constitutional law at Singapore Management University (SMU) Jack Lee, spoke in agreement with Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Eugene Tan, assistant professor of law at the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Law who argued in February 2012 that although the Constitution did not impose a timeframe within which a by-election had to be held, it was not the intent that this should allow elections to be postponed indefinitely. The fact that the Constitution is silent on exactly when by-elections should be called should not be taken as permission not to call them at all. "In short," he wrote, "the 'default' position should be that a by-election should be automatic, although there is no hard and fast rule on the timing."

Jack Lee and Thio Li-ann also pointed out that the issue of by-elections was previously debated in Parliament in August 2008, where Thio herself, in her capacity as an NMP alongside corporate lawyer and then-fellow NMP Siew Kum Hong, argued that by-elections should be called within three months of vacancy of the parliamentary seat.

Former attorney-general Walter Woon bypassed the legal mumbo-jumbo altogether and cut to the chase: he believed the ruling party government's intention was to avoid being held to a timeline to call for a by-election. "Will the voters feel that they have not been treated fairly if no by-election is called? That is the question," he added.

To cut a long story short, a by-election was held, with Nomination Day on 16 May 2012 and Polling on 26 May 2012. Png Eng Huat won with 62.1% of the vote. Huat, ah!

To complicate Justice Pillai's position on the law, there may be a new factor in the "respectable" period of mourning thrown in for good measure. But whatever happens to Tanjong Pagar, Walter Woon's caveat looms large, "Will the voters feel that they have not been treated fairly if no by-election is called?"
video

20 comments:

  1. Was it not incumbent on all those who had argued and debated the By-election Law to have it PROPERLY AMENDED, DEFINED AND HAD IT LEGISLATED, SO AS TO ENSURE THAT THE BY-ELECTION LAW HAS ALL THE ESSENCE AND SPIRIT ENCAPSULATED IN ITS' FINAL INTERPRETATION? THIS SHALL PREVENT ANYMORE DOUBT ABOUT IT'S ENFORCEMENT.

    patriot

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  2. You are behind time, Tattler. Pillai's judgment was appealed against and the Court of Appeal held that the bye-election must be held within a reasonable time. Whether the same ruling applies to a vacancy in a GRC has not been decided as the challenge by JBJ's client was withdrawn after his death.

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  3. Never mind what the people think...

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  4. They are arrogant but not stupid. You think they will risk loosing another GRC by calling a by election?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, they are not stupid
      Yes, they are arrogant

      And, yes they will still lose.

      They may win elections
      They may still have the majority

      But they will still lose.

      It may seem great in the short term, but after some time, there is this bitter after taste like having swallowed poison.

      Delete
    2. Maybe they can harvest the sympathy votes and win big.......

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  5. Is there a law which states that if any employee is absent from work without any valid reason (even at his deathbed) for an unreasonable period of time shall be sacked from his employment ?

    Likewise Is there a similar law which applies to any MP so that they won't be entitled to buta gaji ?

    Supposing 3 MPs in Worker's Party GRC passed away at the same time, do you think PAP would likewise allow the sole MP in the GRC to carry on indefinitely without holding a by-election ?

    If they won't, then what is the difference whether it is 1 or 3 MPs who kicked the bucket or are disqualified ?

    PAP is not known to be cunning for nothing. Only when it is disadvantage to themselves, they will stop at nothing, don't they ?

    Food for thought.

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  6. Does the passing of an MP in a GRC ward automatically trigger a by-election?

    The single-ward cases like Palmer & Yaw are clear cut because common sense prevails that residents should not be left with no elected representative.

    OTOH, if the GRC premise is that residents have an equal racial representation is the key argument for its existence, then clearly, if a(ny) or only minority within the team is no longer present, then it should naturally lead to a by-election.
    Is my understanding correct? What does the constitution say? Were there past examples where by-election in GRC did not result in a default trigger after an MP has passed?

    Can anyone clarify.

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    Replies
    1. Under section 24(2A) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, the President shall not issue a Writ of Election to fill a vacancy caused by one or more members of a GRC unless all members vacate their seats in Parliament. How this provision will stand against Article 49 of the Constitution is an interesting question and will have to be tested in Court.

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    2. Everything challenge in court.
      By the time there is judgement, they will appeal.
      By the time the appeal has gone through, judgement will be suspended pending written judgement.
      By the time al this is settled, a new law would have been passed... only to nullify the original.

      Meanwhile we await with tongues hanging.

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    3. So under what situation did the Marine Parade under GCT then called for by-election in his GRC? Did all the MPs vacate their seats back then?

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    4. The answer is yes.

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  7. Aiyo. They MAKE the law lah.

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    Replies
    1. Yes. They IGNORE the constitution lol.

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  8. Aiya, the PM thinks he has unfettered discretion to decide whether or not, or when, to call a by-election ....... until, aiyoyo, a cleaner disagrees and challenges him in court. Way to go, Madam Vellama, but one time only, because the Court found "the application lacked standing to bring the case, and was reluctant to set a precedent potentially requiring the Government to defend more court cases". Now methinks the PM no need to think and wear off whatever grey cells he has. But there is this caveat: "that the Prime Minister's exercise of discretion as to the timing of a by-election can only be challenged in exceptional cases."

    Justice Pillai held "that the phrase 'shall be filled by election' meant only that a casual vacancy had to be filled by means of an election, not that the Government was actually bound to hold a by-election." "Shall be filled", "had to be filled", but "not bound to hold a by-election"? Sound pretty much like the ruling "Plainly, a person inside a polling station cannot be said to be within a radius of 200 metres of a polling station." What do you make of these convoluted logic that stand our reason and understanding of English on it's head?

    http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3174&context=sol_research

    http://cod-democracy.blogspot.sg/2013/07/the-curious-case-where-cleaner.html

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    Replies
    1. "... and that the Prime Minister's exercise of discretion as to the timing of a by-election can only be challenged in exceptional cases"
      His papa died, so does that qualify as an "exceptional case"?

      Delete
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa4ECrvLVnc

    We are now the richer version of North Korea...muahahahaha
    No wonder Ms Lee Wei Ling and the Pappies want us to not feel ashame of our illiberal freedom and rights. The leegime reigns and must continue to rule, some say another 20-50-100 years before we get there with our rights....oh, how sweet that would be to them.

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    Replies
    1. sorry, here's the right video

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdtQ5zVhi3w

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  10. The law here is a joke,
    Until you get arrested, detained for 48hrs and extended perpetually... suddenly its not a joke anymore.

    No visitors
    No lawyers
    No sleep
    No warmth
    No sky

    The loneliness makes repenting extremely easy.
    Singgies are not that tough.... air-con,, char kway teow and expressos have soften the mind & body.

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  11. I do not know what you guys think about walter but to me and my friends, he is nothing but a useless man

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