WP 'balloted out' in move to speak on reserved election

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim had filed a motion to speak at Monday's Parliament sitting but another MP's motion was picked in a ballot, WP said in a Facebook post.
Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim had filed a motion to speak at Monday's Parliament sitting but another MP's motion was picked in a ballot, WP said in a Facebook post.

A move by Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim to speak on the elected presidency when Parliament sits on Monday has failed.

The WP announced in a Facebook post this week that the motion filed by Ms Lim, an MP for Aljunied GRC, had been "balloted out" as two other MPs wanted to speak next week. Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai's motion on "Community Sentencing and Other Rehabilitative Options" was picked, it added.

Under Parliament's rules, when more than one adjournment motion is filed, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker draws lots to decide which MP gets to speak. Such a motion allows an MP to speak for up to 20 minutes before the sitting adjourns. All MPs who have filed motions are invited to witness the draw, along with staff from the Parliament Secretariat.

Ms Lim filed her motion, titled "Counting from President Wee Kim Wee or President Ong Teng Cheong for Reserved Presidential Election - Policy Decision or Legal Question", on Aug 28, and announced she had done so in a Facebook post that day.

The topic deals with the issue of how and when the Government should start counting the five presidential terms of office needed to trigger a reserved election.

In its post, the WP said Parliament notified MPs on Aug 30 that Mr Murali and Sembawang GRC MP Vikram Nair had filed adjournment motions on Aug 29.

Mr Nair's motion was on "The Future of National Service".

Parliament's Standing Orders state that "the right to raise a matter on the motion for the adjournment of Parliament shall be allotted to one Member only for each sitting day, if necessary by ballot, under the directions of the Speaker".

The Sept 23 presidential election is reserved for Malay candidates and the Elections Department has received valid applications from three contenders. An election is reserved for candidates from a particular racial group if no one from the group has held the post in the past five presidential terms. This follows changes to the Constitution to ensure that the office reflects Singapore's multiracial make-up.

The Government chose to start the count from the final term of president Wee Kim Wee, who was the first one to exercise the powers of the elected president. But some have argued that the count should be from the term of president Ong Teng Cheong, the first president elected by the people.

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock mounted a legal challenge on the issue but the Court of Appeal ruled that Parliament had the prerogative to decide when to start the count.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2017, with the headline 'WP 'balloted out' in move to speak on reserved election'. Print Edition | Subscribe