Bid to block Govt loan to IMF: Reform Party chief loses appeal

The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court's dismissal of an opposition politician's bid to stop the State from giving a US$4 billion (S$5 billion) loan to the International Monetary Fund.

Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam was also ordered to pay legal costs, in the apex court's grounds of decision released last Thursday.

In the 38-page document, Justice Chao Hick Tin, who heard the appeal with Justices Andrew Phang and Quentin Loh, wrote that they agreed with the High Court judge's interpretation of a clause in the Constitution that the case hinged upon.

Mr Jeyaretnam had argued that the loan - announced in April last year - was made without the approval of Parliament or the President and hence contravened Article 144 of the Constitution.

This states that "no guarantee or loan shall be given or raised by the Government except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs".

Mr Jeyaretnam tried to block the loan through a judicial review but in October last year, Justice Tan Lee Meng ruled that the Government did not need such approval to give a loan.

Justice Chao wrote that it was "abundantly clear" that Parliament intended Article 144 to refer only to the giving of guarantees and raising of loans, and not the giving of loans.

During appeal proceedings, Mr Jeyaretnam also brought up a new argument - that the loan could be considered a "contingent liability".

This would then require the President's assent.

He appeared to argue, among other things, that the alleged risk of the loan must make it a liability, Justice Chao wrote.

This argument was rejected.

Mr Jeyaretnam was "clutching at any argument in order to bring the matter within Article 144", such as calling the loan an "implied guarantee" by the Government, the judge added.

The appeals court also found that he did not have the standing to challenge Article 144, as he did not have any public or private rights to protect.

He had also failed to show that the Government had in any way breached its duties under the article, it added.

Last night, Mr Jeyaretnam posted on his Facebook page that his concern is about due process.

He said: "The substantive issue is that if we are to be a democracy there should be robust systems of checks and balances and controls over our government giving away our money.

"My aim was never to stop the IMF from having the loan commitment at all but to have it only after proper and due process."

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