In explaining the amendments made to the motion proposed by The Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Sylvia Lim on the Singapore criminal justice system, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah said that the opposition MPs in the House did not take the opportunity to debate the amendments.
In a Facebook post on Saturday (7 Nov), Ms Indranee explained that the amendments were moved in order to more accurately reflect the actual debate in the House, establish common ground with the opposition, and call for bipartisan support.
She was addressing the issue of the amendments made to the motion which WP MP Leon Perera had highlighted in a Facebook post of his own a day after the motion was debated and passed in Parliament.
Mr Perera had shown a picture of the amendments proposed by Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai. He said, “The Workers’ Party’s original motion called for an external review to consider changes to address gaps and shortcomings in the current justice system, particularly as relates to access to justice for all. Have a look at how the amendment changed the meaning and sense of that motion.”
In Ms Indranee’s post, she asked if the PAP really did cancel out the WP motion or did something else happen, before launching into an explanation of how the amendments came to be – by going through the four main aspects of the motions.
She noted that as the debate progressed, “… it became clear that there was bipartisan consensus that our system is not broken, has served Singapore well, and is improving. But as with any system, it can be further improved.”
After explaining at length the reasoning for all five amendments, Ms Indranee asserted that none of the opposition MPs spoke on the proposed amendments after the Speaker invited them to do so.
“Even after the motion was amended, as it was not clear if Ms Sylvia Lim had wanted to speak on the amendment, I held back delivering my speech and requested Mr Speaker to first clarify with Ms Lim if she had wanted to speak on the amendment. Ms Lim stated that she only wanted to speak to close the debate,” she said.
Ms Indranee then explained that the opposition voted against the second amendment which “affirms the government’s continuous efforts since independence to build a fair and just society”; third amendment which “affirms the governments continuous efforts to remedy any shortcomings”; and the fifth amendment which “removes the call for a review of the justice system”.
She went on to say that they did not object on the first amendment to replace “affirm” with “recognises”, as well as the fourth amendment which changes “enhance justice for all regardless of means and social status” to “enhance justice for all regardless of race, language, religion and economic means”.
Amendments brought up at the very last minute; no point in WP debating it given PAP majority
However, what Ms Indranee failed to capture in her post is how the opposition MPs were essentially ambushed with the amendment as it was presented at about 11pm – which is towards the end of the debate. Mr Murali was one of the last people to speak during the debate.
Not only that, the documents detailing the amendments that Mr Murali proposed were only handed out at the last minute by Parliament officials when he stood up to give his speech and informed the Parliament that he is filing the amendments.
The WP MPs and Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) were visibly surprised by the proposed amendments. Even some PAP MPs appeared to be caught off guard.
After all, there were no indications whatsoever by any PAP MPs earlier that any amendments would or even should be made to the motion.
Now, given that the PAP has a supermajority of seats in Parliament and that the proposed amendments seemed to have the blessing of the party in general, it is not unreasonable to argue that there would be no point for WP MPs and PSP NCMPs to argue against the amendments past midnight.
Even if WP MPs voiced their objections on the amendments, they would have passed either way, given the overwhelming presence of PAP MPs.