SINGAPORE — The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), Leong Mun Wai, have made a public apology after the Leader of the House, Indranee Rajah, has insisted on an apology for a Facebook post made by the alternative political party.
The post which were made twice, is accused of containing misleading information that could “cast aspersions” on parliamentary proceedings and the Deputy Speaker, Christopher de Souza.
A letter was sent to the party and Mr Leong, demanding a public apology to be posted on PSP’s Facebook page and all other social media platforms.
The deadline for the apology was set at 10 pm on Thursday (6 Jul).
Failure to comply will result in the matter being referred to the Committee of Privilege.
Both Leong and the PSP have since issued an apology and removed the revised video by 10 pm.
In the public apology. It is acknowledged that the video created a misleading impression regarding the proceedings in Parliament on 3 July 2023, specifically concerning the Ministerial Statements on the Ridout Road matter.
However, the NCMP asserted that MPs should be entitled to express different views earlier during the Parliamentary sitting on Thursday.
“We should not be forced to present only the views that you want us to present. This is a democratic parliament, not a rubber stamp parliament, ” said Mr Leong.
Indranee demanded that PSP take down the video and tender an apology
On Wednesday (5 Jul) afternoon, the Leader of the House Indranee Rajah raised a point of order in Parliament over the Facebook post, criticised the video wrongly implying that the issues concerning the Ridout rentals could not be fully ventilated and asserted that the session in the video was not a debate but a platform for MPs to seek clarifications on delivered Ministerial Statements.
The post, uploaded by the opposition party the previous day, contained a video clip from Monday’s Parliamentary proceedings where NCMP Leong Mun Wai was making clarifications on ministerial statements regarding the Ridout Road rentals.
Ms Indranee, who also holds the position of Second Minister for Finance, Indranee demanded that PSP take down the video and tender an apology “in a form acceptable to Parliament” by Thursday (6 Jul).
The original video has been taken down and replaced with a new video on the Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) official Facebook page on Wednesday. Furthermore, the description of the post has been amended to provide additional context for the video.
In the amended post, it is mentioned that NCMP Leong Mun Wai was informed by the Deputy Speaker that Members were permitted to seek clarification but not engage in a debate regarding the Ministerial Statements concerning the Ridout Road incident.
The post even further clarified the short video is an excerpt taken from the full Parliamentary session and is “not to be taken as a representation of the entire discussion that took place in the House on 3 July 2023”, with a link to the full Parliamentary session on the day attached at the end of the post.
Indranee: Amended post still continues the misleading impression
However, during the Parliamentary sitting on Thursday (6 Jul), Ms. Indranee reiterated that despite the amendments made by PSP to the original post, it still conveyed a misleading impression and did not comply with the Parliamentary Privileges, Immunities, and Powers Act (PPIPA).
Ms Indranee insisted what still remains in the revised Facebook post, is the statement that Mr Leong was informed by the Deputy Speaker that members were allowed to seek clarification but not debate about the ministerial statement concerning the Ride out Road incident, and then stated the two PSP NCMPs was at the Parliament “to do whatever it takes to ensure that the voice of the people is heard.”
Ms. Indranee clarified that there are two distinct types of procedures under the Rules of Procedure. The first is a motion for full debate, which involves longer speeches, and the second is Ministerial Statement questions.
She explained that when it comes to ministerial statements, the general rule is that members can seek clarifications, which means they can ask questions. However, the differences between the two procedures may not be apparent to the general public.
Ms Indranee accused PSP’s video of intending to “cast aspersions” on parliamentary proceedings and Deputy Speaker.
“Therefore to suggest that a debate was not allowed without explaining the context, without clarifying that it was actually incorrect to call for a debate and to thereby suggest that when a that a debate is not allowed, creates a misleading or false impression that issues could not be ventilated.”
Ms Indranee said it also implies that Deputy Speaker Mr. Christopher D’souza intentionally shut down the questions by Mr. Leong and other Members.
Ms. Indranee further alleged that the party deliberately highlighted a specific section and quote without providing the context, knowing well that it could mislead the public. This action was intended to “cast aspersions” on parliamentary proceedings and the deputy Speaker.
“There’s only one reasonable conclusion, which is that it was intended to cast aspersions on the manner in which parliamentary proceedings were conducted and to suggest that the deputy speaker was not carrying out his duties neutrally or fairly or in a proper manner. ”
“We wish that it would not be necessary to try to Perpetrate a wrong impression of parliament just to advance one’s own party. ”
Ms. Indranee also mentioned that she has written to Mr. Leong formally requesting the removal of the revised posts and edited video from the PSP’s social media platforms.
She further requested an apology to be posted on PSP’s Facebook page and all other social media pages where the videos appear by 10:00 PM this evening. She also provided a suggested form of apology that would be deemed acceptable.
NCMP Leong: “We should not be forced to present only the view that you want to present”
In response, NCMP Leong emphasized that the party had never intended to impute or defame anyone, nor show contempt towards Parliament.
Regarding Ms. Indranee’s allegation that the PSP’s video created a misimpression, Mr. Leong stated that it could only be her own speculation.
“I think it’s also fair to say that, we cannot be perfectly sure how the viewers will view the video? “
Mr. Leong defended the notion that the shorter video did not create any new impressions compared to the longer version available on YouTube.
“So we should be entitled to a different view. The way we present some view as a form of expression. ”
“We should not be forced to present only the view that you want to present. ”
“This is a democratic parliament, not a rubber stamp parliament, ” Mr Leong asserted.
Nevertheless, Mr. Leong mentioned that the party would consider and determine an appropriate response.
However, Ms. Indranee insisted that “the matter really is not available for further negotiation”, reminding Mr. Leong of the deadline.
In response, Mr. Leong suggested that the party could publish an open letter expressing regret over the incident. However, he maintained the view that an apology should not be a requirement for the party.
During the exchange, Ms. Indranee stated that when a post is made, it is evidently intended to convey a message.
“in this case, a political party putting out a post and a video clearly has political objectives. Therefore, it also has a political narrative that will be measured by an objective standard. ”
Ms. Indranee cited the importance of parliamentary privileges and the conduct of Parliament as the reason for Leong and the PSP to issue an apology
Indranee emphasized the importance of parliamentary privileges and the conduct of Parliament, stating the need for both PSP and Leong to issue an apology.
She highlighted the significance of these rules in the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act 1962, questioning the purpose behind them.
“Why do we have the rules in the PPIPA (Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act 1962)? Why do we say that you should not falsely represent proceedings in Parliament?”
“Why do we say that you should not mislead the public about what happened in Parliament? Why do we say that you should not misrepresent or falsely defame the Speaker or another Member of Parliament? Why do you think those rules are there?”
“Those rules are there for a reason, and the reason is that for any democracy to function properly, it must function on the basis of a parliament that it can trust, and it must function on the basis that the MPs and their political parties will speak truthfully to people and give accurate representations of what happened in Parliament. ”
“Because that determines the kind of society we are and if you are a political party which has misrepresented what has happened in Parliament, which is a direct strike at the values that underpin this Parliament. ”
“And you (Mr Leong) should apologise, because it’s not the right thing to do, and that is the reason why we still require an apology, ” she told Mr Leong.
PSP and Leong issued an apology statement on Thursday 10pm
On Thursday (6 Jul) at 10 pm, both Leong and the PSP issued an apology for the video and post in question. They acknowledged that it created a misleading impression regarding the proceedings in Parliament on 3 July 2023, specifically concerning the Ministerial Statements on the Ridout Road matter.
The party acknowledged that there were going to be Ministerial Statements made on Monday on the Ridout Road matter, and that the MPs could ask for clarifications.
“We also acknowledge that our MPs could have further debated the matter, by filing a Motion, but did not do so. ”
“The Deputy Speaker, Mr Christopher De Souza, told Mr Leong Mun Wai that he would be given latitude and could ask all his questions, and Mr Leong did ask the questions he wanted to ask.”
PSP accepts that through the two videos, they have given the impression that no debate was allowed (even though it was we who did not file a Motion for debate). “We also accept that this is misleading”.
“Our two Videos are also misleading because they give the impression that Mr Leong was not given the time to ask the questions that he wanted to, when in fact he was given the time to ask all his questions, and he did ask all his questions.”
“Mr Leong has previously apologised for putting up a misleading post. We regret doing this again.”