Following the widespread media reports quoting Mr Lee Hsien Loong saying that by-elections would not be held following the unexpected demise of Dr Balaji Sadasivan leaving the Cheng San-Seletar seat in the Ang Mo Kio GRC vacant, YD’s Honorary Secretary wrote the following open letter to highlight his concerns:
Prime Minister Lee Hsien LoongPrime Minister’s OfficeOrchard RoadIstanaSingapore 238823
2nd October 2010
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you with reference to the widely reported news of your government’s decision to not consider holding a by-election for the Cheng San-Seletar ward, vacated by the untimely demise of its MP, the late Dr Balaji Sadasivan.
As my condolence letter can attest, let it be known that this letter is not an attempt to politicize nor derive mileage from this untimely passing of the late politician.
What I am writing right now, is to express 5 points of concern, first and foremost as a citizen of Singapore, and then a Democrat.
- As you have publicly professed your commitment to democracy on several occasions, most recently of all during your interview with Mr Charlie Rose, I’m sure you would agree with me on the importance of elections, and consequently, by-elections, to a democratic state.
It is through this process of elections that the people are able to legitimately handover their mandate to any entity, to govern their affairs. Without this electoral process, mandate can neither be given, nor can it be claimed. And without a mandate, there can be no legitimacy to govern.
You would also remember telling Mr Charlie Rose in the same interview, that you measure your commitment to democracy by the legitimacy of your government. Why then, do you reject this perfect opportunity to verify that very legitimacy?
- You also mentioned to the press that the remaining MPs of Ang Mo Kio GRCs will take up the duty of attending to and caring for the Cheng San-Seletar ward vacated by the late Dr Balaji Sadasivan.
We do not dispute the clear mandate Dr Balaji had obtained from his constituents during GE2006. The constituents have made a clear choice over the contesting Worker’s Party team. However, they had made the clear choice for Dr Balaji, who happened to be an instrumental part of the GRC team.
Now that this team’s composition has changed and shrunk with Dr Balaji’s passing, how can we be sure that the residents will continue to give the same mandate? How can the remaining team continue to claim to have the mandate with confidence?
You would agree with me that the crux of this issue isn’t so much about the discharging of one MP’s leftover duties, but more about having the mandate to the discharging of such duties.
- Also, Dr Balaji’s constituents have chosen him, based on the faith that he would be giving them his undivided attention as their MP of choice, to represent them in parliament.
Now that they have been “orphaned” by his sudden demise, it is not fair to them that the remaining Ang Mo Kio GRC MPs have to tend to their affairs, on top of their existing constituent bodies.
It is most definitely not fair to the existing constituent bodies of the surviving MPs of Ang Mo Kio GRC as well, having lost the undivided attention of their current MPs through no fault of their own.
This was definitely not what the Ang Mo Kio GRC residents have bargained for, when they handed over their mandate in GE2006.
- Article 2A under Section 24 of the Parliamentary Elections Act states that: In respect of any group representation constituency(GRC), no writ (of election) shall be issued under subsection (1) for an election to fill any vacancy unless all the Members for that constituency have vacated their seats in Parliament.
In the letter of this piece of legislation, upon which you are most likely drawing the authority to not call for by-elections from, the constituents of GRCs are being actively denied the chance to renew their mandate, even in the event of a political catastrophe whereby all their mandate-holders save one have, for whatever reasons, vacated their seats.
It is becoming increasingly apparent, that with the GRC system and the legislations set up around it, the democratic interests of the people have been rendered subservient to the interests of the incumbent to entrench itself in power. This runs in contrary to your professed commitments to democracy and the legitimacy of your government.
- In view of these many irregularities, the government of Singapore and the Elections Department under your purview must re-consider their stance of not holding by-elections for the Cheng San-Seletar ward, and take swift action to hold one. Furthermore, the GRC system and its related legislations must also be immediately reviewed independently, and repealed if it is deemed detrimental to the citizens’ interests.
After all, if the incumbent has been dutifully discharging its duties thus far, a by-election exercise would only serve to further confirm its mandate. Unless of course, if the incumbent has a very different idea of what democracy is about, then there is little room left for any more discussions.
However, it would definitely serve the citizens of Singapore well for the incumbent to take this opportunity to state clearly just how different its ideas, if any, for democracy could be.