Tan Cheng Bock to appeal High Court ruling on reserved Presidential Election

Tan Cheng Bock speaking at a press conference held at the Sheraton Towers on March 31, 2017.
Tan Cheng Bock speaking at a press conference held at the Sheraton Towers on March 31, 2017.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock will appeal against the High Court's decision to dismiss his legal challenge on the upcoming presidential election reserved for Malay candidates.

He said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (July 12) night: "After studying the reasons given by the Court and reading the official Court transcripts, my lawyers have advised that the Judge may have misconstrued the relevant Constitutional provisions... I will leave it to my lawyers to submit the relevant legal arguments."

Dr Tan said the appeal is likely to be heard the week of July 25.

The timelines were agreed on beforehand so the case will not affect the presidential election in September, he added.

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Last Friday, the High Court ruled that Parliament was entitled to decide the timing of a reserved election, held when a racial group has not been represented in the presidency for five continuous terms.

The Government had started its count of the five terms from the term of President Wee Kim Wee, who was in office when the elected presidency took effect in 1991.

There have been four other terms since, including that of current President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock had argued this was unconstitutional because Mr Wee was not popularly elected, and said the count should start from the term of President Ong Teng Cheong. He contended the reserved election should start in 2023 at the earliest.

But High Court Judge Quentin Loh ruled that Parliament, ultimately, has the right to decide which presidential terms it would take into account.

The Constitution does not restrict Parliament to consider only presidents elected by citizens when deciding the timing of an election, he noted, saying it also allows the term of a president elected by Parliament, in this case Mr Wee, to be included.

He also ruled that Parliament, in passing the law on the reserved election, had intended for the count to start from Mr Wee's term.

Changes were made to the Constitution and Presidential Elections Act to ensure the presidency reflects Singapore's multiracial society.

Separate appeal to be heard

A separate legal challenge against the changes to the elected presidency was brought by non-practising lawyer M. Ravi last month, and dismissed by Justice See Kee Oon.

On Monday, the High Court released the 55-page written grounds for Justice See's judgment that Mr Ravi had no legal standing to bring the case.

The judge also explained why he found that the changes were constitutional, nonetheless.

He also said Mr Ravi was not serious about making legal arguments: "Instead, by seeking to ventilate essentially political issues which were barely camouflaged as legal questions, he was patently and unacceptably attempting to misuse the court as a platform for political point-scoring."

Mr Ravi's appeal will be heard on Thursday.