SINGAPORE: Former presidential hopeful Tan Cheng Bock filed an appeal on Wednesday (Jul 12) against a High Court decision to dismiss his application contesting the legitimacy of the upcoming reserved Presidential Election.
Wednesday was the last day for Dr Tan to file an appeal, after Justice Quentin Loh’s decision last Friday to maintain the status quo that only Malay candidates are eligible to stand in the next presidential election due in September.
When Channel NewsAsia asked him earlier on Wednesday if he planned to appeal, Dr Tan said: "Yes, appealing through my lawyers today."
The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said on the same day that it would "study the papers".
In a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, Dr Tan said that his lawyers had advised that the "judge may have misconstrued the relevant Constitutional provisions".
"I have therefore filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal ... to review the Court decision. I will leave it to my lawyers to submit the relevant legal arguments."
He said that the appeal would likely be heard on the week of Jul 25, and added that the appeal timelines had been agreed beforehand with the Attorney-General "so that the case will not affect the Presidential elections in September 2017".
"I am heartened that many Singaporeans are taking a healthy interest in the law-making process and the Constitution as a result of this case," Dr Tan added. "These are important things for us and our children to know."
"We must never take these institutions for granted."
Dr Tan, a Member of Parliament for 26 years (1980 to 2006), ran unsuccessfully for President in 2011. In March 2016, he announced his intention to run again, but amendments to the Constitution passed late last year have precluded him from doing so.
Under new rules, if there is not a President from a particular racial community for five consecutive terms, the next term will be reserved for a President from that community.
Dr Tan filed an application in May calling for the September election to be an “open” one, arguing that the Government's decision to count five terms from President Wee Kim Wee's was “unconstitutional”.
The Elected Presidency was legislated in 1991, in the middle of President Wee’s second term.
The first popularly elected President was Ong Teng Cheong, Dr Tan said, and if the Government had started counting from President Ong’s term, this year’s presidential election would not be a reserved one.
Dr Tan also argued that only the terms of Presidents elected by Singaporeans to serve six-year terms should be counted. President Wee was not popularly elected, and served two terms of four years.
However, in his judgment last Friday, Justice Loh agreed with the AGC that “nothing” in the Constitution limits Parliament’s power to “start the count from the term of office of a popularly elected President” and that this was a policy decision outside of the courts' remit.
“(The Constitution) is both a duty-imposing and power-conferring rule. It expressly imposes a duty on Parliament to specify (the first elected President) and implicitly gives Parliament the power to do so,” Justice Loh said.