Workers’ Party’s (WP) Yee Jenn Jong took to Facebook on Thursday (1 October) to describe the meaning of Adjournment Motion, where he explained that a Member of Parliament (MP) is given up to 20 minutes to speak while a political office bearer is given up to 10 minutes to reply.
Mr Yee, who contested in the recent general election as a part of the Marine Parade group representation constituency (GRC) team, added that only one adjournment motion can take place at each Parliament sitting, and it has to happen only at the end of the sitting.
“There will be no debate at the end of it. The two will speak for up to the allocated 20 and 10 minutes respectively,” Mr Yee noted.
In the post, Mr Yee, who was a former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, also recalled when he called for an adjournment motion back in 2012.
“When I was in the 12th parliament (2011 – 2015), I was the first to file an adjournment motion for that term, it was for 10 Sep 2012, 11 months after parliament had convened. Yup, not a single MP use this mechanism for 11 months,” Mr Yee said.
He added, “Thereafter, several MPs also used adjournment motion to speak on topics they wanted to call attention to. Perhaps there were a rare few times with more than one wanting to use the adjournment motion mechanism, but I do not recall ever having 5 at one time. Could be a new record”.
Mr Yee’s comments come after five MPs, including WP’s Sylvia Lim, filed for adjournment motions in the next sitting in Parliament on 5 October.
However, a ballot was taken and PAP’s Louis Ng won and will be allowed to speak.
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin explained on his Facebook page that there were four other MPs who have filed an Adjournment Motion for the next sitting together with Ms Lim. As only one Adjournment Motion can be filed per sitting, a ballot was taken. PAP MP Louis Ng was chosen to speak.
Mr Tan said, “I had to draw from 5 possible Adjournment Motions for the next sitting in Parliament… When chosen, these will take place at the end of the day with up to 20 minutes allocated to the MP and 10 for the Minister to respond. Those that aren’t chosen can be resubmitted for the next ballot for the next sitting.”
Extent that Mr Yee went to file an adjournment motion
In the post, Mr Yee also detailed the process in which he filed for the adjournment motion in 2012. He explained that he waited to the eleventh hour to file his intention as he did not want to risk going into a ballot if he submitted his request too early.
“For the adjournment motion I had filed, I went to Parliament House and waited at the library until 4.25 pm to email the Clerk of Parliament of my intention to file. Then I went to the Clerk’s office just below the library to hand in my printed request.
“4.30 pm is the cut off time for filing and it must be filed I think 3 working days before the sitting. I filed on the final day allowed for filing, a few minutes before cut off. I did so because I did not want to risk having to go for a ballot if I submitted my request too early and others start filing,” he stated.
He explained that this was because he needed to fly off on 10 September 2012 as a representative of Singapore’s Parliament for an ASEAN parliamentarian gathering.
In fact, Mr Yee even delayed his flight for a day so that he would not risk his adjournment motion not being selected if there was a ballot. Unfortunately, he had to travel and skipped the sitting on 11 September that year.
“Sometimes, the topic to be raised is time sensitive and any delay would render it meaningless to be debated that way. Sometimes, some topics can wait,” he pointed out.
If that’s not all, Mr Yee also asserted that he is sure that the Mr Ng’s statement on the topic will be well debated on. For those who are not aware, Mr Ng will be speaking about protection against secondhand smoke in houses.
“There is a limitation though when asking a Minister questions, on how long you can have to present your case. Technically, it should not be to make a speech in response to a Minister’s statement but to ask questions for clarifications,” the WP member said.
He also highlighted that he once tried to “make a case or make a proposal when asking questions”, but the Speaker interrupted him and told him to get straight to his question.
“So a proper speech such as through an adjournment motion or a motion is better to lay out the points,” Mr Yee concluded.