Asking Chiam to step down? Only voters should decide

Last Sunday, the Sunday Times published a report about Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong, “Recovering from stroke but Chiam is sharp and lucid”. By mainstream media standards, this was a relatively positive article about an opposition politician who has served his constituents well for over 20 years.

Today, a letter in response to that article was published, titled “Chiam See Tong should call it a day”. In it, the writer wrote:

History is awash with leaders who do not know when to quit, and I hope Mr Chiam will not go this way.

This also raises the question of whether there is any parliamentary rule to retire an MP who has suffered a stroke.

The issue is not whether an MP wants to carry on working. That is for Parliament to decide.

It is not for Parliament to decide whether or not an elected MP should be forced to retire against his will, if he has committed no crime. Articles 45 and 46 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore lay out the grounds for disqualifications and tenure of MPs. Among the grounds for disqualification are:

  • Being of unsound mind;
  • Becoming bankrupt;
  • Being sentenced to prison for over 1 year, or fined more than $2,000;
  • Taking up citizenship in another country;
  • Resigning or being expelled from his political party;
  • Being absent from Parliament sittings for 2 consecutive months;

Article 44 states the qualifications of MPs, among which are:

  • He is able, with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of Parliament, to speak and, unless incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause, to read and write at least one of the following languages, that is to say, English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil;

This is the only point that could make him unqualified to stand for election at the next election. However, the Constitution does not state in Article 46 (Tenure of office of MPs) that persons who do not meet the qualifications set out in Article 44 cannot continue to serve as MPs in their current term.

In any case, Mr Chiam has demonstrated in Parliament during the Budget and Committee of Supply debate that he is able to speak, albeit rather slowly and painfully. Even if he is unable to speak due to his stroke, being able to read and write will still qualify him to run for office in future.

If he chooses to run for office again, the voters of the constituency he contests — not Parliament — should be the ones who decide his political fate.

I fail to understand what the objective of the writer’s letter is. Is it to demonstrate his sympathy for an elderly gentleman, or to have one of the three opposition MPs in Parliament removed? I don’t think Mr Chiam needs any sympathy from the writer. He has chosen to continue serving his constituents to the best of his abilities. No one is forcing him to continue serving while ill.

Regardless of one’s political affiliations, I think Chiam See Tong deserves to be greatly honoured for his years of unwaivering service to the residents of Potong Pasir, and his contributions to the cause of a responsible and respected opposition in Singapore.

(Photo from Blue Skies Communications: Chiam See Tong walks in to a standing ovation by over 1,120 guests at the ACS Founders’ Day dinner in March 2008. Click here to read my comment about ACS’ guest-of-honour invitation to Mr Chiam.)

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

20 thoughts on “Asking Chiam to step down? Only voters should decide”

  1. Er… Can Seng Han Thong be disqualified from Parliament since he would be “absent from Parliament sittings for 2 consecutive months”?

  2. Gee… what a moronic sttement by the ST writer! Who gave them such powers to DECIDE if:
    1. An MP should be replaced, or
    2. The freetime given by the 5-day week should be spent making babies, or
    3. Invest Towncouncil funds in risky investments without accountability and transparency, etc

    Gee… for the matter, it should be the people who decide if they want another by-election to replace the MP who died in the GRC.

    I can’t say it enough: These jokers should stop playing god.


  3. For the matter, I think LKY should also quit and focus on how the EBD and A*star biomedical research can clone him, or transplant his mind into a younger body.

    Some LEEders don’t know how to quit.


  4. “History is awash with leaders who do not know when to quit, and I hope Mr Chiam will not go this way.”

    Gee, this could easilee apply to someone else that you and I know of.

  5. Ask the person who cling to power for half century to quit first before asking Chiam to do so.

  6. ST would always publish letters of this sort when the opposition is concerned. I am sure some have written in the past asking the grand old man to step down and retire.Was any
    ever got published?

  7. Just another attempt by The S*** Times to discredit oppositions parties!!!

    (Please avoid using swear words. Thanks. – Gerald)

  8. I will respect and support Mr Chiam’s decision to carrying serving his constituents and for the cause of the opposition in Singapore as long as he himself thinks he is able to do so, irrespective of illness or not.

    It was the electorate of Poton Pasir who have elected him to serve them. Therefore, the decision is his to decide. It is none of any third party’s business to interfere in his political career.

    If our “Elected” President Nathan and MM Lee, with so many illnesses in their bodies, can still be allowed to carry on to serve at an age even much older than that of Mr Chiam, why can’t Mr Chiam continue to serve if he wishes to?

    So, 3rd party, please shut up! It is none of your f**king business.

  9. Another PAP’s b***s carrier, and the s*** time playing the intercourse game. Why only opp MP, there are more old senile, sickly ministers and doggy MPs in the parliament who shld retire long time ago. U know who lah.

    (Edited for swear words – Gerald)

  10. There are people say,
    MP Chiam See Tong too old and sick to serve for his constituency.
    This MP for Potong Pasir is being voted by the voters at his constituency.
    He get more than 55% of vote.

    There are Minister but not a single vote they get.
    Old and sick.

    So what is the diffrence?

  11. I honestly think the letter could have been specifically intended as a back-handed pun at Encik Harry. The Mainstream Media would have jumped on the letter without thinking the implications through and now that it has been published – the inferences are there for everyone to think about.

    If Mr Chiam is too old for parliament, so are other octogenarians, isn’t it…

  12. Thanks Gerald for your good word, as well as everyone else that left a comment.

    I sent a simple reply to the ST forum yesterday. Pls see below.

    Dear Editor,

    I refer to today’s letter by Mr Chan Mai Lee, “Chiam See Tong should call it a day”.

    Contrary to Mr Chan Mai Lee’s views, Mr Chiam is still very capable of performing his duties as MP of Potong Pasir.

    We have a committed SPP team to give him administrative support for the Meet-the-People session. Mr Chiam has instructed the MPS team to personally following up on every single resident that has applied for financial assistance from Southeast CDC.

    The town council team, under the Chairmanship of Mr Chiam, is managing Potong Pasir very well. Its cleaniness and services are on par with PAP town councils. We are currently undergoing repairs and redecoration in all flats in Toa Payoh Lor 8, and we are also replacing lifts at the Potong Pasir district.

    In Parliament, although it was reported that Mr Chiam’s speeches were not audible and slow, he prepared many cuts including the Lowering of Tertiary Transport Costs, CNG Cars, as well as suggested the Government to provide financial support for Caregivers. These speeches can be downloaded in the SPP website.

    Mr Chiam has also been active in the community. In the recently organised Chinese New year Lunch for residents, Mr Chiam was there to spend time with residents and give out Ang Paos as well. 3 weeks earlier, Mr Chiam together with the SPP team greeted residents from Toa Payoh Lor 8 Market on the eve of Chinese New Year.

    Mr Chiam is supported by a team of capable people. We owe it to the voters of Potong Pasir to continue to serve them well.

    Thank you.

    Wilfred Leung
    MP’s Desk, Office of Chiam See Tong
    Town Councillor, Potong Pasir Town Council

  13. Sgcynic – It’s ok to be absent with the Speaker’s approval. Presumably Seng Han Thong got approval from the Speaker on medical grounds, so he shouldn’t be disqualified from Parliament.

    Wilfred – Thanks for your highlighting what Mr Chiam and his team are doing in Potong Pasir. I’m sure residents greatly appreciate all your good work. Pls let me know if ST does not publish your letter. I will make sure it is published on my blog and TOC.

    All – Thanks for your comments. I share your frustration, but let’s keep our language clean and avoid attacking other senior citizens not involved in this case.

  14. Dear Mr. Chiam CT

    Any unit available in your town? Preferably 4 rooms flat. Sure vote you, that’s the whole idea of moving there. Like many others, we would like to vote PAP out. But our areas always walk-over.

    Worst still after the election, walk all over our faces. Please help to keep a look out. I know it will be hard because most Singaporean like that place very much and most importantly avoid being labelled as PAP supporter.

    Sincerely yours
    Mr. Hate PAP

  15. Hi Gerald,
    I think that age should not be a factor for Mr Chiam See Tong when it comes to serving. We already have other PAP MPs who are also rather aged, and they have not been prompted to retire in any way. There should be no ostentatious different standards used towards a politician’s serving period, regardless of his or her party affiliations. As for the ST writer’s remarks, I doubt that they represent the sentiments of the ground per se. Mr Chiam See Tong has been prompted to continue serving by the residents of Potong Pasir who voted him in, and I am sure he is more than able to serve as long as he can.

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