SINGAPORE: Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Leong Mun Wai has been censured by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Christopher de Souza for asserting that the deputy speaker should not end the parliamentary session today (3 July) as he has more questions to field on the Ridout Road controversy.
Parliament had heard four ministerial statements from 12.30 pm onwards and discussed the issues surrounding two Cabinet Ministers’ rentals of state-owned bungalows for about five hours when Mr de Souza said that he would be wrapping the session up at around 5.30 pm.
At one point, Mr Shanmugam sought leave from the deputy speaker to deliver an extended response to a question and noted that his response might take the House past 5.30 pm. Mr de Souza later voiced an intention to end the proceedings at about 5.45 pm.
After fielding a question to Minister Edwin Tong at about 5.30 pm, the newly minted PSP secretary-general looked at Mr de Souza and said, while shaking his head: “There’s still a lot more questions I’m going to ask, Deputy Speaker. I think the debate is not going to end at 5.45.”
Mr de Souza responded: “Mr Leong, I think the Chair decides what time the clarifications end. In fact, this is not a debate.”
Mr Leong did not appear to be chastened and raised a point of order. He said, “This is an important issue. All Singaporeans are watching this debate.”
The Deputy Speaker said, “Mr Leong, I don’t disagree with you that this is a matter of public importance, and in fact, Standing Order 23 makes specific reference that ministerial statements be made on matters of public importance. But the second sentence in Standing Order 23 also states that there shall be no debate. Clarifications can be asked.”
He added, decisively: “So the Chair will decide when clarifications end.”
But Mr Leong continued pushing the issue. He said: “What I urge the Chair, Deputy Speaker Sir, is mindful that the topic has not been properly, completely clarified. When it’s not completely clarified, please don’t end the session.”
Asking Mr Leong to take his seat, the Deputy Speaker said: “We have been debating- well, we have had four ministerial statements from 12.30 pm. It’s now 5.30 pm – that’s five hours of to-ing and fro-ing.” He added that he would allow 3-4 more requests for clarification from members before proceeding to end the ministerial statements.
“It is not for a member to dictate to the Chair when business should end or start. I hope you can agree with me on that.”
He asked Mr Leong twice whether he agreed with him before allowing Mr Tong to respond to Mr Leong’s question. After Mr Tong answered the question, Mr de Souza invited another member to request a clarification, telling Mr Leong that he would return to him later.
This is not the first time the Chair has rebuked the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP).
In March, Mr Leong was accused of repeatedly breaching parliamentary privileges. In the ensuing heated debate, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin asked Mr Leong to provide clarification.
Mr Leong responded to the Speaker, saying: “Speaker, if the minister didn’t ask me, I suggest you do not ask.” He apologised to the Speaker after he was asked to uphold proper conduct during the debate.