Entrenching the Right to Vote in Free and Fair Elections as a Fundamental Right

With Singapore GE2020 over and lapses relating to the election administration during this pandemic surfacing even as I write this, my legal cases over the years are highly relevant as they have sought to establish through various legal judgments where in Singapore law, the right to vote is fundamentally located?

I have sought to clarify on behalf of my clients – that the right to vote is a fundamental right and that it cannot be taken away from citizens of the Republic of Singapore. Once clarified and entrenched in the Constitution, it is essential that any electoral setting be conducted in a free and fair manner so that no one is denied that fundamental right.

To date, we have arrived at this position – that the right to vote is not a fundamental right in the constitution but rather, an implied constitutional right arising from the various provisions of the Constitution. The Court stated that, “the right to vote is best understood as a right that is found in the Constitution either as a matter of construing it in its entirety or as a matter of necessary implication in the light of the reference to elections.” They added that, “there is no essential controversy over the existence of the constitutional right to vote.”

My most recent challenge in Daniel De Costa Augustin v AG [2020] SGCA 60 was based on:

1) The argument that the 4 May 2020 Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Act allows for the derogation of the right to vote because it impinges on the ability of some electors to vote by virtue of their status under COVID-19 quarantine or stay home orders; and

2) The argument that for the over 200,000 Singaporean citizens living overseas there are no provisions for them to use postal voting. They can only vote from one of the ten overseas polling stations in Canberra, London, Washington, Tokyo, Beijing, New York, San Francisco, Dubai, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

3) The various restrictions on the opposition parties in terms of campaigning given the pandemic situation.
My client simply wanted a declaration that the right to vote and to right to free and fair elections are fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution and that a prohibitory order be granted against holding GE2020 at that point in time.

The Court in the end decided:

1) That they do not have the power to create the right to vote as a fundamental right from the constitution given that it is not expressly stated;

2) The right to vote is not an unenumerated right and that they reject the notion (as they did in Yong Vui Kong v Public Prosecutor[2015] 2 SLR 1129);

3) The argument that the right to vote was part of the basic structure of the Constitution and in that sense it is a “fundamental” right which cannot be abrogated by Parliament, is mistaken,

4) That it was incumbent on my client to demonstrate the specific aspects of the then pending elections that he contends are constitutionally impermissible; and

5) That my client had no standing to argue the case because he himself had not demonstrated that his personal interests were directly and practically affected.

The role of the courts lies in pronouncing the legality of government actions. On many occasions, it requires multiple and long legal journeys as points of law continue to be clarified.

Part of the work I do involves this journey of legal clarifications to establish that the right to vote is a fundamental right declared in the Constitution. It is only in this way that the right to vote comes with rights to free and fair elections. The silver-lining in the judgment is that the Court of Appeal has at least provided clarity that the right to vote by Singaporean is a Constitutional right.

As we know, unlike other countries, the Singapore Parliament has sat frequently to amend the Constitution. They did so to introduce provisions to allow the election of a President based on race. Maybe one day, they may actually write into the Constitution our fundamental right to vote in free and fair elections so that it is entrenched? Once there, we will no longer need to have these debates on whether it is fundamental, or constitutional.

The Daniel De Costa case was taken up by me on a pro bono basis because my client believes that fundamental rights must be entrenched as written Constitutional rights where a Constitution is written. The matter however does not end for my client. The High Court issued cost orders for SGD8,924.85 and the Court of Appeal issued cost orders for SGD15,418.30. The total cost orders amount to SGD24,343.15.

The Application to High Court was dismissed on the eve of nomination day and the High Court directed that De Costa pay SGD20,000 as Security of Costs payable to the government/AG by 10pm on the same day in order for him to Appeal. He only had a few hours and the time for appeal would lapse at 10pm and would lose an important public interest law application. He appealed to us and our law firm Carson Law Chambers gave an undertaking to the Government /Attorney- General to pay SGD 20,000 . A sum of 15,000 was ordered in the Court of Appeal when the appeal was dismissed in the morning of Nomination day . We have received a notice from the AG to pay the SGD15,000 plus disbursements on our firm’s undertaking as stated above and we are given till Tuesday ,21 July 2020 to make the payment.

De Costa has set up a Go Get Funding page to help raise these funds. He deserves the support of every Singaporean who equally feels that bring the case and points of argument to Court was the true and right thing to do.

To this end, De Costa asks for your continued support.

 

M Ravi

 

 

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9 Responses to “Entrenching the Right to Vote in Free and Fair Elections as a Fundamental Right”

  • GE2024.PAP.GUARANTEE.WIN.AGAIN:

    Dear Singaporeans,
    Please print my post or share it widely on social media. I had said here many times. Who benefit the most from lawless democracy and freedom without needing to take responsibility?.

    The fringe group like gay Ravi or the Hong Kong Black Shirt rioters who beat up people who disagree with them ? (Oxygen support it – beating up people who had different opinion)
    https://www.truth-hk.com/post/24-05-2020b

    ROC Taiwan is now being held hostage by the LGBT group.
    A weak government like the Democratic Progressive Party administration will give in to all sort of illogical nonsense demands just to buy votes.

    GE2024 we must give PAP a strong mandate and send these fringe group to ROC Taiwan.

    These fringe group can do anything they like in lawless democracy and freedom without needing to take responsibility ROC Taiwan

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Singaporeans must? be Cheaper, Better, Faster.
    Workers must accept wage sacrifices to keep businesses going.

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  • I don’t understand why Daniel is seeking a declaration on the obvious? You think any courts in Sinkaproe would dare say voting is not a fundamental rights of sillizens and is only a privilege or an aspiration meh?

    You think the gahment will dare say you not party members or we don’t like your face, you cannot vote meh?

    Like that gib the AGC 21 thousand dollars, worth it meh?

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  • oxygen:

    @ GE2024.PAP.GUARANTEE.WIN.AGAIN:

    NO NEED TO BROADCAST your joy here of another occasion of your back hole got poked again.

    We are not interested.

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  • xoxo:

    come next GE,if there is a strong oppo alliance,PAP guarantee to lose and becomes the opposite side.

    TH will have new CEO.
    GIC will have new boss.

    Some PAPpys will be charged under POFMA for lying to the people.

    KEE CHIU will eat hawker chye tow kway.
    Gracefool becomes jobless and jo teo too。
    Kim yong-gan flee to N Korea .

    So,we need CHANGE to make things better.

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  • REGIMECHNAGE is the solution:

    Singapore elections are NOT “free and far” because Singapore is NOT a real democracy with basic freedoms and a free press. This is a fact.

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  • Harder Truths:

    Not one of the Chosen Leeders has ever sone anything by themselves. Not one.
    Everyone has been given their position if they do exactly what they are told. They will never lose their golden rice bowl no matter what happens.

    This goes for the civil service – the biggest voters of the corrupt system.

    Look at the Unfilial One’s ward – how much more proof does anyone need $G people are Supremely Selfish and vote for themselves only?

    With such vast numbers of $G Minions who look for the most evil to serve, do not waste time thinking about change. The real change is already here. There is no escape from the world economic collapse or the 2+ million FT that will surely expand to take over and make this sand-dune their next trash bin. Already the different FT races have carved out their ‘stake’ in different parts of the island.

    It is clear the $G locals cannot survive the next two election – because the majority by then will be FT. Even those in pappy wards will have to surrender to the horde.

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  • Ravi, what lah you.....:

    From magnanimous Progress Singapore Party to little red dot….

    GD Star Rating
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  • Downward Spiral:

    GE 2024 they will go into the blackhole of Calcutta.

    GD Star Rating
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  • Realistically:

    @ M Ravi

    It might have helped if you had argued the case with reference to Clause 39 of the Magna Carta and that voting is compulsory in Singapore.

    GD Star Rating
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