SDP files lawsuit challenging decision not to hold Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC by-election

On Wednesday, the SDP said it was challenging the PAP's decision not to hold a by-election in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in court.
On Wednesday, the SDP said it was challenging the PAP's decision not to hold a by-election in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in court. SCREENGRAB: FACEBOOOK/SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC PARTY (SDP)

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has filed a lawsuit in the High Court to get the Government to call for a by-election in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

A seat in the four-member constituency lies empty as former MP Halimah Yacob resigned from it to run in this month's presidential race, which she won on Wednesday (Sept 13).

Her three former colleagues from the People's Action Party have said that they will collectivly take care of the residents in her former ward of Marsiling.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, an MP from the neighbouring Choa Chu Kang GRC, has also been tasked to assist grassroots organisations in Marsiling.

On Wednesday, the SDP said it was challenging the PAP's decision not to hold a by-election in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in court.

"Even though it won the last elections and forms the government, it cannot and must not be allowed to do as it pleases without any check from the opposition," said the SDP in a statement.

The party engaged Peter Low & Choo LLC as its lawyers.

It also urged fellow Singaporeans to contribute financially to the legal expenses.

The SDP argued that the PAP's decision not to call for a by-election when a seat is vacated in a GRC was wrong.

It cited Section Article 49 (1) of the Constitution, which states that "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."

"It was the PAP that mandated that each GRC include at least one candidate from a predetermined minority race. But the same party is also the one who has arbitrarily decided that if that minority member resigns, there is no need to replace him or her in a by-election," said the SDP.

"It is crucial at this time of Singapore's development that the ruling clique does not run away with further manipulating the political system," it added.

Past answers

The topic had come up on Feb 6 as Parliament debated changes to the Presidential Elections Act.

Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh had asked what would happen if a minority member of a GRC stepped down to run for president.

Replying, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing reminded MPs of the Parliament debate in 1988 when then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong mooted the GRC system.

"Mr Goh Chok Tong was further asked: if one Member of the GRC team resigns or for whatever medical reason is incapacitated, does the GRC need to hold a by-election? And the answer was given that it is no," said Mr Chan.

This is because the GRC scheme was meant to achieve two purposes: to ensure enough minority members in the House - which Mr Chan said had been achieved over the years - and to ensure no political campaiging on issues of race and religion.

These key goals would not be affected if one member of the GRC left, Mr Chan added.