Judgment on Tan Cheng Bock's challenge on timing of reserved presidential election in a week

Tan Cheng Bock speaking at a press conference held at the Sheraton Towers.
Tan Cheng Bock speaking at a press conference held at the Sheraton Towers.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The High Court will give its judgment in a week's time on former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock's legal challenge on the timing and basis of the upcoming reserved presidential election.

The case was heard on Thursday (June 29) in chambers - which means the proceedings are not open to the public - where both sides presented arguments to Justice Quentin Loh.

Justice Loh reserved judgment on the matter.

Dr Tan is represented by Senior Counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah, and the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) by Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair.

Outside the courtroom in the High Court, Senior Counsel Nair told reporters that Judge Loh indicated that he would give his judgment as soon as possible given the "urgency of the matter".

The writ of election will be issued in August, ahead of the presidential elections in September.

Lawyers on both sides declined to reveal what was discussed in court, saying they would wait until the courts made a decision on the matter before commenting.

 
 

Dr Tan's challenge centres on whether the Government counting of the five presidential terms needed to trigger a reserved election is consistent with constitutional amendments to the elected presidency.

According to changes made to the Constitution last November, if there is no President from a particular community for five consecutive terms, the next term will be reserved for a candidate from that community. This is to ensure that the presidency reflects Singapore's multiracial society.

The Government, on the advice of the Attorney-General, counted the five terms starting with Mr Wee Kim Wee, the first president vested with the powers of the elected presidency.

After him were Mr Ong Teng Cheong; Mr S R Nathan, who served two terms; and current President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

This meant that the upcoming election will be reserved for Malay candidates as that community has not been represented for five consecutive terms. This has precluded Dr Tan from contesting.

In his application to the courts filed in May, Dr Tan contends that the counting of five terms should start with Mr Ong. That would make the next election an open one. The application includes a statement from a top British constitutional lawyer David Pannick, a Queen's Counsel who is also a member of the House of Lords.

Dr Tan was not present for the hearing.