Politician Leong Mun Wai apologizes after heated words during tense debate in parliament (Video)
Leong Mun Wai, a member of the opposition Progress Singapore Party and Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, has been at the center of a debate that has become increasingly tense over the last week.
Yesterday saw him engage in a constant back and forth debate lasting over an hour with Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam over Leong’s disagreements with the way the government handled high-profile cases.
The heated exchanges led to Leong withdrawing his own allegations and apologizing to Parliament Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, who is in charge of managing the discourse in Parliament.
Leong was called out repeatedly for having “unparliamentary” conduct – basically being disruptive in Parliament – after he took offence at Shanmugam for saying that Lee Hsien Yang, son of Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew, and wife Lee Suet Fern had “essentially absconded” from a probe into their allegedly lies about the judicial proceedings over their late father’s will.
On Monday, Leong had questioned why the couple was named and why their case was made public. He argued that the identities of those being investigated over the Keppel Offshore & Marine corruption case earlier this year were not similarly disclosed.
In January, Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau issued ‘stern warnings’ to former Keppel executives in lieu of prosecution due to ‘lack of evidence’.
The six individuals involved in the Keppel case are alleged to have paid bribes amounting up to US$55 million to win building contracts with Petrobras and Sete Brasil.
Leong also penned a Facebook post saying that absconding is a “criminal offence” and Shanmugam should have left it for the courts to decide.
“It is not for the minister to pre-judge on that score,” he wrote.
In response, Shanmugam yesterday called out Leong for “serious misrepresentations” and alleged that he has a “pattern” of breaching parliamentary procedure. The home minister then brought out the law books and quoted Section 31(g) of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act that says no one should publish any statement which “falsely or scandalously” defames a member of the House for his conduct or words in Parliament.
Leong remained defensive in Parliament yesterday, even after Parliament Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin asked him to answer questions directly.
Things got heated when Shanmugam asked Leong to withdraw his statement about the people involved in the Keppel case being guilty. The former argued that those involved were not found guilty overseas.
Because Leong said he was “prepared” to withdraw his statement, Tan tried to clarify with him that he had indeed withdrawn it.
This led to a snarky reply by Leong who said: “Speaker, if the minister didn’t ask me, I suggest you do not ask.”
Spectators reacted to this with gasps, shocked faces and at least one “wow”.
Tan then tried to put him in his place by saying: “Can I just remind you, as illustrated, I have been more than tolerant, more than accommodative, of you on various occasions when you speak up. Can I remind you that at the very least, let’s retain the decorum of this, whether you’re addressing myself or other members. Is that clear? You can sit down.”
Leong then “sincerely” apologized to Tan.
Also, at one point, Shanmugam asked Leong what “muddying the waters” (which he used in his Facebook rant) meant. That offended Leong, who clapped back by saying that the minister was “testing” whether he was from a “lousy school.”
To which Tan replied with: “[T]here is no allegation about what school you come from, I’m sure you’re from a very good school.”
Since 2020 when he became an NCMP, Leong is known for his antics in Parliament that have raised eyebrows among ministers, one of whom was Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, who was caught trash-talking and calling Leong “illiterate” on a hot mic last September.
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