Politically Flawed

Fatally flawed“. Apparently that’s what the Government’s lawyers think of V. Muthu’s application for the Prime Minister to call an election within a reasonable time. As such, they applied for the Court to strike out Ms Muthu’s application before it gets to open court.

The lawyers arguing the Govt’s case may be good lawyers, but they have piss-poor political sense.

Applying to “strike out” the other party’s application before it goes to Court happens all the time in criminal and civil cases. But this is not a criminal case or a defamation suit. This is a political case. It is a test of Constitutional Law, one of the few we have had since Independence.

What kind of signal does it send politically when the Govt does not want to defend its stand in a Constitutional challenge in an open court?

If the Govt is so sure of its Constitutional position vis a vis the Prime Minister’s absolute and unfettered discretion to decide when a by-election should be held, why not use the opportunity to affirm this in open court, and let our impartial judges confirm this position in law?

Trying to strike out an application could easily backfire on the Govt. Already people believe that the PM dares not set a date for a by-election because it could prove embarrassing for his party. There are also highly respected lawyers and academics who believe that our Constitution does not accord the PM such absolute discretion.

That’s why it is important for the PM to show in open court that his arguments have legal merit and will be carried by an impartial judge. Because even if he is successful in striking out Ms Muthu’s application– presumably by arguing that the application is without merit and thus “fatally flawed”– he will still not win in the court of public opinion, because he did not meet a Constitutional challenge fully and openly.

The first principle in politics is, one must not only trounce one’s opponents, but one must be seen to trounce one’s opponents fairly and openly.

Therefore, the legal strategy employed by the PM– trying to deny his opponents an open hearing– is apparently “politically flawed”.


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Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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9 Responses to Politically Flawed

  1. mangolet says:

    My guess is that most Singaporeans don’t believe we have “impartial” judges in Singapore, especially when it comes to cases of a political nature like this one. So even if this is affirmed in an open court, I’m not convinced that it will be perceived as trouncing one’s opponent fairly and openly. This is one of those times where it may truly be lose-lose for the government in the court of public opinion no matter what the outcome is.

    • Morgan says:

      Hi mangolet,
      I think you should be very careful in making such statements. If you are indeed insinuating the lack of independence in the Singapore judiciary, please be prepared to substantiate your statements, otherwise it could be construed as contempt of court (viz, Alan Shadrake)

      Also, to the author of this blog post, you’ve kind of contradicted yourself in your argument. By saying “this is a political case”, you’ve kind of suggested it is not for the court to decide. Because it is trite that the court only answers questions of law, and not political questions, due to the doctrine of separation of powers


      • Thanks for comments. “Political” case doesn’t mean there are no legal questions involved. Eg the case against President Arroyo was a corruption case, but certainly involved politics. This case involves an interpretation of the Constitution, ie the PM’s interpretation vs a Hougang resident’s- and it directly concerns election laws. Thus it is political however you look at it.

  2. Sgcynic says:

    It does not stand up to scrutiny.

  3. sgcynic says:

    Well, hell certainly didn’t freeze overnight.

  4. mooneyeteni1 says:

    The govt’s lawyers were merely trying their luck because if they succeed the PM don’t have to testify and possibly opening up a pandora’s box.
    If he succeeds in persuading the court, the consequences will be far reaching. Apart from bringing his govt and the judiciary into disrepute before the eyes of Singaporeans and the world, it could also mean cutting its own feet in the future when the ruling party were to find itself in the opposition, for example.

    • The Govt’s lawyers engaged in a standard gambit. It never hurts to ask a judge to throw out the opponent’s case, at most the judge says no, one doesn’t lose anything as a result of this.

      However, from a political perspective, I find this a bad strategy, it gives the impression the PM does not want to take on his opponents in Court, does not want to give them a chance to argue their case openly, does not want to rebut their case openly. That makes the PM look petty and cowardly.

      Notwithstanding the above, the Judge has ruled that the Govt has a case to answer. I hope Ravi will make the right moves. This is not about calling the PM to the stand to ask him embarrassing questions. It is about establishing the rule of law.

      I hope Ravi will use his day in the sun wisely.

  5. henry says:

    Judgement will not come soon.
    There will be a delay for as long as they like and by that time, some action will have taken place with the issue of Hougang. The famous words: “lets move on..” will be offered and there the matter will rest.
    It does not matter if its “lose/lose” or “lose/win”. The words: “the worker’s party have let their constituents down” will be repeated again and in as many variations.

    Switch to next scene: the economy is facing headwinds, our neighbours are facing domestic problems, housing is being addressed, the train & bus systems is being upgraded,we must stay together. The future is bleak and uncertain. Who will you want to steer the ship?

    • sgcynic says:

      Hmm… definitely not the one who cannot even steer the ship well in good times. See the problems that have cropped up over the last few years. Policy time lag over. Results show.

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