Update: In the Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore. Pre-Trial Conference.
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
IN THE HIGH COURT
BEFORE THE SENIOR ASSISTANT REGISTRAR YEONG ZEE KIN
TUESDAY, 21 AUG 2012, AT 9:00 AM, CHAMBER 2-6
9. OS657/2012 KENNETH ANDREW
(L F VIOLET NETTO)
S CHAMBERS (CIVIL
FOR LEAVE TO APPLY
FOR A QUASHING
So, the pre-trial conference for my case to request a quashing order on the IMF loan listed for Tuesday morning, is now in the public arena. The AG has taken what I am told is an unusual step in ‘choping’ the 9:00 am slot. Apparently the more usual form or procedure is to turn up and get in line for a time slot. My guess is that they don’t want any Press hanging around and want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Then again they may just be hoping that the early bird avoids the Wong. That is the Law Society’s Mr. Wong who has a habit of turning up whenever M. Ravi is due in Court or even Chambers. Actually, to be fair to the poor misguided soul, he has given a verbal assurance that he will stop stalking us in future.
With National Day fresh in our minds it is timely to have a quick recap. The PAP may be able to recite the National Pledge but they are oblivious to the meaning of the words and clearly not a one of them understands what ” Democracy” means.
Lest we forget, Singapore is not a Democracy.
Back in May 2011 Yaw Shin Leong became the MP for Hougang and a marked man on the day he polled 65% in the GE. Sure enough in February 2012 after a media witch hunt and a few twists and turns he was expelled from The Workers Party for not attending a disciplinary meeting with reference to alleged sexual peccadilloes.
This left Madam Vellama, a resident of Hougang, without an elected representative and an elected member vacancy for Hougang SMC. In a healthy, vibrant or even barely functioning democracy a by-election would have been called. In Westminster the system is that the incumbent for that seat, in other words The Worker’s Party, would have been given the prerogative of choosing and setting the date.
Here in Singapore, The Prime Minister seemed to be the only citizen not worried, unhappy or disgruntled by the empty seat. In fact with a classic disregard for the needs of the residents he said that there was no fixed time within which he must call for a by-election. Whilst it is true that the constitution appears to say that the PM was under no obligation it didn’t mean of course that he couldn’t call a by-election and in a timely manner, if he chose to.
We were given the feeble excuse that “there are many other issues on the national agenda right now.” I say feeble because my history book tells me that Britain managed to hold a General Election in the middle of World War II.
“Democracy is The National Agenda and nothing can ever take precedence over that. The people of Singapore’s democratic right to be represented in Parliament by representatives of their choosing must always be the overriding concern.”
Interestingly in his judgement Justice Pillai made reference to various Colonial constitutions going back to 1946 without referencing the fact that in Westminster there is a timely system and a precedent for filling the vacancy. Because in a functioning democracy, Parliament knows that its first duty and the only issue of any importance is that of providing the people with elected representatives.
I was delighted at the time to see that Madam Vellama had come forward to ask for the decision to be reviewed in the courts. Calling for a mandatory order requiring the Prime Minister to advise the President to call a by-election within three months or some other reasonable time determined by the court. None of this would have been possible of course without her lawyer M Ravi who offered to take on the case pro-bono.
The Hougang case passed the first hurdle on 2 April 2012, when the High Court gave permission or “leave” to Madam Vellama to have her application heard by a Judge. This giving of permission is a necessary step to filter out any nuisance, time-wasting and cases with no merit. In other words the case had merit in the eyes of the courts.
But the Attorney General took exception to the Court’s decision and argued that the case was “legally flawed” and on April 04 2012 filed an appeal to have the case thrown out. In other words the Attorney General said the High Court Judge was wrong. In May the Courts responded and the Judge said, “No you’re wrong” and threw out the AG’s appeal.
So the case went to the next stage and was listed for June.
Meanwhile my case with reference to Parliamentary control of the executive ( and by implication lack of Presidential control), also passed that first hurdle. i.e it was deemed a case that had merit. The AG didn’t lodge an appeal so at least they agree that there is no basis for claiming our case is legally flawed. The AG did however ask for more time to submit its affidavit .
In June I heard M Ravi argue the Hougang case and argue it well. I was also an eye witness to the shenanigans of Mr Wong that day. On the following day I was in court again with M. Ravi for my case and so was Mr Wong, again. I spoke with Madam Vellama who had been coming under some pressure over her HDB loans due to the court case. It has not been an easy ride for either her or M.Ravi.
Several legal experts then weighed in on blogs and in the Press all more or less reaching the conclusion that there was an obligation to call a by-election. After the judgement it must be noted, they fell silent. Such is the climate of fear here.
On August 02nd, Justice Pillai released his judgement on the application to the courts by Madam Vellama. Justice Pillai’s judgement confirmed, should there have been any lingering doubt in our minds, that the PM does indeed have unfettered discretion. This judgement in combination with the gradual wearing down of the democratic safeguards of our constitution through the numerous constitutional amendments, shows we might as well be peasants in a Monarchy. Or as I said at the time, Singapore is run as the Prime Minister’s personal fiefdom.
Now that the final judgement has come in we have to wait and see whether any costs are awarded against Mdm Vellama. That would be a disaster, although I think it unlikely as the case was clearly in the public interest.
In my humble opinion the honourable judge was off track on this one. If he was intent on putting in a judgement based on semantics then his focus should have been on the word “SHALL”, implying an obligation rather than on the semantics of the ‘process’. The elephant in the room is that semantics aside, the whole basis of a representative democracy is to have a system which prevents unfettered discretion being granted to anyone, no matter who that person is but in particular when that person represents a government or other power such as Trustee, Chairman of a board, CEO etc. In a Democracy, whatever the judgement says, the moral obligation is to uphold that Democracy. Fettered discretion or a check on absolute power is the basis of the Rule of Law and Democracy.
All those who believe in Democracy (as the least imperfect form of government) should not suffer under the illusion that we are one. I am ever grateful to Judge Pillai, who did us all a favour by helping even more citizens come to this realisation in confirming the unchecked powers that our constitution confers on our PM.
So this little recap shows that currently the leader of our ruling Party has unfettered discretion over the calling of by-elections: Not just when but whether to call one at all . The situation that this judgement makes possible is that it would be entirely feasible to leave a seat vacant for two years and then in the next General Election make that seat disappear by merging it with a neighbouring GRC. Even more tempting if the incumbent were to be an Opposition MP with an inconvenient belief in democracy. Yes, I know that sounds far-fetched and that would never happen in a democracy or even in Singapore but our constitution makes that possible.
So where are we now with the IMF case now before the courts?
Like Mdm Vellama’s case it passed the first hurdle as having merit. Unlike Mdm Vellama’s case mine has been studiously and energetically ignored by our State governed Media who continue to abet those who wish to make me a’ non person’ and my ideas ‘non ideas’. Unfortunately for them Democracy, the Rule of Law and a check on absolute power are not my ideas and so any effort to squash them is ultimately doomed to fail. Even a political Party with absolute power can only halt or hinder progress, freedom and prosperity for the people and not stop it altogether. History again.
So, on the same day that the justice released that decision on the Hougang by- election, the Attorney General submitted its own Affidavit in response to my case. The release of the affidavit, despite being publicly available and clearly in the public interest, was published without remark or comment. But of course I took note of it as did M Ravi and his team. You will recall that I mentioned that the AG had asked for more time to submit its side’s Affidavit. Reading the Affidavit it is not clear what this extra time was spent on. The response submitted by the AG is , in the words of my lawyer , both ridiculous and derisory.
a ridiculous and derisory reply
I decided to respond with a second Affidavit which was filed late last week and is now also available on the public record. My second Affidavit is strongly-worded, emphatic and forthright. In particular I felt it important to establish that this case is not about the sum of $4 billion dollars or the merits of the IMF. Make no mistake! This case deals with the issue of unfettered discretion or to use plain English ABSOLUTE POWER. That is who has power over the money that the Singaporean Citizen has placed into the National coffers? More crucially is that power absolute and unfettered or unchecked by democratic process?
The AG has booked his slot and on Tuesday M. Ravi will attend the pre- trial conference. I am not allowed to attend at that stage.
Please click here to see my legal team’s Press Release and a précis from my lawyer. No doubt the policy of ignoring it in the media will continue, so I will keep you posted here on any news arriving from Tuesday’s conference or any other developments.
Meanwhile Son of a Dud wishes you all a Happy Hari Raya Weekend!