Puthucheary says schools don’t invite MPs to speak but ex-MP Ho Peng Kee did speak at schools’ events

by Vincent Low

Schools should be free of partisan politics and they do not invite MPs or political parties to speak at school events, said Senior Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Monday (19 Feb).

He was responding to a question posed by WP NCMP Leon Perera. Mr Perera had asked if there are any rules by the MOE that prohibit schools from inviting MPs or nominated MPs from any party as speakers at school events. Mr Perera also asked if this included office-holders and ministers.

To this Puthucheary reiterated that schools should be kept free of partisan politics and added, “Schools cannot be used as platforms for partisan politics. Schools do not invite or accede to requests by any Member of Parliament or political party to speak at school events.”

Mr Perera followed the reply with another question asking if opposition MPs would be allowed to engage with students in the same way office holders and ministers do. He thinks that students should have access to both sides of the political debate, so that they can “develop into citizens who can exercise sound judgement in political questions”.

In his reply, Puthucheary reiterated that MPs speaking at school events in their political capacity was “not appropriate” and that schools are “to be kept free of partisan politics”.

Ex-MP Ho Peng Kee spoke at schools’ events many times

A quick check online has shown otherwise – that PAP MPs do get special invitations from schools to speak to students at various school events.

A good example is former PAP MP Ho Peng Kee. He entered politics in 1991 and retired in 2011. He was the MP for Sembawang GRC from 1991 to 2001, and then MP for Nee Soon East from 2001 to 2011.

He was the Vice Dean of NUS Law Faculty before becoming an MP in 1991. Two years later in 1993, he was promoted to become the Parliamentary Secretary for Law and in 1997, the Minister of State for Law. He later was further promoted to become the Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs in 2001. He stepped down from politics in 2011.

After stepping down, he wrote his memoir, ‘My Journey in Politics: Practical Lessons in Leadership’, which was published last year. In his book, he talked about his journey in Singapore politics from 1991 to 2011.

And this is where things get interesting. On page 18, he had a note acknowledging that he had given a speech to “exhort” the students at a school’s event on 20 Aug 1992, while he was still an MP:

He further revealed that he had, in fact, made similar speeches “at many of the schools I spoke at during those early years as MP”.

No doubt, those young students with tender mind must be quite impressed with then MP Ho Peng Kee and the political party he represented.