Singapore Parliament Reports System, 9th Parliament, 2nd Session, Volume 71 (24 Nov 1999) (RULE OF LAW) cols. 570-571, edited excerpts
 
Mr Jeyaretnam: Sir, I beg to move, That this House recognises the importance of the Rule of Law and urges the government to ensure the complete and full observance of the Rule of Law by all Ministers, officials and public servants.
        May I remind the Members that the subject is not about any abstract value. It may be intangible, but is more valuable than any tangibles.
      The rule of law is what sets a civilised society apart from other societies that do not observe the rule of law.  So it is not an abstract airy-fairy rule… 
     …we have had, many a time, Ministers declaring how Singapore scrupulously obeys the rule of law…
     The Government… [prides] themselves that in Singapore the fundamentals are correct and laid down.  May I say that the rule of law is the first basic fundamental for any society. It is the only guarantee of the subject's freedom.  Without the rule of law, the subject lives in a state of uncertainty…bewilderment and consequently of fear...
      Under this rule, citizens are ruled by the law and the law alone…The question is: is the Government exempt from this scrupulous observance of the Rule of Law?… [is] Singapore…a society that lives under the rule of law or a society that lives under a government that acts by decree…more akin to a society ruled by a Mafia?
     …If the rule of law does not obtain and citizens cannot live in the certainty that all their actions will be judged only by the law and by nothing else, and they will only be punished by the law and not by any arbitrary power on the part of the Minister, it is no better than a dictatorship, where a dictator rules by decree…
      …the proposition of the rule of law that it is an absolute fundamental and necessary before citizens can live in peace and freedom is not something new.  It is not a novel concept.  Its origins can perhaps be traced back to the 13th century when the English Barons met at Runnymede to curtail and to restrict the powers of the Monarch. Before that, the Monarch was ruling at will, doing what he wished and restricting the liberties of his subjects. And so the Barons gathered to put an end to this rule by the Monarch without any law and they passed a number of declarations... [which] came to be known as the Magna Carta, the great Charter. And clause 39 is revealing…
 
      "No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disused or outlawed or exiled or in any way destroyed nor will we send upon him except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." …
 
      …One of the reasons why despite the Government's assertion… that in Singapore the Government observes the rule of law scrupulously…and the critics saying something quite the opposite, that there is no rule of law in Singapore today, may be due to a misconception as to what is meant and understood by the Rule of Law  
…This term, the Rule of Law came into prominence when Prof. A. V. Dicey, a Vinerian Professor of English law, propounded it.  He saw the Rule of Law to consist of two main parts.   "One, the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power and excludes the existence of arbitrariness, of prerogative or even of wide discretionary authority on the part of the Government.  Subjects are ruled by the law and by the law alone.  A subject can be punished for a breach of law but they can be punished for nothing else."  He continues: "In this sense, rule of law contrasts with every system of Government based on the exercise by persons in authority of wide arbitrary or discretionary powers of constraint."… 
…The second sense of this meaning of the Rule of Law is that every subject, whatever be his rank or condition, is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals. Every official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen.  He adds a third sense, which is that, Rule of Law is part of the common law and has been propounded by judicial decisions rather than by any written constitution.   He is speaking of course of England of the United Kingdom.  But he continues to say that in developing countries, this has now been incorporated into their written constitutions.  So it has in our Singapore Constitution.
     …when we decided to break away from the British rule, we nevertheless decided, all political parties gathering together and deciding as a people, that we will opt for the Westminster style of Government and for the institutions that were applicable in England and, of course, as they were applicable in Singapore at that time.  The common law had been imported into Singapore in the 19th century and the institutions of Government followed exactly the Westminster style of Government.  So we decided that we would have not any other system.  This was a deliberate conscious choice of the people made through their political parties before the delegation went to London   
     Now, we have a Constitution. These principles of the Rule of Law are to be found in our Constitution…They are no longer dependent upon judicial interpretations and declarations of the Rule of Law…The Constitution…is an act of the people. It is the people's charter… by which the people have bound themselves to live together as a society.  So we find these principles of the Rule of Law in our Constitution and they are to be found…in Articles 9 and 12 of the Constitution….   One also has to understand what is meant by the term "law" in the phrase "Rule of Law".  
 
[discusses the case of Ong Ah Chuan (1981), see relevant extract, Tan & Thio, 1770]  
 
     So law is not just the Acts passed by Parliament but the fundamental rules of natural justice that have been accepted and become part and parcel of the common law…which was the law in Singapore in operation before that. I was talking about the misconception. And it comes to my mind that sometime in the 1980s when I was in this House, there was a debate on the Internal Security Act [which provides] for detention of persons under an order of the Minister… a blatant negation of the Rule of Law. I said there was no question about it, because it blatantly disregarded the fundamental rules of natural justice. The then Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Chua Sian Chin, in replying asked: "Is the Member trying to say that the Internal Security Act is not law?  It was not passed properly?"  There you have the misconception.
     Even an Act of Parliament can violate the Rule of Law. It can violate the Constitution and that is specially provided by the Constitution which says that any Act which is inconsistent or contrary to the Articles of this Constitution shall to that extent be void…  
      I must now proceed …to list what I see to be the instances or examples of the violation of this fundamental principle of the Rule of Law in Singapore.
     The first on my list is…the arrest and detention of persons without trial purely on the arbitrary power invested by Parliament albeit, on the Minister.  A person in Singapore can be detained without trial under the Internal Security Act, under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act and also under the Misuse of Drugs Act, although some justification may be found for the detention under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
      The second is the arrest by police officers and other law enforcement officers without informing the subject of the charge.  It is absolutely important under the Rule of Law that a person's liberty should not be deprived…or in any way restrained unless he is first told of the law under which that can be done, and why it should be done.  Also incidental to this is the searches - search of a person's house carried out by the Police and other law enforcement agencies.  There again a citizen is entitled to insist that any search of his house be strictly in accordance with the law.
      Thirdly, the denial of the right to counsel - denial of the right of arrested persons to counsel and to visits from families for a period of time.
     Fourthly, there is the denial of bail by the courts even without adequate reasons.  I am referring to the often heard request from police officers prosecuting to ask for a remand in Police custody when the accused is first produced in court… 
      Then the one which we the Opposition have often raised…the denial of the freedom of speech and assembly (including freedom of the press).  That violates the Rule of Law.   
     Sixthly, denial of reasons for executive decisions and shutting out appeals to the courts…
     Seventhly, the restrictions on the right to travel in Singapore, the impounding of passports without an order of court…  
     Then we have the eighth on the list - the power given to the Housing and Development Board to throw out lessees or tenants without having to take them to court…Then we also have the suspension and cancellation of people's licences by executive officials, and I have in mind, of course, the licences of taxi drivers, without a proper judicial inquiry.
     So you have in Singapore an abundance of power exercised by the executive through its officials which offend the Rule of Law.   That is the first limb - that no one shall be arrested, deprived of anything, except under the law.   Now, if I may come to the second limb  -  the equality  of  all persons  under  the law…The Prime Minister  is  not  more equal  than  a  postman  or  a collector  of  rubbish.  And under this, I have about four heads, and that is, the blatant violations during election time by Government and Ministers to secure the victory of their party, the ruling party, including intimidation of voters.
     There you have clearly the law not evenly applied as between one party and another.  Then we have the case not very long ago where it was seen that the law was not evenly applied. The purchase of apartments in Nassim Road and Scotts 28 by Ministers and public officials…
     Then we have the disparate treatment of Opposition political parties in their applications for licences to hold their activities or conduct their programmes…
      And finally, we have the just recently concluded instance of the President's election. I shall explain why it is a violation of the Rule of Law and violates particularly Article 12 of the Constitution.
      If I may move on and say what I think should be done as a priority by this Government…
     One is to repeal the provisions in the Internal Security Act providing for detention without trial. They are absolutely no longer necessary for our society in Singapore. They are an open sore.
     Secondly, repeal the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.   That also is not necessary in our society today. Both these Acts may be convenient to the Government.  But that is not the criterion, that is not the test.  The test is the people's liberties.
     It is important to preserve the people's liberties. I do not ask the Government to repeal the Misuse of Drugs Act. But I think they should have another look at the Misuse of Drugs Act and see whether it contains sufficient safeguards against unfairly depriving a person of his liberty.
     Fourthly, I would urge the Government to consider amending the law relating to public meetings and processions. This comes under the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly so as to give full weight to the Article in the Constitution. 
     Fifthly, repeal the provisions in the Housing and Development Act which empowers the Board to evict people without having to take them to court.  The Housing and Development Board acts as the accuser, the Judge, the executioner.   It is unheard of…  
     Sixthly, I am seriously suggesting to this Government that the police force should be taken out of political control. It should no longer come under the control or direction of the political masters. And likewise, I am proposing that the CPIB be also removed from the control of the political masters… 
     The list of examples I have given of the violations in Singapore is, by no means, exhaustive…I have tried to pick out what I thought were the very major serious violations of the Rule of Law.  
     Now, if I may move on and as quickly as possible try and explain why the Internal Security Act violates the Rule of Law.  Under the Act, as I have said, it is just the Minister, and  there is no way of checking the Minister's decision, who decides  to make an order detaining a subject, depriving  him of  his  liberty, completely contrary to the rule of  natural justice and the fundamental principle that all men are  free…
 
      Mr  Chiam  See Tong (Potong Pasir):  I  know that Singapore has been voted as having  the best  judicial system in this part of the world but  I  think the  concept  of  the  Rule of Law is not  purely  about  the judicial system.  It means more than that.
     The Rule of Law does not mean just plain justice that is observed in our courts.  I have no complaints about our court's function…The Rule of Law to me means that the Government, in its dealings with the people, has to be fair, transparent and predictable.  I cannot say that the Government's dealings with the Opposition parties have been fair, transparent and predictable. The Government has control of every public function in Singapore. The Opposition parties are, of course, not happy with the way the Government treats them in regard to applications to hold those functions. The Opposition parties are treated as if they are obligated to the Government and have to get permission to organise any public functions such as dinners, lantern festival or pasar malams. The Opposition do not mind applying for permission if they are done for a purely administrative purpose.  But asking for permission or licence is done more for political reasons.
     Often, when Opposition parties apply for a Public Entertainments Licence or other applications, they do not get a quick reply.  They are left in a limbo and have to wait for a long time.  And in their anxiety, they telephone the appropriate department and they are told, surprisingly, that that department is waiting for word from the top. We are just wondering whether a simple application for permission, say, to hold a lantern festival or a pasar malam or dinner, you must wait for permission from the top.
     Mr Yatiman asked for examples. We have only just recently held the 6th Anniversary Dinner of our Party on Saturday, 20th November. We applied for a Public Entertainments Licence on 16th October and our answer did not come until 15th November, five days before the function starts. As you know, if you are organising a dinner, there is a lot of organising to do.  This uncertainty of whether a licence shall be given at all makes organising such functions very difficult.
      When the licence came, permission was given to karaoke singing, song items given by the old folks at the constituency, lion dance, lucky draws, but no speeches were allowed.  I was taken aback. I am the elected Member at Potong Pasir, and I am not allowed to speak   to   my constituents!  I had to hurriedly send an appeal to say, "Please allow me to speak."  Their reply came, "All right, you can speak but only for ten minutes for purposes of thanking your constituents for coming and acknowledging their sponsorship and gifts that they have given to you."  I do not think it reflects that we have the Rule of Law in Singapore.
     … You may like to know that for any function if we make an application, we do not get a reply until five days or so before the function starts.  So how can you hold a function without having any anxiety? …whether or not part of the programme will be allowed, or whatever…
      Sir, I am not asking too much.  I am just asking the Government, when it deals with the Opposition, please let us have fairness, transparency and predictability.
Minister of State for Law (Assoc. Prof.  Ho  Peng Kee): Mr Speaker, Sir, the NCMP never fails to bore us, never fails to show  us  that he lives in the past, never fails to  show  us that he is good in delivering lectures on very basic points…For the first almost 30 minutes of his speech, he had talked about things of the past  - Magna Carta, Confucius  - things which are not of relevance in Singapore, before coming to the Constitution, which is what really matters.  He had mentioned basic points that any first year law student would know…this motion is really unnecessary and gratuitous.
      … Why do I say that this motion is not necessary and gratuitous? … all our Ministers, officials and  public  servants fully observe the Rule of Law.   It is therefore absurd to even imply that the Rule of Law does not prevail in Singapore.  Of course, he will cite instances, which I will deal with later on. But again these are instances which he culls from the past…I would say that instead of this House moving this motion, this House should commend the Government for ensuring that all in Singapore observe the Rule of Law…
     What does the concept of the Rule of Law entail? … the Rule of Law refers to the supremacy of law, as opposed to the arbitrary exercise of power.  The other key tenet is that everyone is equal before the law. The concept also includes the notions of the transparency, openness and prospective application of our laws, observation of the principles of natural justice, independence of the Judiciary and judicial review of administrative action.
     Let me state very clearly that all these are established features of our legal system.  We all know that everyone in Singapore is subject to the law.  No one is above the law. Other nations admire us for this aspect of our good governance, the Rule of Law.  Hence, everyone, from the President to the humblest citizen, is subject to the same laws.   There are no double standards or favouritism, and no one is exempt.  This is an important point because the integrity and credibility of our institutions, including the Government and civil service and their players, are the key foundations of Singapore's success.  Also for this reason, Ministers and MPs suspected of wrongdoing have been investigated and indeed some have been prosecuted. 
     If Members recall, three years ago, Senior Minister and DPM Lee came to this House to explain their actions in relation to some property purchases they had made which PM had earlier investigated…To me, this is a very clear example that the Government upholds the Rule of Law and ensures that it is fully observed by all.   It shows that the honesty and integrity of Ministers and public servants is zealously safeguarded, not only in words but also in deed.  What is the NCMP talking about?   In fact, I will say that the NCMP insults Singaporeans by alleging that the Rule of Law does not prevail in Singapore because this Government which stands on the Rule of Law has been repeatedly re-elected in 10 general elections since 1959.
      : So what is the result of our approach to law and order?  Our approach is that we have a Singapore which is safe, a Singapore which people feel they have a home, which people feel that they can raise children in and one in which they can walk the streets at night safely.   Having said this, there are also specific internal guidelines to ensure that, whether it is the police or other law enforcement agencies, there will be no abuse.  This has been very clear because, yes, there have been black sheep. But do we cover up the black sheep? Government does not cover up the black sheep.  Indeed, if the police themselves, as they have done, uncover wrongdoing among their ranks, they will pursue investigations and prosecutions to the end…
      The other point about the Rule of Law is that an independent, impartial and efficient judiciary will ensure that the laws which are passed will apply to all.   It will also   ensure that the laws which are passed are also constitutional.  I think Mr Jeyaretnam has raised this point. Yes, of course, our laws must be subject to the Constitution because the Constitution is the overriding document that sets the framework upon which the other laws stand [and there have been] …many cases where those who have been aggrieved have mounted challenges in our courts, filing administrative  actions and some succeeded.   Indeed, in a recent case, Stansfield Business  International  Pte  Ltd against  Minister for Manpower, the court, in fact,  accepted the complainant's argument that the Ministry's enquiry failed to  comply  with  the  rules  of  natural  justice.   So the plaintiff won the case against the Government.
      I am afraid the NCMP is mired in the past.  He has not realised that Singapore, the PAP, and the civil service are moving on with fast changing times, something the NCMP most evidently cannot cope with.  S21 vividly captures the Government's approach.  As for the civil service, PS21 sets the tone.  Even our courts have moved on. Because if you look at what the courts have done, they have introduced many innovations.  They have also reached out to the public through exhibitions, seminars and talks.  This is also an important aspect of the Rule of Law - that Singaporeans  know  what  the  law  is  all   about; Singaporeans know how their rights are governed by the  laws. They know how to find these laws - statute books which are available, can be bought, can be read in the library. And they also know where they can have their legal rights aired, which is our courts. The Subordinate Courts, in fact, have done a marvellous job. The Subordinate Courts have been held up as a model by the World Bank. And the Subordinate Courts have introduced many innovations so that citizens are involved in the law, for example, family conferencing, multi-door court house… 
      … the polls that  show  that Singapore has a very high standing with regard to the Rule of Law.  I have mentioned this before in this House. The Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, World Economic Forum, and other polls show that both foreigners   and Singaporeans believe that we have good judicial and legal systems, fair administration of justice.  And this is not just from businessmen because polls conducted in Singapore among Singaporeans and foreigners also underscore this belief and trust…
      ...  By this motion, Mr. Jeyaretnam implies that our Ministers and public officials get away with breaking the law. Any such insinuation impugns the integrity of Parliament which passes these laws, judges who apply the laws and the AG who enforces these laws.  This is entirely unfair…the Government has vigorously defended the integrity of our judges when Opposition politicians in courting foreign support had cast aspersions on it…
               Therefore, Sir, let no one doubt that the NCMP is making a serious but absurd and baseless charge by tabling this motion.   And one can only conclude that by doing this, the NCMP is really craving for publicity…
 
  Assoc.  Prof. Chin Tet Yung:      Sir, the Rule of Law is a fundamental constitutional doctrine.  I believe it is deeply valued in Singapore.  In fact, more than that, I believe it is internalised in the culture of the public service… we all know that the penchant for Singapore civil servants to follow rules and principles is well known, not just in Singapore, but overseas.   There are jokes about Singapore civil servants following rules.  The more popular one has to do with  two Singapore  civil servants being marooned on a  desert  island with a pretty lady and they did not know what to do except to put  a  message  in  a  bottle and  float  back  for  further instructions.  This is the sort of picture that we have of the Singapore civil service.  It…emphasises the fact that the culture of the Rule of Law is deeply rooted in the public service.
          …looking at the original motion filed by the Non- Constituency MP and listening to all the speakers  that  have come before me, there are two main flaws in the motion as  it stands  and  this would detract from its acceptability.   The first  is  actually  in  the  first  limb  "That  this  House recognises the Rule of Law .".  I think the word "recognises" sets the standard too low.  We not only recognise it, it is part of our legal culture, we internalise it, we value it. It  follows  from what I said about the first limb  that  the phrase  used  in  the  second limb is also  wrong,  that  the Ministers, officials and public servants should be  urged  to obey  the Rule of Law.  We have heard the many ways in which the Government has not only observed the Rule of Law but has gone out of its way to promote and internalise it among all civil servants.   In other words, this is not the time to urge.  This is the time to commend…
     Sir, I beg to move an amendment to the motion standing in the name of the Non-Constituency MP.       To delete all the words immediately after "That this House" and substitute with the following words:
 
1.      values the importance of the Rule of Law; and  
 
2.      commends the Government for upholding the  Rule  of Law and ensuring that it is fully observed by all."
 
     Mr. Low Thia Khiang:  Mr Speaker, Sir, I am no lawyer. After listening to the lectures, I wonder whether what we are talking and complaining about is the Rule of Law or something which concerns fairness.  I have three instances, one of which Mr Chiam has raised about speeches.  On the surface of it, advisors to grassroots organisations can speak freely because they are under grassroots organisations.  Whereas elected Members of Parliament like us also have committees which deal with grassroots activities but they are not recognised as part of a grassroots organisation, hence the differences between grassroots organisations and events organised by political parties.  The policy is such that for events organised by political parties a licence to speak will not be granted. Whereas for grassroots organisations, I believe they do not even need to apply for a licence.  In both instances, yes, one is a policy and the other is a provision under the law.  The question is whether it is applied fairly because all advisors to grassroots organisations are allowed to speak.  We are not grassroots organisations.  So the question is:  is this fair?
     The other instance is an old issue which was debated in Parliament and that concerns the use of HDB premises, for instance, the PCF's use as kindergartens.  I remember the rules for granting such premises concessionary rental, that is, you have to register it as a charitable organisation with a paid-up capital of $5 million.  So the Opposition cannot fulfil the requirement and thereby under the rule you are not qualified… It is under the law, yes.  But my question is: is this fair?
     The other instance is pasar malam.  In the past, my committees were allowed to organise pasar malam but suddenly the rule was changed. Right now, only grassroots organisations or town councils are allowed to organise  pasar malams. So there is this change of rule, whether policy or whatever, that disadvantages the Opposition and it concerns the Rule of Law.  I leave it to the people in the legal profession to judge.
     Then, of course, there is this question of what sort of licences are issued.  There are people who are worried about whether or not licences are being granted with certain consideration.   Many a time the Government departments who grant licences say, "Well, we will consider on a case-by-case basis." What is case-by-case basis? I do not think there is a very clear administrative ruling, in terms of granting licences and other things.  The transparency is not good enough…
 
      Mr. Jeyaretnam:… having more than a two-thirds majority, the Constitution can be amended  at any time. That is why it is absolutely essential in any democratic society that the ruling party should never have more than a two-thirds majority if it wants to have a stable democratic government. Otherwise, it becomes a tyranny, a tyranny by the party which controls Parliament and, of course, we know the situation in Singapore.
     From 1966 to 1981, it was an entirely PAP Parliament. There was no one from any other party in Parliament.  So it was a one party passing laws - yes, strictly following the Constitution, the procedure - but ignoring the fundamental rules of natural justice and saying that they are abiding by the Rule of Law when they passed a Bill, that it has been passed in accordance with the Constitution.  That is not compliance with the Rule of Law as the Privy Council tried to point out.  After 1981, Parliament continued with a majority of PAP members.  And this is the great drawback in Singapore and the one on which the PAP has capitalized…they go to any length to keep out any Opposition building up in Singapore.  That in itself, to me, is a flagrant violation of the Rule of Law. I will illustrate what I mean by just making reference to the way the elections were conducted.
      Elections in Singapore are all one-sided. The field is not an even playing field…in many countries, particularly in the Commonwealth countries, that elections are the responsibility of an independent body, that is, the Elections Commission.  Do we have an Elections Commission in Singapore?  The Opposition parties, I remember, asked for it in the 1970s.  Have we got an Elections Commission?  No.  The elections are run as though it was a matter for the Government, and Government alone.  It is run on the decree of the Prime Minister in whose Ministry the Elections Department is put.
     So, where is the Rule of Law there to ensure equality to all parties to contest the elections?  Straightaway, you have a fundamental breach of the Rule of Law.  When you, on your own, decide to re-draw boundaries just because an Opposition has gained a foothold in one constituency, you decide that you will bring it in, put it with other constituencies, ad nauseam change boundaries to ensure that the Opposition is kept out of Parliament.  So, that is a glaring instance of a violation of the Rule of Law.  And then when it comes to the actual conduct of the elections, I am surprised that no attempt is made to try to answer what I have said in my speech.  I mentioned about the conduct of the Government Ministers during an election campaign. Have Members here forgotten how the Government won the constituency of Cheng San?   The Parliamentary Elections Act has a provision which says that any elections won by intimidation or bribery of voters is illegal and can be set aside on an election petition.
     What took place on 1st January 1997?  The Prime Minister came to Cheng San, held a rally and he had only about 2,000 people in front of him and what did he say?  Did he say, "You vote for the PAP, we are a better party, the Workers' Party cannot be trusted?" That is all in the rules.  What did he say to the voters? … It was next day headlined in the Straits Times…In the front page it said, "PM to voters  - all or nothing".  And he said, "You vote for the Workers' Party, you would not get anything.  Even what you have in the way of any benefits will be taken away from you.  But if you vote for us, you will have what you have got and you are going to get more. But if you vote for the Workers' Party, upgrading will cease, you may not get your MRT, trains will not stop here, you would not get your LRT…your children may not get good places in schools."  
     That was his threat, all or nothing.  We referred this matter for an opinion to a Queen's Counsel in London and he said it was clearly an intimidation and in breach of that section under the Parliamentary Elections Act.  PM told the voters that if they did not vote for the PAP, they were going to lose everything. But that is not all. On election day, when the law is that no one, other than the voters, the candidate and his agent, will be allowed into the polling centre, we had the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister driving in, shaking hands with voters queuing up to vote, and going beyond that into the area where they were casting their votes, watching over them.  That seemed to us to be a clear breach of the Parliamentary Elections Act which said that no one, other than the voters, the candidate and his agent will be allowed, besides of course the election officials and the police officers to keep the order.  If that is not a violation of the Rule of Law, what is it then?...Did the Cheng San voters have that freedom?  …what freedom of choice did the Cheng San voters have?  Let us be honest and ask this question. Here is the Prime Minister telling you, "I am going to withdraw everything from you."  What is more, he told them, "If you vote for us, you'll have a hot line to me.   You'll have a hot line to two Deputy Prime Ministers."  I have been telling some of the Cheng San voters, "Why do you not ring up the Prime Minister?  Ring him up and say, this is the hot line, Mr Prime Minister.  Will you listen to me?" and see what response you get. 
      The detention under the Internal Security Act is not answered simply by saying that we may need it.  It is justified. The question you have to answer is: does it or does it not violate the Rule of Law?  The rule, as I said, was propounded in the 13th century when the Barons said, "No one will be deprived of his liberty except by the lawful judgment of the court."  Is it or is it not a violation of the Rule of Law?  It is no good arguing that it is necessary because you want to keep Singapore safe. If you want to keep Singapore safe, then shoot all criminals. Then perhaps people may not take up to crime.  Have summary trials, summary justice, then Singapore will be absolutely safe…
 
      Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, I did not originally intend  to speak  but  having listened to this long and rambling  speech by  Mr Jeyaretnam, I think I should say a few words, lest  he gets  away with thinking that he is always right when  he  is always wrong.
    The first point made was that in a democracy the Government should not have more than two-thirds majority, otherwise it is not a democracy.  I do not know by whose definition it is for this particular term of democracy that the Government should not have more than a two-thirds majority… That is the wish of the people, not the wish of the PAP.
     From 1965 till 1981, when Mr Jeyaretnam first came to this House and made a big song and dance about it, those were the years when the PAP had total control of this House…Of course, he would say, "One party, and therefore oppressive and bad for the people."  But the records say otherwise.  Over those few years, despite the difficulties we faced…we have succeeded….because of the policies that we have formulated, the ways we have implemented them and the ways the people have supported them. They knew quite well in their hearts that this Government delivers whatever it promises.  While we had complete control in this House, we did not abuse it.  In fact, we have had some of our older colleagues play the role of the Opposition to counter, challenge and criticise our policies…to make sure we were not all of the same mind…
     In 1981, Mr. Jeyaretnam came to the House. What additional contribution did he make?...I think the record is there for people to see. In 1991, four Opposition MPs came to this House. I think the people had enough.  In one term, the people recognised some of them were just not competent enough to serve them and two of them are no longer in this House.  That is the kind of Opposition we have…
     ... At every election we say, "This is the People's Action Party wanting to serve you again.  This is what we will do for you if we are in charge." What is wrong with that?  It is the job of every political party to win the election…apart from the People's Action Party, none [of the other opposition parties have] any concrete programme to offer the people.  When the PAP said, "If you vote for us, this is what we will do.", Mr  Jeyaretnam says, "This is intimidation."  Is it?...  
     This is the reality of politics.  Every political party everywhere in the world has a political programme for the people.  When they are in charge, they implement them.  If they do their jobs well, they will be re-elected.  If they bluff the people and cannot deliver on their promises, they will be out very fast, like the SDP MPs …
     So the half-an-hour when I was… listening to him is a very painful exercise…because listening to him we hear the same thing over and over again…
     Does he mean that by having an Elections Commission it will do wonders to the Workers' Party?…Look at some other countries where they have Elections Commissions. What have they become in some of them?  In fact, I do not think the system has run very well in some of them, despite whatever systems they may have.  Our Election Department runs a small outfit. Every four or five years…we get the people in the civil service to support and help as Returning Officers, etc.  That is the kind of structure we have over the years and it has worked.  If he says that it is intimidation because we offer people a programme and that the Election Department is unfair because they are not in charge, there is one route for him…to take it to the courts on an Elections Petition.
      If he says he has a QC's opinion that what we did the last time was a violation of the law, then the right place to take it to is to the courts, apply to the Election Judge and take up a petition.  That is the way, if he really believes in the Rule of Law...
     Does the ISA violate the Rule of Law? … The Constitution itself says that Parliament may make any law that ensures national security.  If that is against the law, take it up in the courts, unless Mr Jeyaretnam says we cannot trust our courts.  Is he saying that?  If so, say so…Do not mumbo-jumbo and say all kinds of things and not get to the point…  
 
       Mr  Jeyaretnam: …Is it or is it not intimidation for the Prime Minister of the country to come and tell voters that if they vote for the Opposition party, his Government will deny them everything? …I told him that a Queen's Counsel is of the view that it is intimidation.  Will he answer that question?…
 
     Mr Wong Kan Seng:  Sir, again he says the PM has intimidated the voters. The PM says, "These are my programmes. If you vote for me, this is what you get.   If you vote for the Opposition, this is what you will not get from me." I think that is fair. Why?  Because it is our programme, you vote for me, I give you my programme. If you vote for the Opposition programme, and if I still give you my programme, then I must be stupid!  Cannot be, is it not? If we are stupid, we would not be here…
 
      Mr. Low Thia Khiang: …  Is the Minister saying that whatever Opposition has, because we are not in charge of the Government, even if we can bring up whatever programme, it will be useless?  And the PAP is capitalising itself on its position as the Government to say that because it is in charge, it will give the people everything that this Government has. But where does the money of the Government come from?  The people.If you do not vote for me, I will not give you, whether it is the programme of the PAP as a party or the programme of the Government.  Are you saying that the Secretary-General of PAP can go to the voters and say, "Well, I am the Secretary-General. I can give you."? I wonder whether a person, who becomes the Prime Minister of a country, should behave as though he is the Secretary-General of the ruling party.  Is he looking after the interests of the Party or looking after the interests of the nation?
 
      Mr. Wong Kan Seng:  Sir, I think these are fine points that we are debating.  If the PAP is in charge, we are the Government.  Over the last 40 years, we have been the Government.  Whatever that were accumulated is a result of this Government's policies, and that is a fact and a reality. So when we make a promise and say, "Well, you elect us, we will do this for you, we will carry out our programme."  And for the last 9 or 10 terms, this is what we have been doing. That is a reality… 
 
      Mr. Chiam See Tong:   I would like to cite some of the examples where Rule of Law is not observed in my constituency.  Sir, some of the Members here may think that that is trivial…the battle for each seat here in Parliament is fought at the constituency, on the ground level. So it is important. Prof. Chin also said that if you are not happy, you can always go for a judicial review.  But how do you go for a judicial review when a Minister makes a decision not to allow the MP even to plant a tree there?  Yes, it happened to me. At that time, one of the members of the public felt that he should present me with a tree because my MP's office was about to be opened, in memory of that.  Like a good MP, I wrote to the HDB for permission to plant one tree and they said, "No. Very sorry. It is not included in the planting plan of the constituency.  You better write to the Parks and Trees Department."   So we wrote.  The Parks and Trees Department replied that the earth there was not suitable for this kind of tree. When I read that, I went ahead and planted the tree.  So the tree was planted. On that night, somebody came and pulled it out and put it in front of my office.  Of course, we planted it back in a pot, just to be safe, but not on the ground.  How do we go for a judicial review to get permission to have the right to plant a tree? …
     Then we have this problem of pasar malams.  Pasar malams of course earn for the people who organise it.  Every time you organise it, you get something like $25,000.  The money can be useful for welfare work and promoting your interest at the constituency.  But suddenly the rules were changed and we were deprived of holding pasar malams.  They said, "You can have two pasar malams a year." But suddenly some grassroots organisations, I am not very clear, were given two years of quota of pasar malam.  Instead of one year once, they were given two years. In others words, we were straightaway deprived of two years… How do you take that for a judicial review?  So these are small problems which you may think are trivial.  But these add up to the popularity or status of the MP there.  If he can hold pasar malam or plant a tree, people go round and say,  "That is the tree planted by the Opposition."  Politically, it is probably not prudent for them to allow all this thing.  That is why they were taken off.
      Now, the battle of the notice boards.  The RCs have notice boards, so do our town councils.  We are supposed to put up only notices concerning the town council and the RCs are supposed to put up only notices concerning their activities. But if they turn political and put up reports of the Prime Minister and photograph of the prospective candidate there, advertising himself all the time, and a lot of political matters, what do I do?  Do I go and complain to the courts and say, "Look, this is only meant for RC matters and no political matters are to be put on the notice boards." Again, these are little problems.  In the end…what actually is needed is not Rule of Law, but what is fair to both sides.  I am not particularly worried that all these things are done because they are actually political matters and should be resolved by political means.
 
      Mr Jeyaretnam:  The Minister of State said in his speech… that all are subject to the same law…But he does not deal with the specific inequalities that we have shown that have happened in Singapore.  I have mentioned the elections as an example and nothing has been said about that. I have mentioned about the purchases of the apartment.  This, I have said, came under the second limb about all persons being equal under the law.  All that the Minister of State can say is, "The Senior Minister and the DPM came to Parliament to explain the purchases."  We have the Prevention of Corruption Act.  We have section 8 in that Act which says that where any public official gets any benefit, advantage, favour from anyone who has any dealing with the Government, then he will be deemed to have got that benefit or favour corruptly. And we had here Ministers, not only Ministers, Judge and other public officers getting this benefit. The matter was not referred to the CPIB for investigation. But what was done was for the Prime Minister to take it into his hands and to appoint another Minister and somebody else outside to look into it. Where is the equality between the Ministers and anybody outside the Government?  In their case, it would have been referred immediately to the CPIB for investigation…   
      Then he says, "Police do not take decisions from Ministers."  May I tell the Minister of State and this House that in a proceeding in a court when I was charged along with the then Chairman for speaking without a permit, and we claimed trial and the licensing officer was called to give evidence for the prosecution, in answer to my question, he said, "Yes, I have been appointed under the Act to consider every application and to make the decision."   But he said that there was a ruling that if any application is made by an Opposition political party, that application should be referred to the Ministry first.  Of course, we had known that because previously, prior to that case, every time I rang him up he said, "Well, I am afraid that I do not know the decision yet.  You have to wait. I will let you know when I get the decision." Well, that was giving himself away. So, there  was  an admission in court  that  applications  from Opposition political parties  were  being  treated  differently from applications  by other organisations or individuals…a clear breach of the Rule of Law that all persons are equal and no one is above the law.
      … The Rule of Law does not talk about how judicial decisions are to be made...     That is built up under the common law and there are rules of court.  But what the Rule of Law says is that the executive cannot deprive anyone of his liberty or his goods without a specific law and observing in executing that law, the rules of natural justice. It is no answer to say we have the Rule of Law because we have the courts. We are not talking about the same thing. The Rule of Law is outside the courts.  It is for the executive, for the Government, to abide by.  It is for the man-in-the-street, the public, to abide by…  
 
      Assoc.  Prof. Ho Peng Kee:…  First, I think I have to put on record that when I said that the Minister does not direct the Police what to do, it is not in relation to matters, all and sundry, but it is in relation to applications under the Public Entertainments Act when political parties are concerned. In other words, when an Opposition party applies for a PEL, the licensing officer will have to exercise his professional judgment as he is required to do under the Public Entertainments Act.  He does not seek the approval of the Minister.
 
     Mr Jeyaretnam:  That was not what that officer said.
 
     Assoc. Prof. Ho Peng Kee:  I am telling him the practice as we do it now.  The other point is Mr Low Thia Khiang's comment about fairness. What is important is that if we have rules, for example, like setting up a community foundation, it is open to everybody to do it, not just PAP but Opposition parties. If you are unable to do it because of financial constraints, you should not say that there is no Rule of Law.
 
Motion amended and adopted:
 
     That this House (i) values the importance of the Rule of Law; and (ii) commends the Government for upholding the Rule of Law and ensuring that it is fully observed by all.