After accusations of adultery escalated into a media frenzy and public relations disaster, the Worker’s Party – the only opposition party to have been voted into Parliament in Singapore – expelled Yaw Shin Leong. The move triggered a by-election in the Single Member Constituency (SMC) of Hougang, which has been the stronghold of the Worker’s Party for over 20 years.
As the elections commission falls under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office, it is up to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to set the date for by-elections. However, PM Lee said that there was no fixed time within which the election had to be held.
The Prime Minister’s comments prompted criticism from many Singaporeans who felt that it was unfair for Hougang residents to be left unrepresented in Parliament.
On March 2, 2012, Hougang resident Vellama Marie Muthu filed an application in court to decide if the Prime Minister has the discretion on when to call a by-election, or if he has the power to decide not to call one at all. She said that she had been seeking help from Yaw as her Member of Parliament before suddenly finding herself without an elected representative.
The case was heard in the High Court on March 30, 2012 and judgement was reserved.
It has already been more than a month since Yaw was expelled from his party. Although the residents of Hougang are currently being covered by the members of Parliament of Aljunied (the other constituency that the Worker’s Party won in the 2011 General Election), the fact still remains that Hougang is unrepresented as a constituency during Parliament sessions, and that the residents do not have their own Member of Parliament to approach during Meet The People Sessions.
I don’t know whether the Constitution allows the Prime Minister the discretion to decide when a by-election should be held (or if it should be held at all), and I don’t know what the High Court judgement will be. But if Singapore is really a democracy, it seems extremely unfair to leave a whole constituency unrepresented when national issues are being discussed in Parliament.
The people of Hougang are Singaporeans too, and they have a right to have an elected representative in Parliament to be their voice.