SINGAPORE — Leader of the House Indranee Rajah on Tuesday (11 January) accused Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai of attempting to "grandstand" as she reminded MPs to exercise their parliamentary privilege responsibly.
"We have seen that when you Mr Speaker, requested him (Leong) to provide those details, he prevaricated…and now we finally discover that the details cannot be forthcoming because he's referring to a Telegram chat where there are no details at all," said Rajah, who noted that MPs must be prepared to substantiate their points in the House.
Following Rajah's comments, Speaker Tan Chuan-jin repeatedly told Leong to "sit down" after the latter attempted to respond. 'I'm asking you whether the point is taken. If you have no response to that, you may sit down, thank you very much," said the Speaker.
VDS in schools?
The exchange came after Leong had asked to clarify his remarks in Parliament on Monday, when he claimed that, despite the government's assurances that it has no plans to introduce vaccination-differentiated measures in schools for now, some teachers had begun imposing such measures.
Leong then asked the government to clarify whether such practices are against government policy.
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing asked Leong for more details of the teachers and their schools, so that his ministry could follow up.
Leong replied, "The residents who have (given) feedback to me are on my WhatsApp messages. Can I refer to the messages and then I give a reply later?"
Screenshot from Telegram
On Tuesday, Leong clarified in Parliament that his remarks were based on a screenshot from a Telegram chat group called SG Concerned Parents, sent to him by a Facebook friend. "There's no mention of the school on the screenshot. But this is public information, on the public domain, SG Concerned Parents, a chat group with close to 6000 members. So, if the minister wants, they can contact the persons."
The Speaker's tone then became increasingly testy as he pressed the NCMP for details of the claims. "Mr Leong, I’m not going to repeat myself. You are here to clarify the source of the points that you made, not to repeat another speech," said Tan, even as Leong attempted to read out more of the messages sent to him.
When Leong asked for an opportunity to finish his remarks, Tan replied, "No, we’re asking you to substantiate. We’re giving you air time to substantiate what you said yesterday. So is that going to come up? Or are you going to repeat the screenshot?"
In response, Leong said, "I’m going to repeat the screenshot."
Numerous altercations in Parliament
Since becoming an NCMP in 2020, Leong, from the opposition Progress Singapore Party, has had numerous run-ins with ministers in Parliament.
Last September, the House spent almost 14 hours debating a motion filed by Leong, calling upon the government to “take urgent and concrete action" to address anxiety among Singaporeans on jobs and livelihoods caused by, among others, free trade agreements like the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
It culminated in Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan apologising to Leong after a hot mic caught him calling the NCMP "illiterate".
The latest incident comes after the issues of information source cited in the House and parliamentary privileges were brought up during the Raeesah Khan saga.
The parliamentary Committee of Privileges is currently investigating former Sengkang MP Raeesah Khan's lies in Parliament, after she admitted that she had fabricated her interactions with an alleged rape victim who was supposedly mistreated by the police. Raeesah later admitted that she had lifted the anecdote from a WhatsApp chat group for sexual assault survivors.
As Leader of the House, Rajah had filed a complaint over Raeesah's lies.
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