Sunday, 9 July 2017

Tan Cheng Bok's Presidential Challenge.

I understand now why Tan Cheng Bok failed to persuade the HC Judge in his challenge to the timing of the reserved presidential election. 
The HC Judge has made it clear that "Parliament has the right to decide the timing of such elections...when a racial group has not been represented in the presidency for five continuous term." 
It is ultimately a "policy decision”, which falls outside the remit of the court". 
And the spirit of this policy decision is eminently understandable and defensible - that is, it is to preserve and protect the hard-fought harmony of our multiracial society, keeping the peace amongst the different racial and religious groups, and upholding its meaningful and respectful integration and community.
We should therefore never take our peace for granted. And if the other racially fractured states in the world is any indication, where the animosity worsens by the day because of seditious, opportunistic and exploitative elements in the population, it is without doubt better to be safe than sorry, that is, to take preventive measures to protect our peace even if such measures may seem to be contrived, convenient or paternalistic.
But the fight in court has spilled over into the exchange of words in the public arena. Some news reports (which our Straits Times had prudently refused to publish) has repeated what DAG had said in court about TCB. 
Such reports have to do with DAG's extrajudicial, informal jabs at TCB. The former basically accused TCB of being "self-serving" in the hope of wanting to stand as a candidate in the coming presidential election. 
And he also questioned TCB's motives as "purely selfish" and showing "no regard for the principle of multiracial representation which Parliament intended to safeguard."
DAG had made other remarks, but it is not necessary to repeat it here. 
Lesson? Just one.
Now let's be clear that the AGC did not ask for cost for defeating the application, and regardless of the reason behind it, that is in itself an honourable gesture. 
Yet, the allegations made against TCB are in my view wholly unnecessary and unfounded, and TCB has already come forward in his latest FB post to defend his honour and to rebut them. 
In any event, didn't the HC Judge rule that TCB "had standing to bring the challenge to court" and he has satisfied all its requirements to make this application?
Alas, in a society governed by the rule of law, led by a properly constituted and elected parliamentary mix, and premised on the constitutional principles that allow her citizens to pursue justice, fairness and equality within proper forum and jurisdiction, and in the spirit of goodwill, mutual respect and honour, I believe TCB has every right to make this application to clear the air, deepen the understanding and hopefully bring the issue to some form of finality (appeal notwithstanding). 
And the HC Judge's decision in favour of the AGC has done just that. As a result, all Singaporeans, who keep an open mind and balance a wider perspective of things, have positively benefited from it. 
In the end, it is about parliamentary sovereignty, and it is surely not a case of the abuse of such privilege because, in the larger scheme of things, the stake of our generation and our children's generation are subject to grave peril if we should let our guard down even for a moment thinking that we ought to be libertarianistic about it and let a few liberties slip through. 
So, coming back full circle, my point is to keep the arguments on the issue and not the person. 
TCB has served the people well, and he is well loved by all who know and read about his political devotion. He lived his political life not for convenience, but based on trust, sacrifices and commitment.
If he is "purely selfish" and has "no regard for the principle of multiracial representation which Parliament intended to safeguard," he should have just minded his own little medical practice in Jurong, sent his kids to ivory-league schools in the country and retired in peace while playing some golf in some exclusive clubs to fill his time. 
Further, if he is "self-serving", then he should just have stayed away from politics altogether and taken vacations from one exotic place to another, instead of spending most of his adult life being the MP (for 26 years), being the first non-Cabinet minister elected into PAP Central Executive Committee, being Chairman of countless of committees dealing with bread-and-butter issues such as education, national development and environment, and even having the time to be a part-time clinical teacher in general practice at NUS. 
I always believe that if we do not know the man (or our opponent) well enough, or understand fully why he did what he did, we should at least give due credit for what he has done for the country, that is, his tireless years of service, even running for the elected President and losing just marginally to TT. 
Alas, who is to say that he would not have been the People's President like Ong Teng Cheong whom the majority can identify with, and be able to inspire deeply?
So, the allegations against his character are really uncalled for. 
In my view, you are practically throwing his decades of sacrifice for public office into the drain just because he cared enough, whether for personal and/or public duty, to step forward and be counted (that should at least count for selfless courage rather than self-serving motive).
And it is also unnecessary because you don't need to implicate or conflate his motive together with the object of his application to persuade the Court of what is, from the start, the Parliamentary intention for the amendments to the Elected Presidency to include a reserved election. 
In other words, throwing his character into the ring does not in any way advance your goal of putting forward the policy objectives of the legislature whose aim is and has always been to protect and preserve the racial and religious harmony of the nation. 
Alas, it would be a sad day for Singapore if, in an attempt to make a point in a properly constituted forum, our respected government body feels it has this moralistic need to dress it up with personal attacks that only create unnecessary hurts and disappointments, instead of just sticking to the issues and winning it with humility, honour and mutual respect. Cheerz.

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