Sylvia, Shanmugam cross swords on presidential term count

General News

Workers’ Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim yesterday argued that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing made “misleading statements” in Parliament in November.

Ms Lim, MP for Aljunied GRC, said the statements gave the impression that the Government took the Attorney General’s Chamber’s (AGC) advice to set the hiatus trigger for the Reserved Presidential Election by counting from President Wee Kim Wee.

She raised the issue of whether counting from President Wee was a policy decision or legal question in a 20-minute-long speech in Parliament yesterday.

In his response, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam took a jab at Ms Lim, who had previously been rapped by the High Court for misleading Parliament over financial management issues at Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), before saying that the House has “always been clear” that this was a policy matter for Parliament to decide.

“There was only one person in this House whom the courts have held to be misleading Parliament, and he is not from the PAP. Only one person… Ms Lim knows, who the High Court held was misleading Parliament,” said Mr Shanmugam.

He replied that PM Lee had said “the next elections will be reserved for a Malay President and we have taken advice from the AGC”.

PM Lee had been clear about that, which the Court of Appeal also acknowledged, said Mr Shanmugam.

The Constitution also makes it clear that for the 2017 Presidential Election, Parliament can choose when to count five terms from which there had not been a minority candidate, added the Law Minister.

He explained that the Government had asked the AGC for advice on a number of issues, like whether there were “legal impediments” if they counted the terms from President Wee and provisions with regards to minority rights.

He said: “What Ms Lim is saying is that we are starting to count from here because of AGC advice, and that was never suggested… we are a careful government, we make a policy decision but we take advice to see if there are any impediments.”