I will consider whether to call a by-election for Punggol East: PM Lee

Exterior of the Workers' Party Headquarters in Syed Alwi Road. The Workers' Party has called for a by-election to be held in Punggol East SMC "as soon as possible". (Yahoo! file photo)

[UPDATE at 9:40 pm - adding PM Lee's statement on possible by-election in Punggol East]

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday evening he would "carefully consider" whether and when to call a by-election in Punggol East following the resignation of the constituency's elected representative.

"Mr Palmer has just resigned today. My first priority is to ensure that the residents of Punggol East continue to be well taken care of," he said.

Lee, who is also secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party, pointed out that they are focused on several national issues and preparing for the Budget next year.

"The Constitution does not require me to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe," he noted, adding an assurance that he would make his decision "based on what is best for the constituents of Punggol East and the country".

WP on Palmer, Punggol East

The opposition Workers' Party is batting for a by-election in the single member constituency.

"In order that the residents of Punggol East SMC are properly represented, the Workers' Party urges the Prime Minister to call a by-election in the constituency as soon as possible," said the WP in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

The WP added that it was ready to contest the by-election and offer the voters of Punggol East "a choice".

Michael Palmer earlier in the day resigned from the PAP over an extra-marital affair with a member of the People's Association staff working at the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck has taken over Palmer's MP role while Charles Chong has taken over the role of Acting Speaker of Parliament until Parliament reconvenes.

At the last general election in May 2011, Palmer defeated WP candidate, Lee Li Lian, by 54.5 percent to 41 percent of votes. A third candidate, Singapore Democratic Alliance's Desmond Lim received 4.4 percent of votes.

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang said he was "very surprised" to hear about former  Palmer's resignation from the party and from Parliament.

Speaking to reporters ahead of his weekly Meet-the-People Session on Wednesday, Low said Palmer was a "well-balanced" Speaker of parliament, who managed parliamentary affairs "very well and very efficiently".

"He's well-balanced, giving both front and backbenchers sufficient time to debate," he said. "He has also given members of the opposition sufficient time to engage the front bench so personally, I quite like him as a Speaker... it's unfortunate that he has resigned."

Declining to share opinions on the ruling People's Action Party (PAP)'s handling of the matter, Low said he was not privy to party inside information or on the events that transpired leading up to Palmer's resignation.

Asked about his views on the numerous critical comments aimed at the WP in light of the scandal resulting in the dismissal of former Hougang MP Yaw Shin Leong earlier this year, however, Low said his conscience remains clear in their handling of the episode.

"I hope that those people who have been critical of the Workers' Party -- the media as well -- I hope they display fairness and integrity in their comments, and sincerity in what they have said during the episode of Yaw Shin Leong," he said.

"We have done our part and my conscience remains clear. Other than that, it's always unpleasant to learn of such things happening, whether it's the opposition or PAP. We hope to have a good public service."

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