The heated exchange between Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law and Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Leong Mun Wai, lasted for over an hour on Wednesday, with the two throwing questions against each other, at points where they were essentially speaking over each other.
The debate stemmed from a Facebook post made by Mr Leong, which criticized the disclosure by Mr Teo Chee Hean of the police investigation against Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern and Mr Shanmugam’s remarks that the couple had “absconded.”
Mr Shanmugam had made the comments in response to a parliamentary question filed by Mr Leong and Workers’ Party MP Mr Leon Perera on why the couple was named but not the people investigated in the Keppel Marine & Offshore (KOM) corruption case.
In his ministerial statement, Mr Shanmugam questioned Mr Leong’s posting of the Facebook post, made after the parliament sitting on Monday, saying that he had repeatedly breached parliamentary procedures.
He cited three examples and accused Mr Leong of violating Section 31(g) of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, which prohibits the publication of any statement that “falsely or scandalously” defames a member of the House.
Mr Shanmugam asked Mr Leong to delete his Facebook post, accept that he had misrepresented his position, and apologize.
He also asked Mr Leong to either substantiate or withdraw a statement he made in Parliament on Monday that the people involved in the Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) corruption case were “actually guilty.”
Mr Leong objected to Mr Shanmugam’s questioning and refused to withdraw his statements.
He said that he was not going to answer Mr Shanmugam like he was in court and that he had his own way of answering.
“I am not going to answer the minister like answering in court. This is a legislative chamber, this is not a legal chamber. I have my way of answering,” said Mr Leong.
In justifying the use of the term, “abscond”, Mr Shanmugam explained the sequence of events surrounding the couple’s departure from Singapore, saying that the police had asked the couple to assist with investigations but they did not attend the interview and had left Singapore by that time.
The Minister also pointed out that Mr Lee Hsien Yang had used the term “fugitive” on himself and that Mr Lee had told the media that he would not be returning to Singapore.
Mr Shanmugam accused Mr Leong of refusing to withdraw statements that he claimed were defamatory and said that he would consider what the next steps ought to be.
The Minister also found fault with Mr Leong’s Facebook post that said he was trying to “muddy the waters” by raising the Parti Liyani case.
Mr Leong wrote in his Facebook post that “bringing up the Parti Liyani case is just another attempt to muddy the waters. So let us concentrate on the difference between the LHY (Lee Hsien Yang) and KOM (Keppel Offshore & Marine) cases”.
Mr Shanmugam denied the accusation and asked Mr Leong to withdraw the statement, but Mr Leong refused to do so. The debate ended with Mr Shanmugam accusing Mr Leong of casting aspersions on him and stating that the issue might be considered further.
Mr Leong apologised to the Speaker after telling the Speaker not to ask him questions that the Minister had not. Ms Indranee Rajah, the Leader of the House, had stepped in before that to warn Members of Parliament to conduct themselves in a parliamentary manner.
According to Channel News Asia, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said that no complaint had been made against any Member in relation to alleged breaches of parliamentary privilege as of Wednesday.