As quoted, emphasis added:
Originally Posted by ST 17/052 different views from 3 MPs in opposition;
Low Thia Khiang says new election rules generally positive but the two others say more hurdles in the way
NEW changes to election rules drew different responses from opposition MPs yesterday, with two saying they would result in further obstacles for the opposition, and a third saying he was not so pessimistic.
Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng yesterday announced a slew of measures designed to 'simplify' the procedures for candidates who want to stand for General Elections.
Among these was a new Section 29 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, which will require the candidate to present his proposer, seconder and at least four of his assentors in person at a nomination centre on Nomination Day.
Currently, just their signatures on the nomination papers would do.
Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong and Non-Constituency MP Steve Chia objected to this new requirement, arguing that it will deter Singaporeans from lending their names to support opposition candidates.
Fellow opposition MP Low Thia Khiang, however, was more sanguine. He thought the changes to the Act, which cover the nomination process, reporting of election expenses and other areas, were generally 'positive'.
As for the requirement for supporters to be physically present, Mr Low said: 'I think there are enough courageous Singaporean voters who will be prepared to go to a nomination centre with opposition candidates, though I understand there will be some hesitation, which is a fact.'
In a parliamentary democracy, exercising one's right is 'not the sole business' of opposition parties, he said pointedly. 'I think the voters play a part. So I would expect them to do their part. If they're not prepared to even go with us to the nomination centre, then you don't get to vote. I'm sorry.'
He did, however, question the need to 'inconvenience' volunteers to require them to be physically present on Nomination Day, which is not a public holiday.
The new requirement is not expected to make much difference to People's Action Party candidates, who usually bring their proposer and seconder along on Nomination Day, as revealed by Mr Wong yesterday.
In contrast, it will have an impact on the opposition, said Mr Chiam, accusing the Government of making a change that is 'purely political'.
He said: 'When an opposition party wishes to field a candidate in a constituency where there are no party members there, the party will have to look for non-party members to sign the nomination form.'
Those people may be 'total strangers' to the party, he added. 'Especially for a new or unknown candidate, he usually finds it difficult to persuade six strangers to sign his nomination form because in Singapore, even up till today, the element of fear still exists... People are afraid to be seen to be helping the opposition.'
Rising to address their comments, Mr Wong said that Mr Low displayed a 'sensible and mature approach'.
Dismissing the other two MPs' concerns, Mr Wong quipped: 'But if there are indeed difficulties in finding assentors who would turn up, please let me know, Mr Chia, and I will try to persuade my *** colleague... in that constituency... to find a supporter for him so that they will be present.
'So I don't see an obstacle in this one.'
The reason for the new requirement, said the minister, was to 'ensure that there is no fraud' where the candidate may forge an elector's signature.
Originally Posted by ST 19/05 - Leong Sze HianI REFER to the articles, 'Election process simplified' and '2 different views from 3 MPs in opposition' (ST, May 17).
The Home Affairs Minister said that the main concern of the amendment was to prevent fraud.
He told the House that a People's Action Party supporter had found his name on an opposition candidate's paper - and his signature forged on it - during one election, even though he had not given approval.
I am somewhat puzzled by this revelation, and would like to ask whether there was an investigation into this instance of election fraud.
Why is it that the perpetrators of this election fraud were not charged or taken to task?
As I understand that there has been no instance of election fraud in Singapore for the last 40 years, is it not pertinent for this incident to be disclosed earlier? Why are Singaporeans told only now?
As the fraud was allegedly committed by the opposition on a ruling-party supporter, the opposition members may be wondering why they were let off.
Why was the obvious not done, which is to gain political mileage in the election by exposing the opposition party concerned?
Originally Posted by ST 21/05 - Lee Seng Lup Head Elections DepartmentI REFER to Mr Leong Sze Hian's letter, 'Election fraud: Why wasn't action taken?' (ST, May 19).
What the Home Affairs Minister said in the House was that 'he had heard a story told by his colleague where in one election, one of the *** supporters turned up at the nomination centre and saw his name on the opposition candidate's list of assentors'. He was told of this story only recently.
The Elections Department is unaware of any occurrence of such fraud and did not receive any such complaint in past elections. If the incident had been reported to the Elections Department at the time when it was said to have taken place, we would have investigated the matter then.
There is no way we can verify the facts now as the nomination papers and all related documents have been destroyed, as required by law at the end of six months after every election.
The recent amendment to the Parliamentary Elections Act requiring the proposer, seconder and at least four assentors of every candidate or group of candidates to be present at the nomination for verification of their intent, will eliminate the possibility of such an election fraud occurring in future.
What I wonder is how the Elections Dept Head can speak for Mr Wong Kan Seng at paragraph 2....