PE 2017: Workers' Party unable to raise reserved presidential election in Parliament

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
Workers’ Party chair Sylvia Lim spoke at a rally at Bedok Stadium on 9 September 2015. (Yahoo file photo)

Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim will not get to speak on the reserved presidential election (PE) at the upcoming Parliamentary sitting on Monday (11 September).

In a Facebook post on Tuesday (5 September), the Workers’ Party (WP) said that Lim had filed an adjournment motion on the matter on 28 August. An adjournment motion entitles an MP to speak for up to 20 minutes on his or her subject matter.

“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 (Tuesday), 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,” the WP post said.

Last month, the WP said that it was filing the adjournment motion in the wake of “intense public discussion” and a court case on the reserved presidential election. Its Facebook post on the matter was entitled “Counting from President Wee Kim Wee or President Ong Teng Cheong for Reserved Presidential Election – Policy Decision or Legal Question”.

On 23 August, former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock’s appeal against a High Court ruling on his constitutional challenge to the timing of the reserved PE was dismissed by the Apex Court. Tan had argued that the term count that triggered the reserved election was flawed, as it started from then-president Wee, who was not an elected president.

This year’s presidential election is reserved for Malay candidates, following constitutional amendments in 2016 to reserve an election for a particular racial group that has not been represented in the office for five consecutive terms. Tan maintained that the term count should have started from Ong, an argument that was rejected by the courts.

But the Apex Court agreed with the High Court that there is nothing in the text or textual context, which limits Parliament’s power by requiring Parliament to start the term count from the term of office of a popularly elected President.

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