SINGAPORE — On Monday (17 Jul), the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) shocked Singapore’s political landscape by announcing the resignations of Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui from both Parliament and the People’s Action Party due to their inappropriate relationship.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has accepted both of their resignations and further revealed that both MPs persisted in the relationship despite his conversations with them in February this year, advising them to end it.
In response to media inquiries, PM Lee confirmed that he became aware of Mr. Tan and Ms. Cheng’s relationship after the last general election in 2020.
During this period, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jessica Tan will serve as the Acting Speaker. Prime Minister Lee stated his intention to propose a new Speaker and deliver a ministerial statement during the upcoming parliament session on 1 August.
However, this is not the first time Singapore MPs have left due to personal indiscretions. To date, there have been five MPs who left or were compelled to leave their positions due to personal indiscretions.
Former WP MP Yaw Shin Leong
In February 2012, Yaw Shin Leong, a former Workers’ Party MP for Hougang SMC, was expelled by the party due to his failure to address queries regarding a rumored extramarital affair.
On 20 January 2012, rumors emerged online about Yaw’s extramarital affair with a married female Workers’ Party member, leading to the mainstream papers covering the matter extensively and speculating the individuals involved.
It was not until 7 February that the Workers’ Party issued a statement accepting Yaw’s decision to step down from leadership positions, including the role of party treasurer, effective immediately.
A week later, on 15 February, the WP held a press conference to announce Yaw’s expulsion.
In a press statement, Low Thia Khiang, then- Secretary General of Workers’ Party noted that “Shin Leong has been accused of several indiscretions in his private life. By continuing not to account to the Party and the people, especially the residents of Hougang, he has broken the faith, trust and expectations of the Party and People. ”
After serving in Hougang for 20 years, Mr Low decided to contest Aljunied GRC in 2011. Yaw, seen as the successor in Hougang, lived up to expectations and won with 64.8% of the votes against the PAP candidate, Desmond Choo.
After being expelled from the Workers’ Party, Yaw left the country to avoid attention and has been abroad for several years.
As the Hougang seat remained vacant for an extended period, a resident applied to the High Court for a compulsory order, urging the Prime Minister to hold a by-election within three months or a reasonable timeframe.
The by-election was eventually held on May 26, 2012. Hougang has always been the Workers’ Party’s stronghold, and the candidate Png Eng Huat successfully defended the seat with 62% of the votes against Desmond Choo, who was running for the PAP for the second time.
Michael Palmer, Singapore’s ninth Speaker of the Parliament resigned due to ‘improper conduct’
Michael Palmer, a former Speaker of Parliament, held the position from 2011 to 2012 while also serving as a PAP MP for Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC).
However, on December 12, 2012, he publicly admitted to having an extramarital affair and announced his resignation from both the position of Speaker of Parliament and MP. The affair involved a staff member of the People’s Association.
The scandal shocked society as it came just ten months after the Workers’ Party’s Yaw Shin Leong was embroiled in a similar controversy.
Accompanied by Senior Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Palmer held a press conference, where he confessed to the affair with a People’s Association employee from Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, with whom he had no direct working relationship.
He admitted his actions were inappropriate and a serious misjudgment.
Palmer, who was 44 years old at the time, entered politics in 2006 and was one of the few Eurasian MPs in parliament. He was appointed Speaker of Parliament in October 2011.
A by-election for Punggol East SMC was held on January 26, 2013. In the first-ever four-cornered fight since independence, the Workers’ Party candidate, Lee Li Lian, secured victory with 54.5% of the votes, defeating the PAP candidate, Dr. Koh Poh Koon.
This win marked another success for the Workers’ Party after their first victory in the same constituency in the 2011 general election.
David Ong, former MP for Bukit Batok
On 12 March 2016, David Ong, then MP for Bukit Batok resigned and also left the PAP due to an extramarital affair.
David Ong entered politics in 2011 and won the Bukit Batok seat for the PAP with a high vote share of 73% in the September 2015 general election.
At 54 years old, David Ong cited “personal reasons” for his resignation without disclosing specific details.
He only admitted that his personal behavior was improper and expressed regret, stating that resigning was the right thing to do for the party, the constituents, and his family.
It was reported that David Ong’s extramarital affair was with Wendy Lim, a member of the PAP Bukit Batok Women’s Wing. Media reports indicated that the affair had lasted for about six months and was exposed by Wendy Lim’s husband.
After David Ong’s resignation, the Bukit Batok seat was vacant.
A by-election was held in May 2016, with the PAP fielding Murali Pillai, an Indian lawyer who had served in the Bukit Batok grassroots for many years.
Murali Pillai eventually won the by-election with 61.2% of the votes, defeating his opponent, Chee Soon Juan, the Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party, and successfully retaining the seat.