Tan Cheng Bock disappointed with news report

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has taken issue with a news report that described his failed legal challenge of the timing of the upcoming reserved presidential election as a move against multiracial representation.

The report by Channel NewsAsia (CNA) had quoted Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair as saying in his arguments for the Government that Dr Tan was being "selfish" and had "no regard" for the principle of multiracial representation, which Parliament was trying to safeguard.

The report, which was based on court documents, was published after the High Court last Friday dismissed Dr Tan's application to declare as unconstitutional the Government's decision to reserve the September presidential election for Malay candidates.

Last Friday, Dr Tan said in a Facebook post that he was disappointed with the CNA report, as it gave the impression that Justice Quentin Loh had accepted Mr Hri Kumar's "unfair and untrue" remarks.

He said: "In fact, the judge did not entertain this submission anywhere in his judgment, presumably because that submission was irrelevant to the case."

He also took issue with Mr Hri Kumar's argument in court, saying that it was "hitting below the belt" and "highly inflammatory".

He said during his days as an MP, he had taken care of the single-seat Ayer Rajah constituency, where Malays made up 27 per cent of the constituents. "We served together well and they graciously supported me with record-high election percentages, including 88 per cent in 2001," he added.

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

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

Justice Loh ruled that Parliament is 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. In his judgment, he also said Dr Tan has satisfied the requirements of having the standing to bring the challenge to court.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'Tan Cheng Bock disappointed with news report'. Print Edition | Subscribe