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HomesingaporeSpeaker Seah Kian Peng dismisses Leong Mun Wai's complaint against Murali over...

Speaker Seah Kian Peng dismisses Leong Mun Wai's complaint against Murali over 'rent control' remark

SINGAPORE: Speaker of Parliament Seah Kian Peng ruled on Monday (Sep 19) that MP Murali Pillai did not “impute any improper motives” to Progress Singapore Party secretary-general Leong Mun Wai. 

During the debate on Aug 3 in the second reading of the Lease Agreements for Retail Premises Bill, Mr Murali (PAP-Bukit Batok) said that Mr Leong had “advocated some form of rent control”.

This led to the Non-Constituency MP filing a complaint against Mr Murali, which Mr Seah dismissed, saying there was no misleading impression created and, hence, no breach of parliamentary privilege.

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In his complaint, Mr Leong referenced Standing Order 50 and alleged that Mr Murali’s statement had imputed improper motives to him, as he had not made any such statement.

Section 6 of Standing Order 50 provides that no member shall impute improper motives to any other member, Mr Seah noted.  

“The words ‘improper motives’ imply something illegal, dishonest or morally wrong. I have perused the relevant speeches recorded in Hansard, and I find that the rent control statement does not suggest or impute any improper motive on the part of Mr Leong,” he continued. 

Rent control is a legitimate policy tool that can be implemented by the government, said Mr Seah. 

During the debate, there were exchanges between Mr Leong and Mr Murali in which they had explained and clarified the context of their speeches, he noted. 

“Both Mr Leong and Mr Murali had differing views of what each meant when they referred to rent control. But that is the nature of parliamentary exchanges and debates,” said Mr Seah. 

Sometimes, MPs may have irreconcilable opinions, and they should agree to disagree, he added. 

Mr Leong raised his hand to speak after Mr Seah. The Speaker stressed that his decision on any complaint was final and not open to any appeals, but said he would make an exception and invited Mr Leong to make his clarification. 

Mr Leong then asked if he could direct his question to Mr Murali, and Mr Seah replied that he was not reopening the debate. 

“Can I clarify that you also agree that rent control was never said by me?” Mr Leong asked Mr Seah. 

The Speaker did not address Mr Leong’s question directly. He said: “As I have stated, I am not reopening the debate. I’ve set out the context of the matter, and I’ve made my decision on the complaint that you have registered. I will not repeat myself. If you’re asking me for my personal decision, that is my personal decision.” 

Watch:

Seah Kian Peng on Leong Mun Wai’s complaint against Murali Pillai on rent control statement

COMPLAINT AGAINST VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN

Mr Leong had also filed a second complaint – against Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan over a comment caught on a hot mic on Sep 14, 2021. 

This took place during a 10-hour parliamentary debate on foreign labour, jobs and livelihoods, as well as free trade agreements. 

In a video of the debate, which was livestreamed on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Communications and Information, a voice can be heard saying “he’s illiterate” after Manpower Minister Tan See Leng replied to a question from Mr Leong.

A voice is heard a few minutes later: “Seriously, how did he get into RI (Raffles Institution)? Must have been a lousy school.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr Leong attended Raffles Institution in the 1970s. It is widely acknowledged to be one of Singapore’s top schools. At the time, clips of the comments were widely shared on social media.

The next day, Dr Balakrishnan said he had called Mr Leong to apologise for his “private comments to a colleague” in parliament. 

“I disagree with him on the issue, but I should not have said what I said,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Mr Leong has accepted my apology.”

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COMPLAINT “OUT OF TIME”

On Monday, Mr Seah noted that Mr Leong filed the complaint two years after the event, calling for Dr Balakrishnan to formally withdraw his remarks and put his apology on record in parliament. 

A copy of Mr Leong’s complaint was shared with Dr Balakrishnan, who in turn responded in a letter on Sep 5, said Mr Seah. 

“In my opinion, the complaint is out of time, by reason of the long passage of time. It was not made at the earliest opportunity as required under Standing Order 100 (7c), after the member had noticed the alleged remark,” he added. 

There is no formal action for the Speaker to take in his complaint, given that the matter had been concluded with Dr Balakrishnan’s apology and Mr Leong’s acceptance of the apology, said Mr Seah. 

In his Sep 5 letter, Dr Balakrishnan accepted that his private remarks were inappropriate and that he stands by his previous apology. His letter will be published in Hansard and kept on parliamentary record, said Mr Seah. 

The Speaker then reminded MPs of decorum and conduct befitting of parliament, stressing that breaches would be dealt with by him or referred to a Committee of Privileges. 

“Besides the use of unparliamentary language, members should not persistently and wilfully obstruct the business of parliament and abuse the rules of parliament, for example, by making frequent interruptions or disregarding the authority of the chair,” said Mr Seah. 

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