SDP files lawsuit against Singapore government for not calling Marsiling-Yew Tee by-election

Hannah Teoh
Senior Content Producer
A 2015 photograph of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MPs (from left) Alex Yam, Lawrence Wong, Halimah Yacob, Ong Teng Koon. Halimah resigned as MP on 7 August in order to contest this year’s Presidential Election. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has filed a lawsuit in the High Court against the government for not calling a by-election in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC following Halimah Yacob’s resignation from her post as one of the ward’s four Members of Parliament (MPs).

“For too long and on too many occasions, the PAP has made arbitrary and dubious decisions to amend the Constitution and statutes to preserve its own power. These decisions, however questionable, are rarely challenged,” said the SDP in a statement on Wednesday (13 September) hours after Halimah had been declared Singapore’s eighth president.

Earlier that the day, the 63-year-old former speaker of parliament was declared the only candidate eligible to contest in the 2017 Presidential Election.

In its statement, the SDP cited Section Article 49 (1) of the Constitution as a “glaring example” that a by-election should be called. Article 49(1) states that “(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”.

The SDP also pointed out that while the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) had mandated that “each GRC include at least one candidate from a predetermined minority race”, the same party had also “arbitrarily decided that if that minority member resigns, there is no need to replace him or her in a by-election”. In the case of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, Halimah had been the minority candidate.

“It is crucial at this time of Singapore’s development that the ruling clique does not run away with further manipulating the political system,” the SDP statement added.

Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Alex Yam had earlier told reporters during a Meet-The-People session in August that the decision to hold a by-election was the prerogative of the Prime Minister.

“No one has said there won’t be a by-election. It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister (whether to hold a by-election). And until someone says so, we will continue to serve the residents,” he said.

Residents in Halimah’s Marsiling ward whom Yahoo News Singapore spoke to in August were divided on the issue of whether a by-election should be called. Some said that a by-election was not necessary as the GRC’s other MPs could cover Halimah’s duties, while others felt that it was about having a choice as to who their MP should be.

Law firm Peter Low & Choo LLC will be representing the SDP, and a pre-trial conference has been set for 9 October 2017.

Related stories: