Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam has accused former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock of engaging in ‘elaborate charades’ over the minister’s recent remarks on the reserved presidential election.
“Dr Tan may be bitter. But that is no excuse for engaging in these elaborate charades,” said the minister in a Facebook post on Sunday evening (8 October).
Shanmugam was responding to Tan’s comments on Saturday, when the latter pointed out an ‘apparent contradiction’ in the minister’s parliamentary remarks earlier this week.
Speaking during an adjournment motion on the reserved presidential election, Aljunied Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim had challenged the government to publish the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) advice on the timing of the reserved election. In response, Shanmugam had said that the government does not generally publish legal opinions that it is given.
Tan then pointed out the ‘apparent contradiction’, noting that Shanmugam had said in a Channel NewsAsia report on 15 September, 2016, “Once we get the advice, we will send it out.”
But the minister, who is also an MP for Nee Soon, claimed that Tan had “spliced my remarks, rearranged them, and put them together in a way to suggest something which I did not say”.
The full context of Shanmugam’s response
Shanmugam noted that he was responding to the question: When would the circuit-breaker to hold a reserved election after a racial group has not been represented in Presidential office after five continuous terms come into effect?
In publishing his full response to the query, the minister said that he had stressed that it was a policy decision for the government to make.
He added, “Clearly, I was referring to making the Government’s position (and not the AGC’s advice) public. The question was when the circuit breaker will come into effect. My answer was that we would make our position clear after we had sorted out some points; and at the latest, we will make our position clear by the time the Bill gets to Parliament.”
Shanmugam also responded to Tan’s question as to why he had responded to Lim, given that she had questioned earlier statements from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean or Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chung Sing
“Surely as a former parliamentarian he knows that adjournment motions have strict time limits. The MP moving the adjournment motion has up to 20 minutes; and someone else has all of 10 minutes to respond. That’s it. As Law Minister, I responded on behalf of the Government,” said Shanmugam.