M. Ravi Challenges Reserved Presidential Election
Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has found himself an ally in the war against the reserved presidential election.
Earlier this month, Dr Tan filed a legal challenge against the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) over this year’s reserved presidential election. The 2 parties are set for an epic showdown in court that will likely take place in late June, reported The Straits Times.
And human rights lawyer M. Ravi decided to join in the party on Monday (May 22) by launching a constitutional challenge against the elected presidency.
While both men have taken issue with and filed legal challenges against the reserved presidential election, their respective challenges differ.
While Dr Tan filed a legal challenge over whether a piece of legislation was consistent with our Constitution, Mr Ravi’s is a constitutional challenge, and here are his reasons for doing so:
Mr Ravi outlined the reasons for his challenge in a post on his Facebook profile on Monday:
He claims the elected presidency scheme is unconstitutional as it violates Article 12 of the Constitution of Singapore, which states:
(1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
(2) Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administrations of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carry on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.
(3) This Article does not invalidate or prohibit —
(a) Any provision regulating personal law; or
(b) Any provision of practice restricting office or employment connected with the affairs of any religion, or of an institution managed by a group professing any religion to persons professing that religion
Mr Ravi believes the presidential election, which will be reserved for Malay candidates, contravenes Article 12 (2) of the Constitution, and that candidates should be selected solely based on their own merit.
He argues it is discriminatory as it “deprives citizens the equal right to political participation and to stand for public office of the Elected Presidency, even if they possess the appropriate qualifications”.
However, a netizen feels Mr M. Ravi’s challenge will prove fruitless due to Section 19B(5) of the Constitution.
Section 19B (1) and Section 19B (5) of the Constitution states:
(1) An election for the office of President is reserved for a community if no person belonging to that community has held the office of President for any of the 5 most recent terms of office of the President.
(5) No provision of any law made pursuant to this Article is invalid on the ground of inconsistency with Article 12 or is considered to be a differentiating measure under Article 78.
Basic Structure Doctrine
Mr Ravi also mentioned that the Elected Presidency Scheme breaches the Basic Structure Doctrine, a legal principle that posits that a Constitution has certain written or unwritten features so fundamental that they cannot be abrogated through Constitutional amendments.
Simply put, it means constitutional amendments are invalid if it goes against the basic structure of the Constitution.
However, one netizen believes the Basic Structure Doctrine won’t count for anything.
Others chimed in with their own 2 cents’ worth, with some accusing the Constitution of being manipulated to benefit the ruling party.
M. Ravi “Live”
To further boost his bid, Mr Ravi went “live” on Facebook on Tuesday (May 23) and spoke about why he decided to file a constitutional challenge.
In the rambling monologue that lasted close to 30 minutes, he expressed his outrage at the things that have been going on during the time that he has not been able to practise (he is barred from applying to practise law for 2 years from 2016) and questions why The Law Society Of Singapore has kept silent over matters such as the amendments to the Elected Presidency Scheme.
Displeased that the Constitution has been, in his own words, “stepped (on), mutilated and disgraced”, he showed “great concern that this amendment to the elected presidency has been made”.
We’ve all been told from young that there are 2 cardinal tenets — one is meritocracy, the other is regardless of race, language or religion.
Then we are told in 2017 that when you want to run for Presidential Elections, you need to be wealthy, you need to have $500 million dollars or so, be well-connected, be in certain institutions and so on and so forth. So that goes against the grain of meritocracy doesn’t it?
He then mentioned how presidents of Singapore are merely puppets who don’t actually have much to do compared with the prime minister.
The President has a committee of presidential advisors and he just listens. $4 or $5 million we pay the President for puppetry act?
He ended his long speech by making reference to the Singapore Pledge.
I’m always happy to fight for your rights, fight for my rights and let’s come together as one united citizens (sic), regardless of race, language and religion. This application is not about Tan Cheng Bock. It’s not about Halimah Yaacob. It’s about you and me, and our basic rights as citizens.
The First Challenger
Unlike Mr Ravi, Dr Tan’s basis for challenging revolves around the count of presidential terms — questioning why it began from Mr Wee Kim Wee (our 4th president), as the first president to exercise the powers of an elected president, instead of Mr Ong Teng Cheong (our 5th president), who was our actual first elected president.
As it stands, the first count begins with Mr Wee — hence it would’ve been 5 consecutive presidential terms since a Malay candidate has been president, and coming presidential election will be reserved for Malay candidates.
But if the count starts from Mr Ong, a reserved election won’t be held, and Dr Tan would be eligible to run for president.
Here’s our video on Dr Tan’s story to date:
It remains to be seen if either Dr Tan or Mr Ravi’s challenges will have any notable impact on the reserved presidential elections, which are slated to be held in September.
Mr Ravi will be addressing the public on the application of his legal challenge on Wednesday (May 24), while the court’s verdict for Dr Tan’s case will be known in late June, so we will be watching with great interest.
Meanwhile, read our story on what Singaporeans think about the reserved election.
Featured image adapted from YouTube