Singapore

Shanmugam: Dr Tan 'spliced' my remarks

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday that former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock had "rearranged" the minister's remarks to suggest something he did not say.

At issue is whether Mr Shanmugam had said the Government would make public advice from the Attorney-General's Chamber's (AGC) on legal issues related to the recent reserved presidential election.

Dr Tan said in a Facebook post on Saturday night that Mr Shanmugam had said the Government would do so during a public dialogue last year, but then contradicted himself in Parliament last week.

Mr Shanmugam had said at the sitting that the Government, as a rule, does not publish the legal opinions it gets. He was responding to an adjournment motion on the timing of the reserved election by Workers' Party MP Sylvia Lim,

In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Shanmugam said Dr Tan had "spliced my remarks, rearranged them, and put them together in a way to suggest something which I did not say".

He added that it was untrue he had been inconsistent in Parliament.

Providing a link to his remarks from last year, Mr Shanmugam said he was responding to a question about when the "circuit breaker" triggering a reserved presidential election would come into effect.

In his answer, he said it was a policy decision for the Government to make, adding that the Government would make its position clear after it had sought the AGC's advice on some legal questions.

He also said that at the latest, the Government will have a position on the counting of the five terms needed to trigger a reserved election by the time a Bill on the elected presidency makes it to Parliament.

In his reply, Mr Shanmugam had said: "Once we get the advice, we will send it out. Certainly by the time the Bill gets to Parliament, which is in October, I think we will have a position and we will make it public."

Dr Tan, citing this, said: "Would the Minister explain to Singaporeans his apparent contradiction?"

To this, Mr Shanmugam said: "Clearly, I was referring to making the Government's position (and not the AGC's advice) public."

The minister added that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had later made clear the Government's position on the counting of the terms, when Parliament debated the Constitutional amendments.

Mr Lee had said the count would start from the second term of President Wee Kim Wee, who was the first head of state to be vested with the powers of the elected president.

Mr Shanmugam said the Court of Appeal, which dismissed a challenge by Dr Tan on the timing of the reserved election, had "said explicitly" that Mr Lee was clear in stating the Government's position.

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K ShanmugampresidentLee Hsien Loong