SINGAPORE — On Tuesday (11 Jul), Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin apologized on his Facebook page for using offensive language towards Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament for Seng Kang GRC, Associate Professor Jamus Lim.
On 17 April, during a Parliamentary debate, Assoc Prof Lim supported President Halimah Yacob’s call to enhance Singapore’s social compact. However, he expressed frustration over Singapore’s lack of an “official poverty line”, calling for its establishment based on elements beyond mere “basic” needs of housing, food, and clothing.
After Assoc Prof Lim’s speech, Mr Tan allowed MP Vikram Nair (PAP-Sembawang) to speak but was heard muttering derogatory remarks about Assoc Prof Lim, referring to him as a “f**king populist”. This unparliamentary language from Mr Tan was caught in video clips that went viral on Singapore’s social media.
On his Facebook page, Mr Tan said he did not recall the incident but did listen to the recording on the clip.
“Based on the clip it appears that I had a reaction to a speech made in the chamber,” Mr Tan, People’s Action Party MP for Marine Parade GRC, admitted.
He clarified that he had inadvertently uttered these private thoughts and apologised for his unparliamentary language.
“When I listen to speeches made, like everyone, I do form views on them. What was said were my private thoughts which I had muttered to myself and not to anyone.”
Mr Tan further mentioned that he had personally apologised to Minister Lim, who accepted his apology.
Many netizens appreciated Mr Tan’s willingness to admit his fault, but some also pointed out that as the Parliament Speaker, Mr Tan should apologise to Jamus Lim officially, and the leader of the House Indranee should take disciplinary action against him.
Assoc Prof Lim receives praise from netizens for his graciousness
Assoc Prof Lim also responded to Mr Tan’s Facebook post, saying that the Speaker had called him and he had accepted Mr Tan’s apology.
Netizens who commented on the post commended the Sengkang MP for his graciousness and magnanimity.
Some commented that Jamus Lim had set an inspiring example as a Parliamentarian, and his gesture showed that he had much more emotional intelligence and gentlemanliness than the Speaker.
A netizen expressed appreciation for Jamus’s magnanimous and conciliatory attitude, which exemplifies the qualities of a genuine leader and earns his support. He noted that some might have resorted to legal action for slander, which would have been unnecessary and excessive.
A netizen suggested that the Speaker’s coarse language reveals contempt of the PAP Leaders toward the elderly.
However, a netizen pointed out that although Assoc Prof Lim accepted the Speaker’s apology, his coarse language reveals contempt of the PAP Leaders towards the elderly, whom Lim advocated for in his speech.
In his address on the 17 April Parliamentary sitting, Assoc Prof Lim called for an official poverty line in Singapore that reflects the basic needs for social and psychological well-being.
He criticised the current system of varying benchmarks as confusing and inefficient in identifying and aiding the economically vulnerable.
He also proposed a broader concept of “basic needs” that covers not only physical necessities but also social and cultural aspects that affect well-being and inclusion.
Assoc Prof Lim accused the government of ignoring these factors and the psychological impact of poverty, leading to a gap between policy and people’s aspirations.
He recommended forming a committee with representatives from civil society, academia, and MSF to define a comprehensive poverty line, which would then be used to update government assistance criteria and the Local Qualifying Salary.
Furthermore, Asst Prof Lim called for improvements to the ComCare system, labelling it as intrusive and miserly.
Assoc Prof Lim proposed less rigorous pre-approval scrutiny and implementing more conditional cash transfers.
He also criticised the low support amounts and income threshold of Workfare, urging enhancements to support parents and younger workers.
There has yet to be any public response from Ms Indranee Rajah, the Leader of the House, who has repeatedly sought to impose disciplinary actions on the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament from the Progressive Singapore Party, Leong Mun Wai.
Recently, Ms Indranee compelled Mr Leong and the PSP to remove a social media post and issue an apology over two posts regarding the debate on the Ridout Rental saga in Parliament last week.