I didn't mean to impugn Speaker, apologise 'sincerely and unreservedly': Leong Mun Wai

SCREENGRAB: Gov.sg YouTube channel
SCREENGRAB: Gov.sg YouTube channel

UPDATE: Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai has apologised for his Facebook posts and comments about Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin.

SINGAPORE — Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai "sincerely and unreservedly" apologised on Tuesday (8 March) for his Facebook posts and comments that impugned Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin.

"I acknowledge that I did not set out all the facts in my post and thus gave a misleading impression," said Leong, who was speaking in Parliament at the end of the day's Committee of Supply (COS) debate.

"It was not my intent to impugn the Speaker or the parliamentary processes. But in my social media post, I was trying to highlight that some amount of discretion and flexibility with the Standing Orders will go a long way in enhancing our discussion in this House."

Leong's Facebook posts were taken down at 5.30pm on Tuesday. In response to Deputy Leader of the House Zaqy Mohamad's query, the NCMP confirmed that he would also issue an apology on Facebook.

Earlier in the sitting, Zaqy told the House that Leong's Facebook posts and comments had "impugned" Tan and the Progress Singapore Party NCMP must apologise for his "dishonourable" conduct. The Deputy Leader gave Leong till the end of Tuesday's sitting to issue a formal apology and "do the proper thing" by removing his posts.

"I know that the Member is not in chambers. We will formally notify him of this statement and my request to ensure that it is brought to his notice. Thereafter, Parliament can decide whether and if so what further steps may be necessary, depending on how Mr Leong responds to my request."

Zaqy, who is also Senior Minister of State of State for Manpower and Defence, took issue with Leong's Facebook posts on Monday that the Speaker had used the debate cut-off time "as an excuse" to prevent him from speaking during the Manpower Ministry's Committee of Supply (COS) debate.

The NCMP from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) also wrote that Tan's actions were "completely ridiculous". Leong claimed it deprived him of the opportunity to respond to Manpower Minister Tan See Leng's comments last Friday that his request for certain employment data was a "red herring" despite his repeated requests to speak.

While acknowledging that the cut-off time for debate is decided by the Speaker before each sitting, Leong claimed that there is "flexibility" because Parliament's COS debates are ahead of schedule this year. He also posted a video of his exchange with Tan with the caption,"This is how Speaker prevents a Member from speaking."

In response, Zaqy noted that Leong had claimed the Speaker deliberately did not call him for "improper reasons". Leong's claim was a breach of the Parliament Privileges Immunities and Powers Act, Zaqy said.

"Mr Leong's posts and his video have impugned the Speaker and the processes of Parliament and have misrepresented how the COS proceedings for MOM ended yesterday."

Guillotine time for debate

On Monday, in response to Leong's posts, Tan reminded the House that the guillotine, or cut-off, times for each ministry's debate are published in the daily working paper for the COS.

While a period of 30 and a half minutes was allocated for the MOM debate, Tan allowed MPs to seek clarifications for 48 minutes. In total, five government and five opposition MPs did so, including Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and Sengkang MP Jamus Lim. The Speaker noted that Leong was not the only MP who did not have a chance to speak.

On Tuesday, Tan repeated his clarification at the Deputy Leader's request. "I do wish to emphasise that under the Standing Order 92(7)(a), the Chair is under the duty to end the debate when the guillotine time for the ministry is reached. As the chair of the Committee of Supply, I will continue to ensure that the proceedings in the COS is undertaken in a fair and orderly manner."

Elaborating on the apology that he expected from the NCMP, Zaqy said that Leong must "sincerely and unreservedly apologise to the Speaker and this House", acknowledge that he had given a "misleading impression" and also "withdraw what (he) said...and undertake not to repeat such words and actions again."

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