Ex-Workers’ Party (WP) parliamentarian Lee Li Lian has criticised Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s “embarrassing performance” in Parliament yesterday (5 Nov) as he brought forth a motion against WP leaders Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim.
Citing a recent High Court judgment that found Mr Low, Ms Lim and WP chief Pritam Singh liable for damages in the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) civil lawsuit, DPM Heng moved to get AHTC to require Mr Low and Ms Lim to “recuse themselves” from the town council’s financial matters.
Mr Heng managed to pass his parliamentary motion 52-9 against Mr Low and Ms Lim, despite multiple accounts that he was flustered and fumbled to defend his motion during the four-hour debate. The WP’s main position that the motion is premature since the WP MPs can still appeal the court decision reportedly seemed to take Mr Heng by surprise.
After appearing to have difficulty in answering Ms Lim and Hougang MP Png Eng Huat’s requests for clarifications on his speech, Mr Heng abruptly asked Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin for a recess. Despite Mr Singh’s objection that the House had already taken a 20-minute break, Mr Heng was granted a ten-minute adjournment.
In the wake of the passing of Mr Heng’s motion, WP member Lee Li Lian said that it was no surprise that the motion was passed and criticised Mr Heng’s “embarrassing performance”. Revealing that the motion greatly angered and disgusted her, Ms Lee wrote on Facebook:
“Even a child knows that this motion will get through…Empty chambers when serious stuff like bills and what not are debated. Almost full house when such motions are filed against the WP. Oh btw #embarrassingperformance by you know who if you were in the chambers.”
Ms Lee made her debut in the political arena in the 2011 general election where she was fielded as the WP’s candidate contesting Punggol East SMC – a ward that had been part of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC in prior elections. She was defeated by the PAP’s Michael Palmer, who was made as a Speaker of Parliament after the election, in a three-cornered fight where she won over 41 per cent of the vote.
In December 2012, however, Michael Palmer resigned from his parliamentary posts due to an extra-marital affair and his ward was left vacant. In the ensuing by-election, Ms Lee was picked as the WP’s choice to contest the ward and she faced a rare four-cornered contest, with new PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon and two other opposition parties joining the fray.
Ms Lee emerged the victor at the polls with 54.50 per cent of the vote in January 2013 and became the first female opposition politician to control a single member ward in Singapore’s history. The win also marked the second time since 1981 that the WP had captured another parliamentary seat after a by-election.
Ms Lee defended her seat in the 2015 General Election, which was held months after the passing of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The PAP fielded six-term MP and Deputy Speaker Charles Chong in Ms Lee’s ward and the WP was narrowly defeated with 48.24 per cent of the vote compared to the PAP’s 51.76 per cent.
Although Ms Lee was offered a Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) position by-virtue for being the best-scoring losers of the election, she declined the offer and the seat went to the WP’s candidate for East Coast GRC, Daniel Goh. Ms Lee remains an active WP member.