Thursday, August 02, 2012

Verdict : Singapore Constitution Isn't that Democratic

Well, I have been waken from my political slumber once again and this time, it is really the most exciting and important happening that comes into my mind! I have long suspected that Singapore isn't a democratic country that all of us are made to believe by reciting our National Pledge everyday during our school time. Forget about the pledge which just state "Highfalutin" motherhood statements and ideas on "to build a democratic society". That pledge is after all, just for kids and teenagers to recite! How many of us, or the politicians who recite that pledge every time (only on National Day and election rallies), truly believe in all those Highfalutin ideas embedded in it? Stop kidding ourselves!

My suspicion that Singapore isn't and never was, a democratic society at all has been proven by a learned judge today. I am so happy that these mysterious doubts in my head have finally been cleared and solved. I have to thank this learned judge for his great effort in helping me to confirm that our Constitution wasn't really written with true democratic principles in mind. Let me elaborate here.

According to Todayonline report, the presiding judge of the Hougang By-Election case, Justice Philip Pillai, has declared that
"there was no requirement in the Constitution to call elections to fill elected Member vacancies. There being no such requirement, there arises no prescribed time within which such elections must be called".

He further elaborates that

Under the Constitution, to call or not to call an election to fill an elected Member vacancy is a decision to be made by the Prime Minister. Should the Prime Minister decide to call an election to fill an elected Member vacancy. The Parliamentary Elections Act merely provides the mechanism to hold such an election should the Prime Minister decide to call one.

Let me put it in simple words. The learned judge is basically saying that our previous "perceptions" that the government "must" hold a by-election if any parliamentary seat is vacated, is awfully and utterly wrong and rubbish! He is saying that there is absolutely NOTHING in our Constitution that says the government of the day MUST call for by-election under any circumstances! And he is basically saying that it is ALL UP TO the Prime Minister to decide on whether to call for by-elections or not. No other people, including the President, can make that decision! Well, never mind about what the Article 49 says "shall be filled by election ". "Shall" doesn't mean "MUST"! That is, in Singlish (Singapore English lingo), Bo Ba Ke!

Article 49 Filing of Vacancies
(1) Whenever the seat of a Member, not being a non-constituency Member, has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election in the manner provided by or under any law relating to Parliamentary elections for the time being in force.
(2) The Legislature may by law provide for
(a) the vacating of a seat of a non-constituency Member in circumstances other than those specified in Article 46;
(b) the filling of vacancies of the seats of non-constituency Members where such vacancies are caused otherwise than by a dissolution of Parliament.

This means that the Prime Minister has all the power in Singapore, to decide on his very own, whether to call for By-Elections or not. He is the CHOSEN ONE with the only POWER to do that. Even the parliament cannot force him to do anything if he just doesn't feel like it. Well, doesn't that sound like a dictatorial style kind of Constitutional Empowerment? YES! ABSOLUTELY!

Many other people, even those so call "Constitutional Experts" like Assistant Professor Jack Lee, NMP Eugene Tan, Professor Thio Li-ann, Professor Kevin Tan, ex-NMP Siew Kum Hong etc are ALL WRONG! They thought that it is legally binding that the PM must call for by-elections within a stipulated time. They were all WRONG in arguing on whether the PM must call for by-election within the time frame or not! They didn't know or realize that the Constitution wasn't written with such Democratic principles in mind at all in the very first place!

How could we consider the Constitution to be written with such Democratic principles when the power was empowered to ONE MOST IMPORTANT person to decide on such electoral matters? There wasn't any "RULE" written in Constitution to enforce proper representation of the people at all. Imagine, if a rogue government has been voted in and it started to round up all its opponents and put them behind bars for donkey years, it doesn't need to call for any by-elections at all because the Constitution doesn't say so! Never mind about whether the constituents who voted in those opposition MPs being ROBBED of their voices in parliament or not because, the PM just don't like to hold by-elections! So, the parliament could carry on to rubber stamp anything, everything under the sun; they could even change the Constitution to be written exactly like the ones communist countries have! They could even change Singapore's name to "People's Republic of Singapore"!

When the Constitution doesn't put much weight, stress and respect to the democratic idea of "people's representation" through fair and just universal suffrage or elections, could it be considered as a Constitution written with Democratic principles?

All these years, I have difficulties in convincing many people that Singapore isn't really set to be a democratic country at all but they just simply point to our National Pledge. Hey, how many people would bother to understand what our Constitution says? Well, the Americans might have been taught about their four pages of Constitution or "Charters of Freedom" as "National Education", but we are only taught about how good PAP is in our school's National Education! Nothing about our Constitution at all! Least about what Democracy means to us! I can't blame them because I can hardly remember our Constitution as well!

Well, even when PAP starts to berate the simple National Pledge as full of "Highfalutin Ideas", Singaporeans I have met still insist that we are "Democratic country". Never mind if we score so low in Press Freedom or Political Freedom or being labelled "ill-democratic"... They say we have elections, never mind about whether GRC is fair or not...In fact, our Main Stream Media have "well established writers" who constantly write about Democracy is bad! (Read Zaobao Forum)

I felt so depressed sometimes because so many people thought I am MAD to say that Singapore isn't really built on democratic principles and we are not tailored to be a democracy at all. I finally find solace and feel vindicated by the learned judge's, Justice Philip Pillai, public verdict on this matter.

I feel that it would be even convincing for others to believe me if someone could go to the court again and claim that the PM could actually APPOINT any persons to take over the parliamentary seats which are vacated in any circumstances! The judge could finally put to rest on any doubts about whether Singapore is written with Democracy in mind by giving the rightful judgement that since the Constitution is silent about it and didn't deny the PM of such power of appointment, the PM can just make such appointment! This does not contravene any Constitutional rules and it is in fact consistent with what the Constitution has been empowering the government, of appointing NMPs or NCMPs (who are losers in GE) into parliament! Never mind if NMPs have any basis of constituents' support, just forget about that Highfalutin Democratic idea of representation, just appoint. If the government can appoint anyone without a single constituent's support or vote into parliament, what's wrong for the PM to appoint any one to take over the vacated parliamentary seat? Anything is possible as long as the Constitution didn't state anything about it!

(After Note: Some of my friends questioned me about this point about the legitimacy of having PM appointing any individual to take over any vacated seat. I just told them, our learned judge has written his judgement and verdict based on something which is not written in the Constitution, not something that was written in the Constitution! Thus, I am very confident that our learned judge would also use this argument that anything that is NOT written in the Constitution could be viewed as legitimate! Thus, those who don't agree are those who don't really understand how our legal system works! Just like those Constitutional experts who have gotten all their reasoning wrong because they have blatantly ignore this good practice of our law! )

In fact, PAP has already exercised such idea! Any seats vacated in any GRC, they don't need to go for by-elections, never mind if the constituents of that vacated seat has lost their representative and voice in parliament or not. PAP can just appoint the rest of the MPs in that GRC to take care of his ward, represent his constituents... no need by-election what! This is just short of appointing a non-MP to take over his place!

Well, to further into the logical argument, if they can do that for GRC, why can't they do it to SMC as well? Even if it is an opposition ward, never mind. Just as long as PAP PM APPOINTS a PAP MP to "take care" of this ward, as long as someone can go to the ward and sit down, listen to the constituents' problems and write letters for them, problem solved! Well, even if PM wants to exercise his power further, he could have just appointed the PAP candidate who have lost in that opposition ward to stand in as MP! Why not? All matters are about weekly writing letters sessions! The MPS, meet the people sessions!

In short, my fellow Singaporeans, please wake up and stop your democratic dreams! It must be very clear to all of us now that the learned judge has just basically confirmed that the Constitution has given the PM FULL POWER to dictate on such electoral matters, aka by-elections. The Constitution WASN'T supposed to be written to enhance Democracy as we have foolishly misled ourselves by reciting the pledge with those highfalutin ideas! No matter how hard you dream, the truth has already been revealed and confirmed. Please remember, PAP has all along given all the hints about the TRUE Singapore; it is not our right to vote but just a privilege given by PAP. A privilege that could possibly be taken away from us. Our National Pledge is just full of Highfalutin Ideas which are never meant to be achieved.

We should be prepared, fully be prepared for the day, as I have mentioned, for the possibility to be renamed as People's Republic of Singapore. That would be a name that truly represent what Singapore is.

We will be celebrating our National Day in one week's time. May be it would be a good time to reflect on the REALITY that is brought on by this very important verdict by the learned judge. May be we should pause a while and think whether we should continue to recite that Highfalutin National Pledge after we are awaken to the fact that the very fundamental of our Nation's existence, the Constitution, isn't exactly written with much Democratic principles in mind.

Goh Meng Seng

Hougang resident's by-election application dismissed by High Court Judge
Updated 03:25 PM Aug 01, 2012
SINGAPORE - A High Court Judge has dismissed a Hougang resident's application to declare that the Prime Minister does not have "unfettered discretion" over whether and when to call a by-election.

Madam Vellama Marie Muthu had also applied for a mandatory order for the by-election to be called in Hougang within three months or a reasonable time, after the seat was vacated.

Mdm Vellama, 42, a part-time cleaner, had filed her application on March 2, following the sacking of former Member of Parliament Yaw Shin Leong from the Workers' Party on Feb 15.

In his judgment released today, Justice Philip Pillai noted there was no requirement in the Constitution to call elections to fill elected Member vacancies. There being no such requirement, there arises no prescribed time within which such elections must be called, he added.

Under the Constitution, to call or not to call an election to fill an elected Member vacancy is a decision to be made by the Prime Minister, said Justice Pillai. Should the Prime Minister decide to call an election to fill an elected Member vacancy, he has a discretion as to when to call it, he added.

The Parliamentary Elections Act merely provides the mechanism to hold such an election should the Prime Minister decide to call one, said Justice Pillai. In the event that the Prime Minister decides to call an election to fill an elected Member vacancy, section 24 of the Parliamentary Elections Act requires that the President issue writs under the public seal to the Returning Officer to convene such election to supply vacancies caused by death, resignation or otherwise. "In so doing, the President is obliged to act in accordance with Article 21 of the Constitution," he added.


Anonymous said...

I don't see how you make the leap to say that it could be claimed, that the PM is able to appoint someone to take a vacant seat.

If the PM, decides to fill the seat (since it has been ruled that he is able to decide whether or not he wants to fill it), it shall fill it by an election (i.e. if he has decided to fill it, he must do so with an election).

This is what "provides the mechanism" in The Parliamentary Elections Act merely provides the mechanism to hold such an election should the Prime Minister decide to call one, said Justice Pillai means.

So this judgement has made it clear that he can't appoint anyone to fill a vacant seat (the seats are left vacant in the GRC examples)

Admin said...

We won't know for sure until this interpretation is tested again in Court. "Shall fill" doesn't mean "Shall ONLY fill".

The Constitution DOESN'T SPECIFICALLY RULE OUT other possibilities or possible ways of filling the vacated seat and even the written rule, DOESN'T RULE that ELECTIONS is the ONLY AND ONLY way of filling that vacated seat....

Goh Meng Seng

我付出的情有多深重 said...

生什么气?听歌,听歌!听一听how the highfalutin ideals that our flag represents “说走就走”, and how we have to “等你等到我心痛”,before these ideals can become a reality!

Anonymous said...

With all respect, I must point out that your logic is flawed, and that is the result of your subjective interpretation and application of the concept of democracy.

Democracy in Singapore is not simply defined by whether the PM alone can decide to call or not to call for a by-election in the case of a vacancy.

Democracy in Singapore, simply put, is observed when every adult citizen is given the equal right to vote for the country's political leaders.

In exceptional circumstance, such as the occurrence of a vacant seat, the Constitution allows for the incumbent leaders (in this case the PM, who has been democratically elected) to decide on whether or not to call for a by-election. If it is to be, then it should be done in the manner governed by the Constitution (Article 49).

And according to Article 49, there is only one way to fill up a vacant seat, if the PM should call for a by-election, i.e. through election. The PM has no power to decide on the outcome of the by-election. Only the people have the power to decide on the outcome. To me this is democratic principles at work.

(Anonymous No. 2)

Admin said...

We must distinguish between Principles of Democracy from Rules of Democracy.

The Principles of Democracy does not merely include voting rights for each citizen but rather, the voting rights is just one of the means to secure REPRESENTATION of the citizens in parliament. This is the fundamental difference that differentiate from an autocratic/monarchy rule.

There are many voting systems and even communist countries like China has voting system but it is about the spirit of representation that form the legitimacy of the system via the voting system.

If the rules of the land contradicts the spirit and principles of democracy, then it is therefore considered ill-democracy. Worse of all, if the rules of the land (aka Constitution) doesn't uphold a standard rule of law that takes away the discretionary powers of each political players in manipulating the system so that either or both of the voting rights plus principle of representation have been compromised, then of course it will be considered as "ill-democratic".

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

In reply to what you have written, "We must distinguish between Principles of Democracy from Rules of Democracy..."

You are right to make that distinction. But in my view Singapore have both in operation. In my explanation above, the principles of democracy and the rules of democracy are clearly at work, which you may not be convinced.

To put it in another way, I believe you will not deny that Singaporeans generally assume that when we vote the members of parliament into power, this democratic action automatically entails mandating the rules of democracy to the newly elected leadership, thus the mandate to make decisions through lawful means and with proper accountability.

(Anonymous No.2)

Admin said...

If you read my article carefully, I did not touch on other parts of the rules set in the Constitution but only that article on the calling of the by-elections. If the rules are being interpreted as total power will be given to one single person to decide whether to have a by-elections or not, that would constitute a contradiction to the Principles of Democracy because the legitimacy of representation can be compromised anytime due to the total power given to one man to decide.

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

That is exactly why I pointed out that your logic is flawed, out of due respect. It is incorrect to argue solely and simply on the basis on how Article 49 is being implemented and to conclude from there that Singapore is not a democratic country. That will be missing the bigger framework of a democratic election. It is too far-fetched to be a convincing conclusion.

Even in the most democratic countries, there are exceptional issues that require the ultimate decision of the top-man (President, PM, Chancellor, etc). However, nothing here contradicts the principles of democracy, as long as the top-man is elected through the mechanism of a democratic process. Of course, there is no need to point out to you that the actions and decisions of the top-man are also bound by the enacted laws supported by the majority of the population. When the majority of the population agrees that the President has the power to veto a bill, it is a democratic decision, though "total power", it seems, is given to one person.

(Anonymous No.2)

Admin said...

With due respect, I believe your logic is totally flawed. Being voted by the people doesn't mean you will have the absolute power to do anything you want.

In history, it is due to this flawed thinking that the most terrible regime has been born. The most prime example is Hilter who was elected through a pseudo democratic process.

The rules of the system must support the principles of Democracy, not only about the power of representation but also the constrains of the power as the means of checks and balances.

Back to our case, it is true that we need a person to decide on when to have by-elections but it doesn't mean that he should be given a blanket power to even decide NOT to have by-elections at all without a valid reason like too close to coming GE. Because that is against the Principles of Democracy in giving the right of representation to each citizen.

That is why I say Singapore has been declared an "ill-democracy".

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

No offense, but if my logic is flawed, it is because you have put words into my mouth. Please read what I have written with the context in mind. The context is about exceptional cases, and under the conditions of an already elected regime governed by a democratically approved laws and norms, not having the power to do anything you want.

Back to the by-election issue. Again, please do not put words into the Constitution and the ethos of Singapore's democracy. The PM will have to account to the public for his decision, whatever his decision shall be. It is not like what you have asserted, that the PM has the liberty of making a (or any) decision without giving any valid reason. Well, for obstinate opponents no reason is valid.

The PM, if he so decides to call for a by-election, is bound by the Constitution to carry it out in the manner as stipulated in Article 49. It is not like what you have asserted, that it is all up to him as to how to do it.

The PM has to answer to the public through the parliament, and ultimately the ruling party has to face the voters' decision in the next GE. There are checks and balances. The rules of democracy are at work. It is not as what you have implied that there is an absence of the rules of democracy in Singapore.

What remains here is that your basis of labelling of Singapore as an "ill-democracy" is weak, not based on facts, and not based on logical and practical reasoning.

(Anonymous No.2)

Admin said...

I think you miss the point altogether.

According to the court ruling, the PM can choose NOT to hold any by-elections. Whether he is accountable to the voters or not, is totally another matter BUT the RULE of the system aka the Constitution, HAS NOT UPHELD the Principles of Democracy whereby the right of voters' representation CAN BE DENIED if the PM is ALLOWED to decide NOT to hold the by-elections!

We are not even talking about PM is to follow the rules of conducting the by-elections if he so decides to hold it. IT IS ABOUT the rules allowing him NOT to hold any. That's the crux of the matter.

It is just like saying, the rules or constitution of any countries allowing the PM or the ruling party to DENY representation of the voters altogether. Basically what can happen is that the ruling party can lock up all opposition members without trial and disallow by-elections, then they could pass constitutional changes to the rules as they like. These are the flaws of the rules aka Constitution that do not help to uphold the Principles of Democracy.

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

In your post, you assert that you have convinced yourself that Singapore is not a democracy and the basis of your reasoning is what happened recently surrounding with the verdict on Article 49 ALONE. What I have been trying to point out to you is this: this argument ALONE is insufficient to support your conclusion. I shall not repeat my explanations that I have given above.

With regards to the potential amendments of the Constitution, you are only partially correct. Theoretically, the ruling party can do that. But that would be taking high political risk in the next GE. That is the rule of democracy at work. However, somehow you put the blame on the Constitution. However, the Constitution is as democratic as any other democracy. Rather, the problem inherent to the potential amendments of the Constitution is the result of the failure of the Opposition to have sufficient representation in the Parliament. It is unfair to shift this failure and put the blame on the Constitution.

I think I'd better stop here after this post, since I think enough is said with regards to your "verdict". You have the liberty to congratulate yourself that you have finally found your "evidence". However, to me, it is not convincing. In fact, it is not convincing at all.

(Anonymous No.2)