General Election can wait, priority is to 'prevent a health crisis': PSP's Tan Cheng Bock

General Election can wait, priority is to 'prevent a health crisis': PSP's Tan Cheng Bock

Tan Cheng Bock (2)
File photo of Dr Tan Cheng Bock. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock reiterated on Saturday (Mar 28) his stand against calling a General Election (GE) in 2020 as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve. 

In a video posted on Facebook, Dr Tan said the GE can wait while the Government directs its resources towards dealing with the coronavirus. 

Dr Tan was speaking in response to Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean's speech in Parliament, in which Mr Teo said suggestions to delay GE and form a caretaker government were unconstitutional, "misleading and unhelpful". 

Mr Teo had pointed out that a caretaker government "lacks the explicit mandate of voters and would therefore not be in a position to take major decisions on behalf of Singaporeans" at a time of crisis. 

READ: Unconstitutional to delay General Election and have president form caretaker government - Teo Chee Hean

READ: PSP "strongly urges" Government not to hold General Election amid COVID-19 crisis - Tan Cheng Bock

He also said "we do not know when the COVID-19 situation will stabilise" but that an election "must take place by Apr 14, 2021", which marks the end of the term of the 13th Parliament.

"The longer we wait, the more unpredictable, difficult and dangerous it could be," said Mr Teo. 

Mr Teo was responding to Dr Tan's message two weeks ago that said the PSP "strongly urged" the Government not to hold the GE during the COVID-19 crisis, offering alternatives such as forming a caretaker government. 

In his video on Saturday, Dr Tan said: "I refer to Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean's speech in Parliament, where he commented on my idea of a caretaker government. 

"I think he may have missed my main point, which is simply this: In view of COVID-19, the Government must now make a choice - it is either to call an early GE in 2020 or to wait until the last possible date in 2021. The issue is how to exercise this choice."

Dr Tan said if the Government chooses to call an early GE, "it will expose more than 2.6 million Singaporeans to COVID-19, which will run the risk of creating a health crisis". 

"SM Teo also said in Parliament that an early GE will allow Singapore to decide who they want to captain the ship in the future. But can he accept that an early GE means that the ship will potentially carry many more Singaporeans infected with COVID-19 and is this the risk he's prepared to take with our overtaxed health crisis?" said Dr Tan. 

"A later election may take place at a time when the COVID-19 situation has improved, which is a realistic hope and not a fanciful wish," said Dr Tan, citing vaccines being developed and the doubling down on social containment measures. 

READ: Singapore reports 49 new cases of COVID-19, new cluster at SingPost Centre

READ: COVID-19 - Singaporeans urged to defer non-essential trips to malls

Dr Tan agreed that forming a caretaker government could pose a "legal constitutional problem". 

"However, a constitutional problem does not infect people with COVID-19. A constitutional problem will not take away the lives of loved ones. A constitutional problem can be overcome," he said. 

"General Election can wait," said Dr Tan. "Our ministers and ministries are already hard-pressed. If an election were to occur they would have to spread themselves out even thinner, deciding how to safely - if that is even possible - carry out the process of elections."

Singapore reported 49 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 732. Several new clusters were announced earlier in the week, including one involving PCF Sparkletots pre-school in Fengshan and another involving SingPost Centre. 

Earlier on Saturday, the authorities urged Singaporeans to defer trips to the mall except for essential activities such as buying food and groceries, after choke points were seen outside some shopping centres.

Source: CNA/hs

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