The ruling by the Court of Appeal today (Mdm Vellama) is a significant one for Singaporeans.
MISCHIEVOUS POSTINGS – WHAT’S NEW?
Some sites such as Public House and The Online Citizen had mischievously focused on the word “discretion” and went on to claim a victory for Singaporeans against the present Gahmen and slamming the current Lee.
Firstly, these 2 sites are not as balanced as self-acclaimed. But understandably so due to its anti-establishment and anti-government roots.
PublicHouse.sg has Mr. Andrew Loh as a founder and he had infamously and irresponsibly bought shame to fellow Singaporeans and netizens by using vulgarities against the President.
TheOnlineCitizen jumped onto the bandwagon to mirror this report without reading carefully. Again, this is not surprising because the members including Kirsten Han, Remy Choo, Martyn See, Ravi Philo and other ‘notables’ had either blindly blogged or laid claim about supposed conversations in an embarrassing fashion which turned out to be a misrepresentation – as declared in Remy Choo’s apology. Persons like Martyn had however chose to ‘troll-dier’ on.
FACTS AND TIMELINE OF CASE
Then-MP Yaw had vacated seat on 14 Feb 12.
Mdm Vellama filed case on 02 Mar 12. At the heart of her case was whether the PM has the option to call for a by-election, and when he should call for one, in the situation that a parliamentary seat is left empty for various reasons.
High Court Judge Pillai granted leave for the case. AGC appealed against the granting of leave on grounds that the application filed by Mdm Vellama was pre-mature as it was barely 2 weeks. AGC argued that leave should not be granted on 03 Apr 12 as the PM had declared on 09 Mar 12 that a by election will be held.
On 10 May 12, WP Secretary-General expressed that he was caught somewhat by surprise at the timing at which the PM called for a by-election. A demand of being held within 3 months was reacted by surprise. On 26 May 12, by election was held. Low was also quoted as saying that Lee was efficient in handling this decision
AGC then withdrew its appeal against the decision to grant leave, on the basis that the matter had become academic since the Writ of Election had already been issued for Hougang. The by-election was then held later that month. Despite this, 3 days after the by-election, Mdm Vellama nevertheless proceeded to file an application, seeking the same declarations for which leave had previously been granted.
The High Court dismissed Mdm Vellama’s application, and she appealed to the Court of Appeal. On appeal, AGC argued that Mdm Vellama’s case lacked standing as a by-election was called and statutory relief could not be claimed.
On 05 July, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision to dismiss the case, as Mdm Vellama had no standing to pursue the matter since by-election had already been held.
Whilst this alone would have been sufficient to dispose of the case, the Court of Appeal specifically went on to clarify the Constitution’s requirements on the calling of a by-election. It said that:
a. The PM has to call for a by-election to fill a vacated seat within reasonable time.
b. The PM may decide on what is reasonable based on prevailing circumstances (I.e. crisis or other national priorities)
c. The factors for consideration in deciding goes beyond mere practicability (i.e. just call lah!) and cannot be challenged easily.
It is unfortunate that some alternate sites have chosen to disregard the full context of the case and today’s decision and mischievously focused on just the specific sentences, without even stating nor showing that it was a clarification!
Responsible journalism is important – all facts must be clearly laid before criticizing. One should not leave out specific portions or even amend and alter facts to suit the reasonings of his views.
AGC – Media Statement, 5 July 2013
Link : COURT OF APPEAL No. 97 of 2012 VELLAMA d/o MARIE MUTHU v AG  SGCA 39
A TESTAMENT TO THE FAIRNESS OF OUR JUDICIARY SYSTEM
It is reassuring that the Court of Appeal had decided to hear the case in order to give Singaporeans accountability and closure.
More importantly, it proves that no man is above the law and even the PM is subjected to scrutiny of his judgement. The Chinese has a saying (loose translation) that “even the Prince is not above the law and will be trialled and charged similarly to commoners if an offense is committed”. As a Singaporean, this case, alongside that of the trials of Peter Lim, Ng Boon Gay and Professor Tey should give us confidence of a neutral and capable justice arm.
In each of the 2 by-elections encountered during the current parliamentary term, it is noteworthy that an election was each time called swiftly within 3 months. This is fair, given the preparation opportunity required by all interested and contesting parties.
AN IMPARTIAL BUT ALSO EMPATHETIC JUDICIARY
Simply put, the decision shows our courts conviction to do justice on the facts of each case – a win win situation for all. Even Mdm Vellama was not made to bear full costs, despite having her case dismissed. It is important that Justice also displays empathy to the circumstances of an individual without sinister motives. In this case, the impartial Judiciary system can be praised for its empathetic decision towards Mdm Vellama – legal costs could be high in the case of her outcome.
UGLY HEART-TRUTHS: THE INNER REFLECTIONS OF A SINGA-NETIZEN
There were rumors during the haze (doctored images for example), there has been much name calling amongst netizens, Minister hunting(Martyn See, Remy Choo and Kirsten Han in their actions of misrepresentation and overt challenging of a Minister representing Singapore away at ASEAN and pushing for real actions towards long term haze solutions) and even unnecessary insults (Andrew Loh’s vulgarities against the President) thrown on the Internet. What else will Snga-netizens show the world?
It is high time to ask ourselves if this is an action of a responsible citizen, regardless of the space of existence (as a Singaporean or Netizen). Such behaviors do not do well for the image of Singaporeans, especially with real life incidents such as the Hello Kity fiasco. As a fellow Singaporean, I hope not to be judged for asking fellow countrymen to help each other be responsible.
We may have progressed as a Nation, but perhaps this is the time to reflect. Don’t get me wrong, I think we are okay! But, we must be careful not to erode into examples well apparent in the Western world and neighboring countries – for that will almost certainly mean an eventual erosion of this Country we call Home.
My Singapore, Our Home
Submitted via email. to Fabrications About The PAP