“In typical fashion, Law Minister always accuses me of dishonesty”: Sylvia Lim hits back at Shanmugam

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As Workers’ Party (WP) secretary general Low Thia Khiang clashed with Education Minister Ng Chee Meng over the timing of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike announcement, his party’s chairman faced off with a Minister with a higher profile over the same issue during the budget debate, this week.

Lim engaged in yet another heated debate with Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam. The pair have previously sparred in Parliament on the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act and the counting of the presidential terms, as recently as in the past year.

This time, the Minister criticised Lim for implying that the Government’s announcement of the tax increase was “dishonest”.

Lim had said earlier that the Government had floated “trial balloons” on a possible tax hike but possibly backed down after the public noted Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s comments in 2015 that the Government has enough revenue for the next decade.

She added: “So the public pointed out that: Hey, you know, is this a contradiction? And I rather suspect myself that the Government is stuck with that announcement otherwise… perhaps we would be debating a GST hike today.”

Taking the opposition party chief to task, the Minister asked Lim to retract her statement: “Can I invite her to agree that this is a thoroughly hypocritical and dishonest statement and typical of the statements she makes in this House?”

The Minister pointed out that the Prime Minister first discussed a potential tax increase during the National Day Rally in 2013, and that the Finance Minister also brought up a tax hike during Budget 2017. He added that announcing the GST earlier than the time it is implemented has precedence, since the GST was first mentioned in 1986 and only went into effect a decade later.

He challenged Lim: “Given those sets of facts, would Ms Lim be prepared to withdraw the very serious allegations she makes … basically making an accusation that the Government is behaving willy-nilly, dishonestly.”

Lim responded: “I can understand why he wants to accuse me of various things because he probably was not happy about past debates where I had disagreed with some of his legislative changes and in typical fashion, he always accuses me of dishonesty when as far as I am concerned I’ve acted honestly.”

When pressed to withdraw her statement, Lim jumped up and asserted: “I clearly said that it was my suspicion…it’s my honest suspicion, am I not entitled to have a view?” Lim’s rebuttal prompted Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin to remind members of the House that they should wait for him to call on them before speaking.

She added: “This is what we as MPs have to do, to get better clarity on matters of public interest. Of course, the Government can rebut our speeches robustly – that’s fine. But I don’t think I’m disentitled to come to Parliament to advance honestly held beliefs or suspicions.”

The Minister commented that voicing a suspicion without evidence is contrary to how a “First World Parliament” should function. “First World Parliament” was the Workers’ Party’s campaign slogan during the 2011 general election in which they made history by winning Aljunied GRC – the first time any opposition party in Singapore has won a GRC.

Lim, one of the MPs of Aljunied GRC, sharply responded: “If I recall earlier debates, even PAP MPs were encouraged to come to the House to convey even rumours so that the Government has the opportunity to refute them. This is the value of this chamber.”

K Shanmugam and Sylvia Lim spar in Parliament over GST hike announcement timing

WATCH: Minister K Shanmugam Sc and The Workers' Party MP Sylvia Lim spar in Parliament over the timing of the announcement of the GST hike. #SGBudget2018

Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Thursday, 1 March 2018

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat also called on Lim to withdraw her statement. He challenged: “I believe Ms Lim is a lawyer and also a police officer before. I too have been a police officer before. So we know that the first thing when we have a suspicion is to go out and interview witnesses as part of our investigation. I want to present myself as your witness because I have been working on this ever since I became Finance Minister.”

Adding that he has been observing Singapore’s revenue and expenditure projections and that he has discussed them with the head of government and the deputy prime ministers, Heng said: “It is an honest assessment of our position which remains accurate until today and that is why I did not have to do a GST increase now, in this Budge. So it was not a case of floating any trial balloon.”

Lim noted Heng’s response but declined to withdraw her statement: “I’ve listened to the Finance Minister’s response. I still feel that there is nothing wrong with what I’ve said. But I’ve noted his answer.”

Netizens responding to Lim and Shanmugam’s exchange online expressed their support for the opposition leader:

118 COMMENTS

  1. I watched the debate and the exchange of words over an accusation. I am one that believe that Parliament ( we inherited out of UK) is the highest place in the land to press issues to light on the ruling by the watchward. Why needing apology when issues are raised to through an alternate sighting.
    Kudos to the one who had dragged the issue out and the challenge coming forth lacking the power of rebuttal and hid behind an ambiguous analogue.

  2. As ministers they need to respect each other. I may be wrong but the main job of a Law Minister is to ensure policies put for consideration are valid and legitimate. He should answer any member on points of law.
    All members have the right express their observations, worries and request clarification.
    It is not a playground so please behave yourselves, this is a place where our leaders should set examples to public on how to approach challenging and critical matters with a cool and calm head. We are an educated society and can deal with issues through discussions.

  3. Sylvia is sharp and intelligent, unlike the ErDrs, Heng ah clowns we see from the white side. I hope voters will continue to return her to parliament after every election unless she decides to quit olitics.

  4. Having the authority but misusing it is a very sickening, hideous and condemning action. Very dangerous for his own good too. To not able to explain and resorting to accusation is a serious breach of etiquette. He should bear the full consequences of his attitude, half truth (if there is) and relinquish his post to prevent further degeneration of what has taken place. What a egoistic bullying narcissistic asshole…kns

  5. By the way if that whoever Judge used that alien language ( something on dishonest) that time on Ms Lim and that Ms Lim was not found guilty that time by the Court, can i said this is defamation when reused? Ms Lim could u work on this? If so please serve a Defamation against the one who reused it!

  6. These white ants must burn in hell. Everyday I ask the hell god to take them faster especially their leader, hope he get back his cancer and suffer. Tonight I ask again burn more offering to the heel god. Tuah Li Yahpek hope you call all this greedy clown to your down town, make sure sio sio ready for these pest.

  7. There have been countless trial balloons already since they first let out the trial balloons when they wanted to start the casinos…can recall…all the leaders representing each religions were flashed!

    • You must be young. Happened quite a while ago when we were still promised of a swiss std of living. The clown prince did it to a dana elder, created quite a stir, Kentucky wanted to resign, Rich hu wanted to resign, woody begged them to stay on, old man kowtow to save his dishonorable son. It must be such a pain to work with a self-entitled arsehole but all are very well compensated, even till now. Childish bickering aside, belonging and loyal to a club always has its perks, it comes as part of the job package.

  8. I love reading comments as most of the time I agreed with them the ppl that has a voice but then again these voices are not always heard as we have a nanny state that don’t want and not listen to voices that are important sad nation we live in

  9. Shanmugam is no doubt a shitty filthy lawless gangster himself…look at how he now even want to ban public from filming police incidents and you know this mother-fucker is a authoritative scumbag bent on imposing his oppressive mentality upon Singaporeans!

  10. Madam Lim, you got fully my faith, trust and support! Thank you for what you have done so far by speaking up with conscience and decorum. Your arguments on issues are pointed and have caused much embarrassment to the whitish cult though unsuccessful in changing the direction of things. That’s why you have always been targeted and getting such harsh treatment in the papleement with the cult holding a overwhelming majority……….

    WELL DONE!

  11. Slyvia that is not fair
    Mins are being Factual
    You were giving your personal Suspicions
    Please be Factual
    Not on emotional n personal political comments
    That can be in political rally
    Not in Parliament

    Eugene Thuraisingam
    Yitleng Low
    Chua Mui Hoong

  12. Before he become law minister he is a very honest man which I respect him , want he become law minister I lost respect him he alway want to speak out in the House by using law which he is a lawyer, previously he in the house don’t speak much but now u can see him again WP parties

  13. First world debate is a failure when ruling party likes to prata their statement and yet accused others forcing them to apologize.
    First world debate is about when reasons have been adequately provided and why the decisions. What we see now is pap toying around in parliament trying to get their way to domineer the whole situation without clear indication of how they want to lead Singapore.
    Can’t blame them because 70% also have no idea too.

  14. If MP are to be the voice of pple in parliament.. what’s so dishonest about voicing suspicion from the public that we have no way to check the facts? They should take it as an opportunity for the govt to dispute the rumors with facts in parliament.. not using bully tactics to scare pple from questioning them!

  15. PAP ministers can’t debate. They are good at making insinuations, threats & bad mouthing the opposistions. Girlie Vivian Balakrishnan also threatened Sylvia over the Bedok Hawker Centre ceiling cleaning issue; as he did not understand nor read the scope of works of the contract. But then again, what can we expect of an eye surgeon who is myopic & suffering from cataracts?