Vivian Balakrishnan apologises to Leong Mun Wai after ‘illiterate’ comment went viral

(SCREENCAP: Vivian Balakrishnan/Facebook)
(SCREENCAP: Vivian Balakrishnan/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday evening (15 September) said he had apologised to Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai for his "private comments to a colleague" in Parliament the day before.

"I called Mr Leong Mun Wai today to apologise for my private comments to a colleague in Parliament yesterday. I disagree with him on the issue, but I should not have said what I said," wrote Dr Balakrishnan in a Facebook post.

He added that Leong has accepted his apology for the comments, but did not specify what he said during the parliamentary sitting.

In response to media queries from Yahoo News Singapore, Leong confirmed that he had received and accepted Dr Balakrishnan's apology over "what was said on a hot mike".

Leong said, "Let’s put our time to better use for Singapore and Singaporeans. Though I am also curious to know who are the other persons who were involved in the conversation and the reason why they held the institution (Raffles Institution) that I attended in contempt."

Dr Balakrishnan's apology comes hours after Tuesday's 13.5-hour debate on the motion tabled by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on securing Singaporeans’ jobs and livelihood, and a separate motion by Leong and fellow PSP NCMP Hazel Poa on foreign talent policy.

A portion of the marathon session, streamed live on YouTube, had gone viral due to disparaging comments about an individual's educational background that were made on the sideline and caught on a hot mic.

During the 9:47:56 mark of the stream, a male voice can be heard saying, "He is illiterate." At the 9:49:17 mark, a male voice asks, "How did he get into RI (Raffles Institution)?"

A separate remark about a “lousy school" can also be heard. Another voice is also heard saying, "I'm from Monk's Hill."

The remarks were made around the time when Manpower Minister Tan See Leng sat down after he addressed questions by Leong on the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

In the background of the clip, the mic at the podium where Dr Tan spoke is glowing red, indicating that it has not been switched off.

According to a 2013 interview published in The Peak, the manpower minister studied at Monk’s Hill primary and secondary schools.

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