We Respond to the PM’s Statement about Hougang By-ElectionPublished: 9th March 2012
PRESS RELEASE 09/03/2012
The Reform Party www.thereformparty.net
With Reference to the Hougang by-election
The Reform Party responds to the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s response to parliamentary questions on 09th March 2012 at 11:00 a.m.
In his reply The Prime Minister makes clear that the people of Singapore have clearly expressed their desire for there to be a rule calling for a by election to be held within a set period on at least two occasions.
Firstly he reminds us that in 2008 two NMPs moved a motion proposing to require the Prime Minister to call a by-election within three months of a seat falling vacant. It is disingenuous of the Prime Minister to refer to any debate in our parliament as being extensive at a time when 35% of the electorate were represented by 2% of the seats. In fact the very reason for introducing the oxymoronic selected-not-elected members of parliament into the house was to artificially inject some semblance of actual debate and to make those debates infinitesimally less homogenous. ‘Extensive’ is not a word that can ever be used to describe debate in our system of virtual one Party monopoly. Nevertheless the NMPs whose duty ostensibly is to represent the unrepresented 33% did raise the motion.
Secondly, the Prime Minister reminds us that an application has been filed by a resident and voter in Hougang in court concerning this, so the matter is now sub judice. It may be sub judice but the fact that a resident in Hougang is forced into the extreme matter of applying to the courts for a ruling shows that the welfare of the Hougang residents is not considered, (by at least that person but presumably representative of the residents of Hougang) to be best left in the hands of the ruling Party.
However dissatisfaction with the failure to call timely by-elections is deeper rooted. In fact the late Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, founder of The Reform Party was in the middle of bringing a suit on behalf of a resident in Jurong GRC calling for a writ for a by-election to be issued when he passed away. It was only due to his sudden death that the case didn’t eventually come to court as it had already been listed for October 2008.
We agree with The Prime Minister that the people have voted for a Party not just an individual. This is exactly the reason that the Workers Party must be given the prerogative of calling the by-election. I repeat a paragraph from our Press release dated
“In Westminster itself the incumbent Party (that would be the Workers Party here) has the right to move a writ to set in place a motion for the by-election and to select the date. The government and the Prime Minister have no rights to interfere with that schedule. This gives the incumbent Party a slight advantage but also puts the matter straight back into the hands of the electorate. All sides consider this slight advantage to be fair as there can be no doubt that the people have previously voted for a Party as well as an individual.”
The Prime Minister says in his reply that he will, “ take into account all relevant factors including the well being of Hougang residents, and issues on the national agenda.” The Prime Minister may believe that the system of government in Singapore is one where the Party is synonymous with the State but the people of Hougang have clearly expressed a different view. They have expressed their preference for another Party. In short the welfare of the people of Hougang is the responsibility of the Workers Party and has been for two decades now.
As for the National Agenda there is the issue of the Marine Parade by-election. Earlier this year Mr. Ho Kah Leong had accused Mr. Low Thia Kiang of “abusing the democratic system by triggering a by-election – which requires public funds – ‘to maintain party discipline and a virtuous public image.”
We maintain that there is an equally good case for calling the Marine Parade by-election a stage-managed public relations exercise aimed at giving the semblance of a virtuous public image for the PAP while admitting an almost zero probability of an adverse outcome for the government. We also maintain that calling a general election two years early (in 1991) when the PAP already had a huge majority is surely a more egregious waste of public funds.
In Part 4 of his reply the Prime Minister says, “The timing of the by-election is at the discretion of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is not obliged to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe.” Yes, Prime Minister it is at your discretion.
In yesterday’s Financial Times there is a letter from a Dr. Judith Kelley, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, Duke Sanford School of Public Policy, Durham, NC, US, titled “Putin ‘victory’ rests on narrow definition of fraud” (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/985938ba-623a-11e1-820b00144feabdc0.html#axzz1oYTUrYwx).
Duke is of course the university that went into partnership with NUS to set up a medical school so we can consider them to be a qualified commentator. In it she says:
“Electoral fraud, however, must be recognised as a much broader concept. Obstructing the development of political parties and competitive candidates is as fraudulent as stuffing ballot boxes. Buying votes with state resources is as fraudulent as stealing them outright during the tally. Dominating the media or stacking the electoral commission with friends is as fraudulent as violating the secrecy of the vote.”
Dr Kelly is of course referring to Putin’s Russia not Singapore and expressing an opinion. But the cold facts are that Singapore does not even have an independent Electoral Commission, stuffed with friends or otherwise. What we do have is an Elections Department which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office. This is an absolute disgrace. Together with the other highlighted violations of the democratic process, which are as flagrant in Lee Hsien Loong’s Singapore as in Putin’s Russia, they are enough to remove any legitimacy from the PAP’s claim to have the people’s mandate.
In part 5 The Prime Minister explains that the absence of a time frame is the deliberate decision by parliament in 1965 to confer the discretion on his father who was previously Prime Minister.
We are astounded to find the Prime Minister citing his father’s actions as a precedent. We remind The Prime Minister that it is now 2012 and that in 2004 when he was sworn in as Prime Minister he promised us in his swearing in speech a more modern way of governing that would produce a new and open Singapore. In the past eight years we have generally seen how that promise has in fact been merely empty rhetoric with the repetition of buzzwords and phrases lacking any concrete substance. The Prime Minister, by harking back to a decision made in 1965, when his father ruled Singapore having effectively crushed even the semblance of opposition to his rule, as a justification for a decision to be taken in a 2012 democracy exposes his true beliefs stripped of rhetoric.
The Constitution is not a document intended to reflect the idiosyncratic views of an unchallenged ruler in 1965. The Constitution is not there to be amended or not at the discretion of an individual. The Constitution is there to protect the rights of all Singaporeans not merely the 60% who voted, neither freely nor fairly, for the current Prime Minister’s Party. The fact that citizens have to go to court to be heard is unfailing proof that the constitution has been eroded over 40 years to dismantle the safeguards of democracy and freedom. By his statement the Prime Minister is merely confirming that the PAP of 2012 is still the same PAP/State of 1965.
A government that is not prepared to respect the normal democratic norms and safeguards of First World nations is one that will never achieve the kind of inclusive prosperity that the PM and his ministers constantly remind us is their objective. Furthermore one that needs to resort to the measures outlined above to win elections can be said to lack legitimacy. The PM is clearly a man of ability. He should demonstrate his qualities as a statesman by reforming our political system. This would also finally lay to rest any doubts that he is his own man.