Tan Cheng Bock: No need to pay $30,000 costs to government for Elected Presidency case

Photo of Tan Cheng Bock: Yahoo News Singapore
Photo of Tan Cheng Bock: Yahoo News Singapore

UPDATE: The Workers’ Party said it will not be able to raise its adjournment motion on the Presidential Election at the next parliamentary sitting on Monday (2 October) after the topic was not picked in a ballot.

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock said on Tuesday (26 September) that his constitutional challenge against the term count of the Elected Presidency (EP) has ended with no legal costs payable to the government.

The government had wanted the court to order $30,000 costs against him initially, Tan said in a post on his Facebook page.

Last month, Tan lost lost his appeal case against a High Court ruling on his constitutional challenge to the timing of the reserved PE.

“But my lawyers vigorously resisted and argued for a “public interest cost order” instead. After reading our submissions, the Government changed their mind and consented to “no order as to costs”, Tan added.

For such an order, the court can spare an unsuccessful plaintiff who has filed a legitimate complaint, from paying costs to a government defendant in a case of general importance and public interest, Tan highlighted.

Tan said that when he pursued his legal case, many had cautioned him not to waste money as he would stand to lose and pay the government “thousands of dollars in legal fees”.

“However, the Government’s dismissive attitude towards genuine answer-seekers like myself, and MP Sylvia Lim in Parliament in November 2016 and February 2017 was simply unsatisfactory. Win or lose, I was determined the Government should answer our questions.”

Referring to the advice given by the Attorney-General on the term count of the EP, Tan said his case has also led to some answers.

“We heard the AG tell the Court: ‘PM never said that the AG advised PM to start the count from President Wee. What PM said is that the AG advised (that) what the Government was proposing to do was legitimate’ and the AG never advised the Government that President Wee was the 1st Elected President,” Tan said.

The start of the count of the five terms of EP was purely a policy decision, which the Court cannot review, Tan said. As such, AG’s advice to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was “ultimately irrelevant”, Tan highlighted.

There are still other questions that remain unanswered by the government, according to Tan.

“For instance, why did the Government tell Parliament they took AG’s advice if AG’s advice was irrelevant? Why invite MP Sylvia Lim to go to Court if it was, all along, a policy decision? Shouldn’t reasons for policy decisions be explained in Parliament?” Tan argued.

Tan added that Lim intends to raise the questions in Parliament and he hopes that she gets the chance to do so.

The Workers’ Party said in a statement on Tuesday, however, that Lim will not be able to bring up her adjournment motion “Counting from President Wee Kim Wee or President Ong Teng Cheong for Reserved Presidential Election – Policy Decision or Legal Question?” at the next parliamentary sitting on Monday (2 October). It was the second time in a row that WP’s motion was not picked in a ballot.

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Presidential Election 2017: Tan Cheng Bock’s appeal dismissed