Case Summaries

Jeyaretnam Kenneth Andrew v Attorney-General

22 October 2012

Media Summary

Jeyaretnam Kenneth Andrew v Attorney-General [2012] SGHC 210
Originating Summons No. 657 of 2012

Decision of the High Court (delivered by Justice Tan Lee Meng)

1     This is an application for leave (or permission) to apply for prerogative orders under Order 53 of the Rules of Court against the Government of the Republic of Singapore (“the Government”) and/or the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) with respect to the contingent loan of US$4 billion (“the Loan”) offered by the MAS to the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”): at [1].

2     This application concerned interpretation of Article 144 of the Constitution. Article 144(1) of the Constitution provides as follows:

Restriction on loans, guarantees, etc.

144.—(1) No guarantee or loan shall be given or raised by the Government —

  1. except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs;
  2. under the authority of any law to which this paragraph applies unless the President concurs with the giving or raising of such guarantee or loan; or
  3. except under the authority of any other written law.

3     The two issues that arose for the High Court’s determination in the leave application were:

  1. Whether there was an arguable case, or a prima facie case of reasonable suspicion; and
  2. Whether the applicant had sufficient interest, or locus standi to bring the application: at [5].

4     On the first issue of an arguable case or a prima facie case of reasonable suspicion, the High Court held that as a matter of construction, the word “raise” must be matched to the word “loan”, and the word “give” must be matched to the word “guarantee”. Otherwise, there was no need to rearrange the order of the words “raised, incurred or given” when the order of the words “loan, debt or guarantee” were changed in the Explanatory Statement with respect to the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No 3) Bill 1990 (Bill 23 of 1990): at [16]. Also, when the word “debt” was deleted pursuant to the recommendation of the Select Committee, the verb “incurred” was correspondingly deleted: at [17].

5     The High Court then went through the legislative history of Art 144 and held that Art 144 must be viewed in the context of the Elected Presidency regime: at [18]. The 1990 White Paper states that the Government may not “raise loans”, “incur debts”, or “give guarantees”, although nothing in the White Paper prohibited the Government from “giving loans”: at [22]. The conclusion that Art 144 did not concern the giving of loans by the Government was reinforced by two other statutes referred to in Art 144(3), namely, the Financial Procedure Act (at [26]) and the Bretton Woods Agreements Act (at [28]).

6     Finally, the High Court held that the relevant principle of statutory interpretation for Art 144 is the principle of reddendo singula singulis, which states that “where a complex sentence has more than one subject, and more than one object, it may be the right construction to render each to each, by reading the provision distributively and applying each object to its appropriate subject”: at [30]. For these reasons, the High Court held that the
application did not raise an arguable case, or a prima facie case of reasonable suspicion: at [36].

7     Although the application for leave may have been dismissed for reasons given in relation to the first issue, the High Court went on to consider the second issue of locus standi (i.e. whether the applicant had a sufficient interest) for the sake of completeness. The High Court found that the applicant should be required to show that he had suffered special damage as a result of the public act being challenged and that he had a genuine private interest to protect or further: at [48]. As the applicant did not meet this requirement, the application may also be dismissed on the ground that he had no locus standi.

8     As a result, the High Court dismissed the leave application with costs.

This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court.