No Cooling-Off day for voting on Contempt of Court Bill

By Teo Soh Lung

Minister of Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam was in a hurry. He must get his Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill passed on Monday evening even though it meant inconveniencing 81 Members of Parliament (MPs) till well past 9 pm.

What is the urgency? I don’t know. I had thought the new law was meant to curb reporting of Amos Yee’s trial which starts on Wednesday morning. Amos Yee, the 17-year-old kid will be defending himself against a team of prosecutors.

But the bill has not become law for we have no information that President Tony Tan had assented to the bill.

Straits Times on Tuesday, reported that 19 MPs spoke. Nine Workers’ Party MPs and NCMPs (Non-Constituency MPs) spoke and voted against the Bill. Bravo and thank you Workers’ Party!

Four NMPs (Nominated MPs) also spoke. They politely sought clarification of certain clauses of the bill and ultimately voted for the Bill. Three of the four NMPs were entrusted with the presentation of a petition containing 249 signatures seeking an extension of time to consider the bill and the convening of a select committee.

However, the NMPs retracted their proposed amendments just before the division was taken for the second reading of the bill.

So why did the minister compel 81 MPs to work overtime on Monday night? Why couldn’t the debate be adjourned? Is the People’s Action Party (PAP) worried that NMPs will vote against the bill after considering the speeches of the opposition?

If the PAP believes that a cooling off day is necessary for elections because people need time to reflect about who they should vote , why didn’t the minister adjourn Monday’s debate so as to allow more time for the NMPs to consider such an important piece of legislation?

Finally, I understand the Whip was not lifted yesterday. If this is true, it is really a sad day for Singapore. A bill with far reaching effect for the people of Singapore was passed without a free vote.

Note: This post was originally published on Function 8’s Facebook page and reproduced with edits to reflect that the amendments were not rejected by the Law Minister but was retracted by the NMPs themselves.