SINGAPORE: Although Workers’ Party (WP) MP Jamus Lim has accepted Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin’s apology for using vulgar language to refer to him in Parliament, Singaporeans online continue to be outraged and are calling on the ruling party politician to step down as Speaker.
The Speaker uttered the expletive after Assoc Prof Lim delivered a speech on 17 April addressing poverty in Singapore and called on the Government to do more to help the poor. As the Sengkang GRC MP took his seat, Mr Tan could be heard muttering “f**king populist” under his breath.
Although the remark was made during a sitting that took place close to three months ago, a number of sharp Singaporeans began recirculating the recording of the session online and brought the Speaker’s remark to light.
Mr Tan has since admitted to using “unparliamentary language” and said on Facebook, “What was said were my private thoughts which I had muttered to myself and not to anyone. However I should not have expressed them aloud or in unparliamentary language, and I apologise for that.”
He added that he has apologised to Assoc Prof Lim.
The WP MP has confirmed this. In a comment under Mr Tan’s post, he said, “Speaker did indeed call, and I have accepted his apology.”
Assoc Prof Lim’s comment has garnered more than 1,500 likes, with many praising his graciousness. The apology, however, has largely failed to stave off the large group of Singaporeans on social media who call for action against the Speaker.
Criticism of Tan Chuan-Jin’s conduct has been fierce, with many arguing that his behaviour is wholly unbecoming of his esteemed position as Speaker of Parliament. The role demands exemplary conduct and respect for parliamentary decorum, and critics contend that his use of vulgar language demonstrates a lack of the necessary temperament to fulfil these requirements.
One key concern voiced by Singaporeans is the Speaker’s potential involvement in assuming presidential duties during times of crisis. The Speaker is second-in-line to serve as acting President if the president is unable to continue his duties during the term.
Given the gravity of such situations, the public worries that Mr Tan’s behaviour raises significant doubts about his ability to lead effectively and with the necessary composure.
Calls for the Speaker’s resignation have gained significant traction on social media platforms, where Singaporeans have voiced their displeasure with fervour. Many assert that Mr Tan’s actions warrant immediate action, emphasizing the need for a Speaker who can serve as an exemplary role model for parliamentary conduct.
Some individuals question whether Leader of the House Indranee Rajah will hold Mr Tan accountable in the same manner she took opposition Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai to task just last week. Ms Indranee demanded an apology from Mr Leong for a Facebook video.
In addition to the calls for Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin’s resignation, a significant number of Singaporeans are also expressing a desire for a non-partisan Speaker of Parliament who is not affiliated with the ruling party. This demand stems from concerns over impartiality and the need for a fair and balanced parliamentary environment.
The current political landscape in Singapore is dominated by the ruling party, and the Speaker of Parliament traditionally comes from the ruling party’s ranks. While the Speaker is expected to be impartial and fair in their duties, some netizens argue that party affiliation may undermine this neutrality.
Singaporeans calling for a non-partisan Speaker believe an independent figure would be better equipped to foster an unbiased environment within the parliamentary proceedings.
They argue that a Speaker who does not belong to the ruling party would be less likely to display bias or favouritism towards the government, ensuring a more equitable representation of diverse viewpoints and facilitating a more robust and constructive parliamentary debate.
Advocates for a non-partisan Speaker argue that this change would promote greater transparency, accountability, and effective checks and balances in the parliamentary system.