Home News Featured News Indeed, Leong Mun Wai may have met his match in Indranee Rajah

Indeed, Leong Mun Wai may have met his match in Indranee Rajah

Sense And Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah

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Singaporeans must now be quite familiar with Progress Singapore Party’s Leong Mun Wai’s ability to get on the nerves of People’s Action Party leaders in Parliament. He has had a number of entanglements with them since he became an NCMP in 2020. With all due respect to our august Parliament, I find his “debates” with the PAP entertaining. Don’t you? What will we do without him?

A hot mic caught Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan calling him “illiterate” in a debate on jobs and CECA in September last year. In a video of the sitting, which was livestreamed on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Communications and Information, a voice could be heard saying “he’s illiterate”, after Manpower Minister Tan See Leng replied to a question from Leong. A few minutes later, another voice (unclear whether same one) said: “…seriously, how did he get into RI? Must have been a lousy school”. Balakrishnan apologised, saying they were private remarks.

For the record, a number of PAP leaders studied in Raffles Institution, the “lousy school”, including Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. Tan Cheng Bock, founder of the PSP, was also from the school. Balakrishnan himself studied in Anglo-Chinese School.

There were other interesting run-ins – with Tan See Leng, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. The overall tone was exasperation on the side of the PAP ministers and a dogged determination by Leong in his belief that he represented public right to have every question answered and all information revealed for proper debate.

It is, however, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah’s pronouncements on Leong which I found rather fascinating.

One was in January when she came on to speak after Leong said that some teachers were going ahead with vaccination-differentiated measures in schools despite the government saying no. He later admitted to Chan Chun Sing that he got that unverified information from a friend and that was from a social media group chat.

Indranee accused Leong of trying to “grandstand”: “We have seen that when you, Mr Speaker, requested him to provide those details, he prevaricated…and now we finally discover that the details cannot be forthcoming because he’s referring to a Telegram chat where there are no details at all.”

But so far, the best exchange took place earlier this month.

Basically, Leong said the government had wasted a lot of taxpayers’ money on two big items – the Sports Hub and SPH Media Trust. The costs incurred, he said, could have been used to help the struggling poor.

Indranee, who was also Second Minister for Finance, said: “A charitable view is that Mr Leong genuinely does not understand the expenditure figures or the rationale that has been explained… And if he does understand them, then there is only one other conclusion — which is that this can only be a deliberate and cynical attempt to stoke anxiety and disquiet, confuse Singaporeans and damage the government.”

Her further elaboration was colourful, to say the least. Leong’s adjournment motion, she said, involved building “a giant edifice of figures” based on publicly available information”: “Then in a giant leap of logic, he then attempts to link the Sports Hub and the SPH Media Trust matters to a completely unrelated issue — the GST and now also to ComCare.”

I quote TODAY: “Indranee said that Leong’s approach is to ask a question whenever the government explains a set of figures. In turn, the government will respond with an explanation for the figures provided.

“Leong will then say, ‘Oh, but what about this, or how about we change that, how about we have another scenario A, or how about scenario B, how about scenario B and a half, how about scenario C?’

“And every time, the government is required, according to Leong, to respond to all of these, which have no bearing to the figures of the original transaction.”

Wow. Leong may have met his match.

Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.

In Parliament: Indranee Rajah refutes Leong Mun Wai’s allegations on govt’s public expenditure as “bogus” and “without basis”

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