The cases of Hougang by-election and IMF loan are now in the High Court for judgment. While waiting for the outcome, we may look at the seriousness of the issues, the implication and the discharge of duty. Between the 2 cases, rather than seeing who is right and who is wrong, perhaps, we can say one is a small case and the other is a big case.
Small case means it is a localized issue and as PM Lee has said whether there is one more or one less opposition MP, it will not affect the basic structure of the Parliament.
Big case means it is the matter of the whole Parliament and the President. No matter how safe and whether finally the loan will be used, it touches on the principle of safeguarding our reserve – the money of all Singaporeans. And whether the government has acted in a “suka suka” way.
A summary of the 2 cases in our main stream media:
A Hougang resident's bid for the High Court to declare that the Prime Minister does not have unfettered discretion in deciding whether and when to call by-elections was heard in open court for the first time on Monday morning. (ST, 17 Jul 2012)
Reform Party Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam is proceeding with his legal bid to stop Singapore's US$4-billion pledge to the International Monetary Fund.…. The loan will be part of the Official Foreign Reserves (OFR) held by the MAS.
Mr Jeyaretnam said he filed an application, in his private capacity as a citizen, for a quashing order on 6 July.
He contends that the loan violates the Constitution of Singapore under Article 144, as no prior approval for the pledge was sought in Parliament or from the president.
Among other things, Article 144 states that "no guarantee or loan shall be given or raised by the Government except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs". (channelnewsasia, 17 Jul 2012)
For the Hougang by-election, even the verdict is that the Prime Minister has to call for a by-election within six months or a certain time, there is no wrong doing of the PM and he just follows the Court’s decision and holds future by-election accordingly. Not to mention, if the PM wins the case and he can hold or not hold by-election as he wishes.
However, the IMF loan is a different issue. The Singapore government has made the promise to IMF and it is quite clear that both the Parliament and the President have not been informed.
It will be interesting to see the definition of “The loan will be part of the Official Foreign Reserves (OFR) held by the MAS.” Is this OFR part of our official reserve and required the debate/approval of the Parliament and the President?
If the outcome of the IMF loan case is against the government, what does it mean? It means there is no respect of the Parliament and the President. And the government is doing something behind the Parliament and the President for our reserve, and possibly many other things in the past and present. This is the situation that the government does not want to see. Losing the case definitely has a bigger implication for the PAP government.
Unfortunately, the lawyer involved for both applications seems to be an unsound person? There is no guarantee the show will go on. We just have to wait and see the next development.
Local vs. national issue
In this circumstance, we really can conclude that the Hougang by-election is a local issue – it only involves a member of parliament. However, the IMF loan case involves the whole Parliament and the President. The PAP may have the foresight to predict the Hougang by-election as a local election but I wonder whether they have seen the bigger picture of the IMF loan. Maybe they are over confidence. Perhaps, they are used to doing such things in the past and present – what about the future? No one knows, but first let see how the High Court’s development is.
Of course, it is also a ‘local’ issue of a single lawyer and the bigger issue of the Law Society of Singapore. Strange! A Law Society representative can act alone to represent the Society and the Society does not know anything but still acknowledges he is acting on good intention:
<LSS is satisfied that although Mr Wong had acted very much on his own, he did so with the best of intentions.> (LSS Statement)
For the bigger picture of LSS, we better refer to their statement again and not to complicate the matter:
<It is very easy to speculate and criticize LSS. LSS is confident that it has discharged its duties properly and in good faith. LSS asks that commentators check their facts, preferably with LSS, before making their comments.> (LSS Statement)
Unfortunately, before the High Court makes any decision, the LSS may have to make its decision and clarification first. Man is doing his work and the sky (heaven) is watching him as the Chinese saying “人在做，天在看‘。