A landmark victory in Singapore’s history of Constitutional Challenges
July 6, 2013, 3:25 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Hougang By-Election 2012, Singapore

“Article 49 of the Constitution states that when a seat falls vacant it shall be filled by election. In an SMC, a seat falls vacant when the MP vacates his office, for example when he is expelled from his political party, resigns his seat, or passes away. The timing of the by-election is at the discretion of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is not obliged to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe.”

– Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore (March 2012)


“[Article] 49 does not give the Prime Minister an unfettered discretion in the calling of an election to fill a casual vacancy of an elected MP. He must do so within a reasonable time and in that regard, the Prime Minister is entitled to take into account all relevant circumstances and only in clear cases can there be judicial intervention.”

“If a vacancy is left unfulfilled for an unnecessarily prolonged period that would raise a serious risk of disenfranchising the residents of that constituency. There is thus a need to balance the rights of the voters in a Parliamentary system of government and the discretion vested in the Prime Minister to decide when to call for a by-election to fill a vacancy.”

– Singapore’s Court of Appeal (5 July 2012)


Mr M Ravi and Madam Vellama Photo by: publichouse.sg

Mr M Ravi and Madam Vellama
Photo by: publichouse.sg

For the first time in Singapore’s history of Constitutional challenges, a ruling made by the High Court in favour of the State has been overturned. It also puts on record that the Constitution does not grant the Prime Minister the full discretion on whether a by-election should be called. Thank you M Ravi, your legal team and Madam Vellama for being persistent in pursuing the challenge til the very end.

Personally, I was elated when I heard the news. It hasn’t been a smooth-sailing journey but they made it. This is certainly a great day to remember!



The ‘Hougang spirit’ lives on
May 27, 2012, 3:44 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Hougang By-Election 2012, Singapore

I arrived at Block 322, Hougang Avenue 5 just after the result of the by-election was announced. Although I had missed Yam Ah Mee’s announcement which I was looking forward to watching, I was not disappointed. The atmosphere in the air was overwhelmingly joyous. Without hearing the announcement, I knew instantly that the Workers’ Party’s candidate Png Eng Huat had won the by-election.

Jubilance was in the air as the large crowd comprising of both the young and old waved flags bearing the logo of the Workers’ Party, shouting “Huat ah!”, chanting the name of the party and vehicles passing by sounded their horns in solidarity. People were everywhere – at the coffeeshop under the block, in front of the Chinese medical hall next to the coffeeshop, at the field in front of the coffeeshop, lined along both sides of the road, at the field in front of the blocks of flat across the coffeeshop, and along the corridors of the blocks of flats in the area. It was a huge party which occurred randomly without a sole organiser, without an entertainment license and without any restrain of emotions. In short and viewing it in a socio-political context, this was the biggest and most successful ‘illegal’ gathering I have seen in Singapore.

The police arrived in numbers to maintain order, which was in fact unnecessary but the blinking LED lights they were wearing on their uniforms helped to add on to the already carnival like atmosphere. I also recognised some officers in plainclothes among the crowd, standing out like sore thumbs with their sullen expressions, body language and the not so subtle exchange of glances whenever something exciting was happening. Nevertheless, their presence did not dampen the mood. In fact to many people, they did not really exist at all.

What was really powerful about this was the way random people came together to celebrate and express their support as one, regardless of age, gender, race, language, religion  or whether they were residents of Hougang or other parts of Singapore. Children refused to leave, saying “WP hasn’t come yet!” or “Huat ah hasn’t arrived yet!”. People were chanting the name of the party and random cries of “Huat ah!” filled the air. Among the random crowd, neighbours, friends and strangers stood together, chitchatting and talking about the good work of the Workers’ Party, sharing their views on why they did not vote for Desmond Choo. Placards made by supporters were displayed for all to read. Commuters travelling in the buses passing by waved to the crowd and took pictures or videos using their phones. To add to the party, music filled the air thanks to this middle age man, a regular at the rallies with his drum and trumpet. Drivers driving past also rolled down their windows, shouting “Huat ah!”, waving the party flag and horning to the rhythm of “Workers’ Party! Workers’ Party!”. It was a lively crowd, a lively celebration. Interestingly, it also signified people’s power.

It was an honour to have witnessed the night first hand. It was touching to note that despite the PAP’s attempts to sanitise the Singaporean society in their favour by preaching self-censorship (someone was heard shouting “PAP kayu!”), discouraging political expression (the messages written on the placards for example), frowning on people gathering for a discourse or politically motivated event (it was for WP and opposition solidarity that sparked the gathering), nobody really cared about that last night. I saw the Hougang spirit live in action and, stripped of all the fireworks and military display or performers in glittery costumes one can see in our National Day Parade every year, it was a real celebration of citizenry.

Yes it was overwhelming, and I went home with memories I can truly smile about.

The ‘Hougang spirit’ lives on, and may the flame spread to other parts of Singapore too.

“Always here for you” – the right campaign slogan for a PAP candidate?
May 25, 2012, 2:24 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Hougang By-Election 2012, Singapore

“Always here for you” – this slogan has been uttered ad nauseum in the Hougang by-election campaigns of both the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Workers’ Party (WP), although for different purposes, as well as in the mainstream media and online media. This is actually the campaign slogan of PAP’s candidate, Desmond Choo.

Ironically, PAP has not always been there for Hougang SMC or any of the opposition wards in the past. In April 2011, Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong openly mentioned that constituencies under PAP are favoured for estate upgrading programmes in his reply to a fourth year NUS student’s query on why residents in Hougang SMC are penalised for supporting the opposition. Mr Lee said “The answer is that there has to be a distinction. Because the PAP wards supported the Government and the policies which delivered these good things.”

Residents in Hougang SMC and other opposition wards are Singaporeans who, like any others living in PAP wards, pay taxes. By not supporting the PAP, residents in opposition wards like Hougang SMC have been punished through such favouritism which in my view, is terribly wrong and narrow-minded of a political party that claims to take care of the needs of Singaporeans. As a result, Low Thia Khiang and his team has to dig into their own funds to make estate upgrading and other improvements within the constituency happen. Did any of the grassroots advisers appointed by PAP to work the ground in opposition wards ever voice out such an unfair party policy? Not that I know of, not including Desmond Choo, who has been the grassroots adviser of Hougang SMC since the last GE.

So does this effectively reflect PAP candidate Desmond Choo’s campaign slogan “Always here for you”?

Perhaps it should read “Always here for you, as long as you vote for me” instead.

(By the way, I feel sorry for Desmond Choo. The goody-two-shoes-and-a-wee-bit-naïve candidate surrounded by critical veteran politicians who have been too loud for him to control image has contradicted his repeated utterance of “I am my own man”. It is so not working.)

They attended in support, despite the lack of goodie bags and free transport
May 23, 2012, 2:18 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Hougang By-Election 2012, Singapore

Photo credit: Lawrence Chong

It started out as a slight drizzle and all of a sudden, it began to rain furiously as Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party Low Thia Khiang began his speech. Many from the crowd used this opportunity to open up their blue umbrellas with the party logo, some sharing with people standing next to them while the rest without umbrellas began to move away from the field. For a moment I thought they were going home but instead, they went for shelter under the void deck of the nearby block. Some even walked up the stairs and filled up the corridors of that particular block. There were also a handful who preferred to take shelter under the merchandise tent.

A genuine sense of support was in the air and it was pretty overwhelming. These attendees went on their own accord, by their own means of transportation and were not given free dinner nor goodie bags. But they stayed and they cheered til the end of the by-election rally (22 May, Tues), regardless of gender and age.

PAP, you’ve lost Hougang. And I hope I am right.

Workers’ Party 2nd by-election rally
May 22, 2012, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Events, Hougang By-Election 2012, Singapore

Details for The Workers’ Party’s 2nd by-election rally.

Details are as follow:

Date: 22 May 2012, Tuesday

Time: 7 pm

Location: Open Field in front of Blk 837, bounded by Hougang Ave 4 and Hougang Central

Spread the word everybody!

Workers’ Party Rally @Hougang this Saturday
May 18, 2012, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Events, Hougang By-Election 2012, Singapore

The Workers’ Party will be holding their first by-election rally this coming Saturday evening.

Details are as follow:

Date: 19 May 2012, Saturday

Time: 7 pm

Location: Open Field in front of Blk 837, bounded by Hougang Ave 4 and Hougang Central

Spread the word everybody!