Parliament: A Tale of Wrong Info and No Info

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Photo: CNA
 

by Augustine Low

From wrong info to no info, it’s a sorry tale of what takes place within the hallowed halls of Singapore’s Parliament.

During the Jan 10 sitting, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan was giving an account to Parliament on how an MRT train ran into a stationary train at Joo Koon Station last November. He said the driver faced a dire situation where he had to switch from automatic mode to manual mode before he could apply the emergency brakes.

Workers’ Party NCMP Dennis Tan asked Khaw to clarify if the train’s emergency brakes could only work on manual mode. Khaw said: “I’m not perfectly sure, but I’ll check.”  He later corrected himself – emergency brakes could indeed be applied even when the trains are in automatic mode.

Khaw surely did not set out to mislead but he was sloppy, giving wrong information on a simple matter of fact. Perhaps it was due to the sleepless nights he’s been having, weighed down by SMRT issues – as he recounted to Parliament recently.

While Khaw’s was a case of wrong info, the Parliament session two days earlier, on Jan 8, was a case of no info. The Workers’ Party had filed a number of questions on the issue of illegal bribes made by Keppel to secure projects in Brazil. In response to two questions, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah simply said: I do not have that information.

The first instance was regarding a question on former Keppel CEO Choo Chiau Beng, who was Singapore’s Ambassador to Brazil from 2004 to 2016. The question: Was he removed from the post because he had knowledge of, or was involved, in the bribery? Indranee said she did not have the info.

She was then asked the name of the Keppel Offshore & Marine subsidiary in Singapore cited by US Department of Justice for paying bribes of US$17 million to an entity in Miami, Florida. Indranee again said she did not have the info.

How inexplicable! This is despite the fact that Parliamentary questions are generally filed in advance so answers could be adequately prepared.

With such goings-on, it’s easy to see why the government has repeatedly turned down requests for Parliamentary proceedings to be telecast or streamed live.