The Minister for National Development, Khaw Boon Wan, has declined to comment or respond to questions about the Hong Lim Park incident on 27 September.
“It is not appropriate to comment on the incident or to give a view on what could or could not have prevented such an incident,” Mr Khaw said in Parliament, responding to MPs Denise Phua and Zainal Sapari’s questions on the incident.
The two MPs had filed questions about the use of Hong Lim Park, and specifically on the incident where the Return My CPF protest had clashed with the YMCA charity event on the same day.
When Parliament sat on Monday, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob warned members that comments which fell foul of sub judice laws would not be allowed in the House, as the case was before the courts.
Six protesters of the “Return My CPF” group have been charged for various offences and their cases are yet to be heard.
On Sunday, in an urgent letter to the Speaker, the lawyer for the six, M Ravi, raised concerns about the questions and issues filed by the MPs for the minister’s response.
“It is fully appreciated that in a case of this nature involving a matter that is of obvious concern to the public in general and to Members of Parliament in particular it is to be expected that there will be questions asked and issues raised for discussion in Parliament,” said Mr Ravi in his letter to the Speaker.
As such, he called for Mdm Halimah’s discretion in this matter.
“It will no doubt be your view, very properly, that Members will not need to be reminded that they should not utter anything on the floor of the House which would affect the evaluation of the merits of proceedings which are imminent or before the courts, or influence the result of proceedings, in particular the likelihood of an acquittal.”
While he did not speak specifically of the incident of 27 September, Mr Khaw however did explain what the park was for.
“Like any other park in Singapore, Hong Lim Park is a shared space for all Singaporeans to use, and to conduct community events or other activities for the residents,” he said.
“Multiple events have been conducted on many past occasions by different groups at the same time at Hong Lim Park. There had been no untoward incident arising from this arrangement until the Sep 27 incident.”
In 2012, the Speaker of Parliament then, Michael Palmer, allowed the question by MP Christopher De Souza on the issue of whether Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong would call a by-election in Hougang SMC, even though the issue of whether the Prime Minister had “unfettered discretion” in deciding when to call such an election was before the courts at the time.
Mr Palmer had explained that he was allowing Mr De Souza’s question because he was “satisfied that it does not require an answer that ventures into legal issues raised by the court application nor does it impinge on the mutual respect and forbearance maintained between this House and the Judiciary.”
“I will, however, disallow any statement or supplementary question that will have the potential to concern matters that either impinge on the principle of mutual respect and forbearance mentioned or are sub judice and, following Standing Order 21(1)(h), will be ruled out of order,” he told the House then.
Responding to Monday’s development, Mr Ravi told The Online Citizen, “I’m gratified to know the positive outcome in Parliament in respect of my letter to Parliament yesterday to defer the discussion on the questions tabled by 2 MPs concerning Speakers Corner’s rules and the incident on 27 September 2014 .
“The decision of the Minister to refrain from Parliamentary discussion of matters that are before the Courts is within the discretion of Members. With respect it is entirely proper and fitting. Criminal proceedings are a source of immense anxiety for all concerned and it is right that the independence of the judicial process is respected.”