“Ms Lim protests far too much” – Law Minister rebuts Sylvia Lim’s questions on reserved PE2017


Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim accused the government of evading parliamentary debate on the reserved Presidential Election and of misleading the public, in Parliament yesterday:

“Did the government all along make a policy decision itself to count from President Wee Kim Wee? Did the government merely use the AGC’s advice as a cover to avoid full parliamentary debate on why the count was not starting from President Ong Teng Cheong?”

Questioning whether the decision to count from appointed President Wee Kim Wee instead of the first elected President Ong Teng Cheong to trigger the reserved election is a policy decision or a legal question, Lim brought up speeches made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing, alleging that they used evasive language to distract the public and avoid debate on the term count in parliament.

“(The government) should not have evaded the debate by using the AGC’s advice as a distraction and then gone to court to say that the AGC’s advice was irrelevant.”

In response, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said:

“The government has always been clear that when it comes to the counting, it is a policy matter for parliament to decide and Ms Lim protests far too much.”

Later, he added:

“Why would I say it’s a policy matter if I thought it was a pure legal issue? So if Ms Lim is right, then I’m misleading the whole of Singapore.”

Repeating that it’s “on record” that the term count was a policy decision and not a legal one, the Minister brought up the legal challenge mounted by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, asserting that the court had made it clear that the government was the one to decide on the count:

“The Court of Appeal has confirmed that it was for parliament to decide. Ms Lim said she was present, she heard that this judge asked that question, that was said, this was said – why didn’t you read the judgment? There is only one person in this House whom the Courts have held to be misleading parliament, and he is not from the PAP.”

Shanmugam asserted that PM Lee had made it clear that the government planned to start the count from the last term of Dr Wee Kim Wee’s presidency since he had exercised the powers of an elected president during that term.

He added that legal advice was sought from the AGC only to ensure that things were done in the correct manner:

“We start counting, we are a careful government, we make a policy decision but we take advice to see whether there are any impediments. And this government, as a rule, generally doesn’t publish legal opinions that it gets.
“We’re very clear, it’s a policy matter and that’s on the record. Prime Minister took the same position. He explained in parliament – we decide, but we took AGC’s advice. And the next day, DPM Teo and subsequently Mr Chan took the same positions. Did anyone say ‘we are going to decide this way because this is the way that AGC has told us that we have to decide? I mean, that would make no sense because parliament is sovereign.”

Lim first quoted PM Lee’s speech in parliament on 8 Nov 2016 during the debate on the Constitutional Amendment Bill, when raising her motion:

“Prime Minister told the House the following, ‘The symbolic role of the president is just as important as his custodial role. As a symbol of the nation, the race of the candidate is relevant. So, while individually a good candidate of any race will be satisfactory, collectively, over a period of time, we need that mix of presidents of different races and the election mechanism must be designed to produce such a mix over time. This is what the hiatus-triggered model delivers. When should the racial provision start counting? The Constitutional Amendment Bill states that the government should legislate on this point. The government intends to legislate when we amend the Presidential Elections Act in January next year. We have taken the Attorney-General’s advice. We will start counting from the first president who exercised the powers of the elected president. In other words, Dr Wee Kim Wee. That means we are now in the fifth term of the elected presidency. Therefore, by the operation of the hiatus-triggered model, the next election, due next year, 2017, will be a reserved election for Malay candidates.’
“The clear impression given was that this was based on the AGC’s advice. That was why the prime minister sequenced his sentences as he did. The Prime Minister did not say that the government intended to count from President Wee Kim Wee and that the AGC had merely confirmed that it was acceptable to do so.”

She then took issue with DPM Teo’s clarification on the term count triggering the reserved election, which he made in Parliament on 9 Nov 2016. DPM Teo had said:

“On the reserved elections and how to count, I would like to confirm that this is indeed the Attorney-General’s Chamber’s advice. And if not, and you do not think that is correct, I think it is possible if you wish to challenge judicially.”

Lim accused:

“Any reasonable person would assume that the AGC had advised the government how to count, and that the AGC’s advice involved a question of law.”

Lim also raised Minister Chan’s views when the term count issue was again raised in parliament on 6 Feb, this year. Lim said:

“3 months later, on 6th February, this House held the second reading debate on the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill. What struck me in preparing for the debate was that the Bill contained a new schedule with a table stipulating that the count was to start from President Wee Kim Wee. It dawned on me then that the government had simply wanted parliament to make new law to stipulate that the count should start from President Wee Kim Wee. It was completely a government decision.
“When I put it to the government that counting from President Wee Kim Wee was an arbitrary and deliberate decision to achieve a desired outcome, Minister Chan Chun Sing rejected my assertion. He told the House that the government had decided not to publish the AGC’s advice.
“Minister Chan further said, ‘The government is confident of the advice rendered by the Attorney-General. We proceeded on that basis during the debates on the constitutional changes in this House. Prime Minister Lee explained to all why we need the hiatus-triggered mechanism and he passed the Constitution Amendment bill. We are here today to put the nuts and bolts in place for a decision made clear by Prime Minister during the debates in November and we will not go through this again’.
“He continued, ‘Ms Lim once again questioned the Attorney-General’s advice. I’m a bit bewildered by this. I would like to clarify: A) Is Ms Lim suggesting that the Attorney-General did not give the government the appropriate advice? Or B) that the Prime Minister has not been truthful with the Attorney-General’s advice? If it is the first, then I think Ms Lim, as suggested by Deputy Prime Minister Teo, can challenge this in the courts. But if it is the second, then I’m afraid it is a very serious issue to cast aspersions on the integrity of our prime minister.’
“So we should note what happened here – instead of confirming that it was the government who made the decision start counting from President Wee, Minister Chan explicitly said that the government was confident of the AGC’s advice and proceeded on that basis to make the constitutional changes.
“He said he did not want to reopen the debate on the count from President Wee even though parliament was then asked for the first time to enact the table stipulating the count from President Wee. Here we were debating a law that would practically rewrite history by deeming President Wee as the first elected president. Yet, instead of the government using the opportunity to clarify the matter and any misimpressions created, it chose instead to impute sinister intentions to me. And that was how the parliamentary debates on the reserved elections ended.”

However, Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair contradicted the government’s stance by saying that the AGC’s advice was “irrelevant,” according to Lim:

“Before the High Court on 29th June 2017, the Deputy AG said, and I quote, ‘The Prime Minister never said that the AG advised PM to start the count from President Wee. What PM said is that the AG advised is that what the government is proposing to do was legitimate.’ This is from the official court transcript. Mr Kumar further submitted that the decision on which president to count from was a policy matter for the government and not a legal question. He argued, and I quote, ‘The AG was in no position to tell the government where to start the count from.’
“On 31st July, before the Court of Appeal of five judges, the Deputy AG repeated his position even more vividly. He submitted that the AGC’s advice was ‘irrelevant’. He also tried to explain away the PM’s speech on taking the AGC’s advice. He said, and I quote, ‘One should not look at speeches like statutory instruments. The PM had made it clear from his speech that President Wee was not a popularly-elected president but a president who had exercised the powers of an elected president. Then he says fifth term of elected president – a convenient term used in his speech. He wasn’t defining presidency in this context as elected presidency.’ That was Mr Nair’s submission to the court.
“Sir, I was in court when he made that submission, which to me was astonishing. Was the Deputy Attorney-General saying that we should not take the PM’s speech literally, but loosely? That we should not place too much weight on the terms PM used in making a keynote speech to parliament to amend the Constitution?
“The government’s reference to the AGC’s advice has confused MPs and also the courts. The ministers consistently kept referring to the AGC’s advice as the basis for the legislative changes. Yet, the Deputy AG says in court that the advice is ‘irrelevant’.”

Lim finally accused the government of legitimising its actions under the veil of the mysterious AGC’s advice that she noted has still not been produced:

“Here we are debating changes that affect the highest office in the land, yet the government decides to engage in ambiguous language and red herrings. We in this House should have been told in no uncertain terms that it was the government that wanted to count from Wee Kim Wee. The government should have defended its own decision on why counting from President Wee was appropriate. It should not have evaded the debate by using the AGC’s advice as a distraction and then gone to court to say that the AGC’s advice was irrelevant.
“Did the government refuse to publish the advice because doing so would have made it clear that the decision to count from President Wee was initiated by the government and the government alone. Sir, be that as it may, the Deputy AG has now told us that the AGC’s advice was merely sought to legitimise what the government itself wanted to do.”

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  1. I lost respect for Shanmugan when I saw how he slammed Sylvia Lim so unnecessarily. She is an elected MP and has as much right as him to ask govt to clarify matters. This whole dumb EP episode leaves a bad taste in my mouth which I will remember in the next GE.

  2. Obviously someone maybe 1 maybe more maybe all is/are lying. Children are reading n watching n of impressionable ages, they will learn this art of speech. I shudder to think how difficult it will b for future governments when these children grow up.

  3. Rio Yanif says:

    Don’t be to arrogant tharman u are nobody without our vote . So if u are wrong mean u are wrong. She’s speaking onbehalf of Sporean with what u all do make us not happy.

  4. Victor Tan says:

    If you cannot figure out whats happening here and see the true colour of (black mamba/white puppies) then you are the walking dead,colour blind ,blind loyalty ,blind obidience choose to be victim for life rather than a fighter for a better future

  5. Neo Max says:

    Isn’t it a given that govt has to check the policies they implement is within the law? Why have to specifically state it aloud? Does that mean, those times they were silent, they didn’t check with AGC if the policies are within law?

  6. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ong_Teng_Cheong

    Copy & pasted from Wikipedia…
    Ong’s political career spanned 21 years. He was a member of parliament (MP), Cabinet Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, before he resigned to become the first elected President of Singapore in 1993.

    EP is a historical milestone of Singapore, vividly recorded in Wikipedia.
    And now history manipulated to become a policy issue?? Gosh, this cannot be happening, SG has become mana ada system because policy can just suka suka change according to the whims & fancy of the day. #unbelievable
    Seriously, how far is such going, undoing critical matters SG founding fathers fought for. #shocking

    1. Singapore has deteriorated to a level of Najibism. It’s no more aspiring to the Swiss standard but more like learning from her neighbors. Sad and shameful. I’m ashamed even though I’m ex Singaporean. No standard

  7. Just cut the story short. It is so fucking obvious is that their objective is to prevent Dr TCB from running. Full stop. Enough said. This country will go downhill right to the bottom before the next LKY takes over and hopefully bring it back up. Because with this bunch of lackeys in charge, they will kill every mother fuckers who are blocking them in order to stay in power and that includes selling their fucking soul.

  8. Jasen Lee says:

    UPres Halimah bought a bungalow in 5th Avenue, a few months ago, in anticipation of her Presidential Appointment.
    All this while, staying in HDB was just a wayang, until the bungalow is ready for moving in condition.

    7th mth wayang queen. ??

  9. When LKY was still alive….every statement was scripted by him…..now that he is gone…..PAP ministers can’t even conjure up a proper complete sentence 🙂 🙂

  10. Singapura is kucing kurap a small dot on the world map if singapura is big country n they controlled their country like this they will be labeled corruption alrdy..

  11. Please listen Minister S.
    Ms Lim is pointing out about statements given by PM, DPM and Minister Chan might be misleading, not yours. None of the three spoke up but you. Wrong person to clarify.

  12. Joe Wong says:

    If I were Sylvia Lim, I would ask “If an appointed NMP has no Veto Power in the Parliament, how could the appointed President WKW exercise the Veto Power of the First EP of OTC ?

  13. Actually it was clear to all Singaporeans that this was the government’s decision. The problem is not that PAP were trying to mislead people by framing AGC, but the manner which they ended a debate without even starting it.

    It’s like a child asking a difficult question that stumped his mother and she goes “okay that’s enough, I don’t want to talk about this anymore”, thus leaving important questions unanswered.

  14. David Yeo says:

    It is so clear :
    1.pm said he take advice from agc to count WKW as the first elected president
    2.agc said he did not give such advice to pm.
    3.shamugam said it is a policy matter not a judiciary matter.

    These is how the leaders talk? Contradicting each other and yet can say they “are very clear”. So shrewed up. Ms Lim presented her points very clear and precise but law minister go around the bush with his words and not talking to the point. Please get E W Baker back

  15. Nasir Bj says:

    Maybe Shanmugam forget everything said in Parliament is recorded! To twist and turn with meaning and use intimidation when u the ruling party is very admirable…. I chive u a clap public is not stupid and in the internet era we got the unedited version of the news….

  16. Ng Alfred says:

    The PAP government can bluff some people…sometime., it also can bluff most people. .most of the time…but it cannot bluff all the people. ..all the time. A time will come when the people will wake up…

  17. Neo Max says:

    The G will not change n continue its arrogance n not answer the questions for accountability – the reply from G is that they want this to be a reserved Presidential election because they say so. Not need to say why. But we all know why.

  18. Koh Phil says:

    Ah hen shanmugan * yes u r misleading Singaporean* u think I’m a fucking idiot like u.. I might be low education but with high dignity but u r opposite me with full of shit

  19. AK Tan says:

    She is protesting because she, as a representative of the people, and using power vested by the people, is unhappy. Please respect the wills and voices of the citizens and stop making a mockery of what is left of democracy, without which Singapore will have no economy, no hope and no future.

    1. u both are blindly man still stand for white ,never see the trap .
      one day ,when you find up the white not going help you anythings ,you will understand .how stupid comments are you today .

  20. Any WP MPs speaking up in parliament, their fanboys and supporters go into overdrive praising them for speaking up for Singaporeans (some, not all)

    On being rebuked in parliament, PAP is bullying to silence opposition blah blah blah……..

    When WP MPs are questioned on their misappropriated town council funds, their supporters pretend not to know what’s going on!

    1. Neo Ren Jie wait, Sylvia Lim didn’t account to the residents why they were unable to pay to the sinking funds. She explained one side of the story but not the other side of it. The grant was withheld because they hadn’t paid up to date to the sinking fund. She conveniently omitted this side of the story to fit her side.

    2. Neo Ren Jie the matter in court is not one of whether were there any lapses. The matter in court now is whether that 3 stooges and cronies failed in their duties as keepers of the funds. And if they indeed failed, why?

      Btw, their accounts are still not reconciled despite being combed through by TWO independent auditing co.

      Necessary steps taken? What are they? And if they did, why would their own town council bring them up on charges??

    3. Wilson Wong does it really matter who became president, whether all those debated issues are right or wrong? How has it changed your life? Why bother about something that you can’t do a shit thing about (complaining doesn’t count). Does it make you a better person because you talked about it, other than giving you an inflated ego.

    4. Sas Karma what did you do for Singaporeans out of your own pocket OTHER THAN COMPLAINING because of all those losses???

      My livelihood was not affected and the Govt didn’t make me lose anything, why should I care?

    5. Sure. We kept quiet because we know the source of the problem-AIM. Tax payers bought system subjugated to PAP ownership.

      Now shall we focus back at the misleading statements by the 3 musketeers?

    6. SY Kong I’m not defending them, I’m turning a blind eye to what they do.

      Are you a politician? Can you play the game they do?

      Well I can’t so I don’t give a damn what they do as long as they keep the country status quo so I can get rich within the system.
      In case you hadn’t realized, the PAP works for the 70% who voted for them. It is the 30% who are working overtime licking the opposition asses.

    7. Sas Karma says:

      And what happen to suzhou investments, Lehman brothers, lost cpf ..all the pap supporters become stupid and blind..all became mice or accomplices to the head of hooligans.

    8. SY Kong says:

      and we see how PAPigs and their tail wagging and tongue licking running dogs will be out to defend their masters despite all the overwhelming evidence that shows the filthiness of their manipulative master!

    1. Ernest Peh who says I agree with them just because I voted for them?

      I’m not a politician and the Govt hadn’t done anything that is detrimental to me, so why should I change my vote? In fact I’m voting for them to stay in office so I can continue my plan to enrich myself in the system.

      Would you want to change table if you’re winning at it in the casino?

    2. Ernest Peh anyway why shouldn’t I vote PAP? It is not like the oppositions are even competent at all!!!

      3 decades of politics and what has Low Thia Khiang done for Singaporeans that are even notable??

    3. Ernest Peh well because politics is DIRTY! There is no such thing as clean politics unlike football.

      In fact if one doesn’t know how to play dirty, one shouldn’t even get into politics!

      Hadn’t you realized by now? Or are you living in some cocooned disillusioned world who think everything must be fair and clean?

    4. Ernest Peh says:

      Michael G R Lum am not here to complain anything, I just wonder why someone playing dirty politics but why u still agree with them n vote for them, what is the reason since they are not fair n u see it too but why u can still vote for them. Can let me know? I really wanna find out what the reason

    5. Ernest Peh says:

      Michael G R Lum since you know someone is playing dirty politics but why u think they are doing right way n vote them? Is like u watching football game even u saw is a fault why u agree with the ref saying not a fault?

    6. Right if they are working for us, open the books of Temasek, GIC and CPF plus reserves and let us see how much we lost. Oh yeah…cannot see because President is also from PAP.

    7. Pui Seng Lee you should know, PAP works for the 70%. While the other 30% are actually the dogs licking the asses of the oppositions. Omg! You mean you hadn’t notice by now???

    8. SY Kong FYI we vote for PAP so things remain status quo. So we can go on accumulating wealth. Why rock the boat?

      You mean the other 30% are not interested in accumulating wealth too? Perhaps the reason they cannot is because they are serving their oppositions masters.
      The PAP are not masters of the 70% who voted for them. It is the other way round. The PAP are working for us.

    9. Ernest Peh politics is dirty. The white supporters knows it that is why they are NOT SURPRISED.

      It is the other 30% who think everything must be fair must be clean. So who are the disillusioned ones??

    10. SY Kong says:

      The fact that PAPigs like Michael G R Lum support their manipulative master shows who dirty and immoral these PAPigs and their running dogs had become!

    11. Ernest Peh says:

      Why do we need a GRC System? Why pap candidate can’t win in SMC and they need to hide into GRC? Which pap MP dare to walk out from smc n challenge opposition ward?

    12. Ernest Peh says:

      Michael G R Lum how to check and balance when only 6 opposition mp in the parliament ? Even kid o so know 1+1=2 only the whites supporter still in the dark

    13. SY Kong I’m sure in your time you are those that think if half the class failed in exam, it makes your failing okay.

      WP is supposedly the check and balance of the govt or so they claimed to be, the co driver who will keep the govt on their toes, if they are doing what the PAP is doing, how does it make them any better?

      The only difference is PAP supporters will NEVER write “WPigs” and the WP ones will and the WP supporters actually pride themselves as being better?

    1. SY Kong that dbl headed quadruple tongue snake head using legal intimidation the exact mirror image of an underworld boss !!! Hope his constituency members see through him and do right by their vote come 2019! Assuming his constituency members is not so blinded as not to recognise such a devious character in their chosen one !!!

    2. SY Kong if PAP wanna intimate, I’m sure it’ll not be just with words.

      Are you saying it’s bullying because Sylvia Lim cannot take the pressure? Maybe she was sweating under the blouse?

    3. SY Kong says:

      Michael G R Lum, anyone can see it is not a rebuke, but an outright denying of PAPigs’ manipulations and thinking that he can intimidate her with his gangster behaviors!

  21. Vee St says:

    That’s Why i keep saying: Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. Wake up Singapore.! ONLY YOU CAN TAKE AWAY THAT ABUSE OF POWER BY VOTING THEM OUT!

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