Despite having being warned about not to raise questions about the Malay Presidency, professors and academics expressed defiance and bombarded government ministers with questions on the coming Malay Presidential Election at a public held at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) on Friday (Sep 8).
Nationallaw adjunct professor Dr Kevin Tan challenged Minister Chan Chun Sing saying that the government’s power to decide a person’s race is unconstitutional:
“So, a person who has an Indian father and a Malay mother is more Malay than a whole-hearted Malay who happens to be a Christian?… That the decisions of the Community Committee— which also assesses minority candidates under the Group Representation Constituency system in General Elections — are final, is also a problem. That is probably unconstitutional… The basic fundamental principle about the separation of powers is that if the court has to interpret the constitution, no branch of the Government can tell the court what to do.”
Dr Norshahril Saat, a fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, criticised the government as elitist:
“With the Community Committees made up of prominent individuals, the Government has devised an “elite-driven mechanism.”
Singapore Management University’s law don Eugene Tan said the government’s move to label all Muslims as Malay is also unconstitutional and that a non-Muslim Malay may sue the government:
“If the Community Committee requires the candidate to be a practising Muslim to consider him or her Malay, that poses a lot of problems, simply because it infringes a person’s right to religious freedom. That opens another potential can of worms, because if a Christian Malay is not given a certificate of eligibility, I think that person can take this case to the courts.”
The discussions and debates on Malay Presidency is however banned in Parliament and the court. Last month, the Singapore Court refused to decide who is the “first elected president”, claiming that the Lee Hsien Loong-controlled Parliament has full rights to decide. The Parliament however banned the question raised by Opposition MP Sylvia Lim through a “ballot”. A total of 96 questions will be posed by 82 PAP MPs in the Parliament session opening today (Sep 11) but none of the question is about the Malay Presidency.