By-elections for single vacancies in GRCs: Wong Souk Yee v Attorney-General [2019] SGCA 25

In Singapore, there are two types of electoral divisions – Single Member Constituencies (“SMCs”) and Group Representation Constituencies (“GRCs”). The number of seats in a GRC varies from 4 to 6 seats. The GRC scheme was introduced in 1988 with the goal of promoting greater minority representation. As such, each GRC must have at least one Member of Parliament (“MP”) from a minority racial group. In Wong Souk Yee v AG [2019] SGCA 25, the Court of Appeal (“CA”) addressed the question of whether a by-election for all the seats of the GRC is required when only one MP vacates his or her seat in the GRC. The CA held that a by-election is not required under such circumstances.

Updating and rectifying the Constitution: Wong Souk Yee v Attorney-General

The High Court in the recent matter of Wong Souk Yee v Attorney-General introduced techniques of statutory interpretation heretofore absent from Singapore constitutional law. In interpreting Article 49(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (“the Constitution”), Chua Lee Ming J (“Chua J”), faced with a seemingly conflicting provision in s 24(2A) of the Parliamentary Elections Act (“PEA”), had recourse to an updating construction and a rectifying construction of Article 49(1). This case note briefly analyses the judgment and explores some fundamental issues arising from employing these two methods of statutory interpretation on constitutional provisions.