SINGAPORE: Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) newly minted chief Leong Mun Wai has found himself in the crosshairs of the ruling party once again over a video posted on his party’s Facebook page.
Leader of the House Indranee Rajah confronted Mr Leong in Parliament today (5 July) over an edited video published on the PSP’s official Facebook page that she says distorted facts and violated Parliamentary rules. Ms Indranee, also a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, asked PSP to remove the video and apologize.
The video, published the night before, captured part of the exchange between Mr Leong and Deputy Speaker Christopher de Souza in Parliament on Monday (3 July). The Deputy Speaker censured Mr Leong after he remarked that he did not think the session would end at the time the Chair indicated it would.
Using the Hokkien phrase “Sia suay” which indicates embarrassment, the video’s caption stated: “In what some online commenters are calling another ‘sia suay’ moment. The PSP’s Leong Mun Wai & Hazel Poa Koon Koon are here to do whatever it takes to ensure that the voice of the people is heard.”
The video also contained text, part of which read: “The Deputy Speaker reminded Mr Leong Mun Wai that he should not start a debate during a Ministerial Statement after he urged the Deputy Speaker not to end the debate early because this is an important topic.”
In Parliament today, Ms Indranee said that the video breached parliamentary privileges and immunities as it “gives a false impression of what occurred in Parliament.”
She said, “If you think about it, it starts off with: ‘In what some online commentators are calling another sia suay moment’. What is sia suay? Embarrassing.
“So there has to be something embarrassing. What is this embarrassing thing? It goes on to say that the PSP’s Leong Mun Wai and Hazel Poa are here to do whatever it takes to ensure that the voices of people are heard.
“And then you have that blurb which suggests that they were being shut down and a debate was not allowed to take place.”
Noting that this was not the first time Mr Leong had breached parliamentary privileges, with the previous occasion involving a post published on his own Facebook page, Ms Indranee said that this latest post gives the false impression that the Deputy Speaker prevented the discussion from being completed and that Mr Leong was not allowed to ask questions.
Pointing out that Mr Leong asked 11 questions during Monday’s sitting, Ms Indranee said that the video also implies that MPs only have one hour to ask questions or ask for clarification. Asserting that this is not true, she noted that the Parliamentary sitting on Monday lasted about six hours.
The ruling party politician said, “So there was ample time for questions to be asked, and they were asked, and they were answered. And the session ended at 6.22 pm.”
“So we have here a situation where you have a video from PSP which gives rise to false, misleading impressions of what happened in parliament and it misrepresents the proceedings.”
Ms Indranee added that freedom of speech should not be misused to make false statements, maliciously slander others or distort facts such as what happened in Parliament.
The Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act prohibits the defamation of any parliamentarian and the publication of any “false or perverted report” on parliamentary proceedings. Violations of the act constitute contempt of parliament.
Referring to the parliamentary rules, Ms Indranee said, “The video coupled with the text and blurb … misrepresents what happened in parliament, misrepresents what the deputy speaker said or did,”
Mr Leong appeared surprised by the accusations levelled by the Leader of the House and clarified that the term “Sia Suay” was used in the video to refer to himself. Pointing out that the video highlighted the moment when he “lost face,” Mr Leong said:
“Did the minister assume that the ‘sia suay’ refers to the deputy speaker? We have no intention of saying that at all. The ‘sia suay’ is what people in the public has used to refer to me.”
He added that he asked for more time as he “got a little excited” during the sitting because he had more questions and felt the replies did not clarify all the facts. Seeking time to consult with his party regarding the removal of the video, the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) said:
“I don’t think I have conducted myself disrespectfully at all, and by showing this video, now, I hear from you about some of the interpretation that you have explained. I will request that you allow me to take this back and let us deliberate inside our party, and then we come out with a formal response.”
Ms Indranee accepted Mr Leong’s explanation that he did not intend to be disrespectful and that the “sia suay” comment was made about him. She, however, asked PSP to remove the video and apologise “in a form acceptable to parliament”.
Mr Leong agreed to consult with his party and inform Parliament of their decision by Thursday.
PSP removes ‘Sia Suay’ video and apologises 3 minutes before deadline given by Indranee Rajah expired
The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) removed the video last night (6 July), just three minutes before a deadline issued by Leader of the House and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah expired.
When asked whether there was really a need to apologise if the PSP removes the video, as the party did not state falsehoods or impugn anyone, Ms Indranee said:
“(The) rules are there for a reason. And the reason is that for any democracy to function properly, it must function on the basis of a Parliament that it can trust. And it must function on the basis that the Members of Parliament and their political parties will speak truthfully to people and give accurate representations of what happened in Parliament.
“Because that determines the kind of society we are. And if you are a political party which has misrepresented what has happened in Parliament – which is a direct strike at the values that underpin this Parliament – then you should apologise because it’s not the right thing to do.”
Reiterating her call for PSP to remove the video completely and make an apology, the Leader of the House gave Mr Leong until 10 pm to do so and warned him that failure to comply would lead the matter to be referred to Parliament’s Committee of Privileges.
Three minutes before the deadline was up, PSP apologised for the video.
It said: “Mr Leong Mun Wai and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) would like to apologise for the Video and post that we had put up on Tuesday, 4 July 2023 (the Original Video and Post) and the subsequent edited video and post on the same subject matter (Edited Video) put up on Thursday, 6 July 2023.
“These created a misleading impression about the proceedings in Parliament on 3 July 2023 on the Ministerial Statements on the Ridout Road matter. We acknowledge that:
“(a) We knew that there were going to be Ministerial Statements made on Monday 4 July, on the Ridout Road matter, and that we could ask for clarifications. We also acknowledge that our MPs could have further debated the matter, by filing a Motion, but did not do so.
“(b) The Deputy Speaker, Mr Christopher De Souza, told Mr Leong Mun Wai that he would be given latitude and could ask all his questions, and Mr Leong did ask the questions he wanted to ask.
“We accept that through our two Videos, we have given the impression that no debate was allowed (even though it was we who did not file a Motion for debate). We also accept that this is misleading. Our two Videos are also misleading because they give the impression that Mr Leong was not given the time to ask the questions that he wanted to, when in fact he was given the time to ask all his questions, and he did ask all his questions.”
The party added, “Mr Leong has previously apologised for putting up a misleading post. We regret doing this again.”