SINGAPORE: PAP MPs on Monday (Sep 19) rejected the motion by Non-Constituency MP Hazel Poa to suspend Transport Minister S Iswaran from parliament and voted instead to consider the matter when corruption investigations against him conclude.

Ms Poa filed a motion to suspend Mr Iswaran from the service of parliament so that he would no longer receive an MP’s allowance while not performing duties.

Mr Iswaran was no longer performing his duties as an MP in parliament or West Coast GRC. “So, in effect, Minister Iswaran has been fully suspended from his MP duties, but not from his MP allowance”, Ms Poa said.

She also added that Mr Iswaran’s potential offences involved corruption, for which Singapore has “zero tolerance” for.

“In addition, for many years, the government has justified the high salaries for political office-holders on the basis of ensuring that our government remains honest and free of corruption. This is why many Singaporeans, including myself, find it difficult to accept that taxpayers’ money is being used in this way”, she said.

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In response, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah filed a counter-motion for parliament to consider the matter when the outcome of ongoing investigations against Mr Iswaran is known.

PAP MPs voted for Ms Indranee’s motion, while the Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) two Non-Constituency MPs – Ms Hazel Poa and Mr Leong Mun Wai – voted for their own motion. All eight opposition MPs from the Workers’ Party (WP) voted for the PAP’s motion as well.

Ms Indranee said it would be “premature” to take any action on Mr Iswaran as an MP at this stage, saying: “We simply do not have sufficient material to make an informed decision at the present time.”

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said that the WP could not support PSP’s motion due to the presumption of innocence but sought clarifications from Ms Indranee regarding her counter-motion.

“In the Workers’ Party’s view, the wheels of justice must be allowed to fully turn before parliament decides what to do. The Workers’ Party cannot agree to the motion filed by the PSP”, Mr Singh said.

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“It would not just be unfair and premature, but significantly, this House would be seeking to overturn the electoral mandate given to Mr Iswaran by the people through the ballot box, by prematurely passing judgment on him,” Mr Singh added.

Mr Singh also invited the PSP to consider the precedent their motion would set should future governments decide to fix opposition MPs by way of politically motivated investigations.

Mr Singh sought the following clarifications from Ms Indranee:

  • The full extent of restrictions on Mr Iswaran as an MP – if he was banned from entering parliament as he was from other government buildings
  • If PAP would contemplate clawing back Mr Iswaran’s MP allowance
  • If PAP would consider consequences against Mr Iswaran upon the completion of investigations or after the full court process has been exhausted

In her reply, Ms Indranee said: “We will look at it again, when we know if the Attorney-General’s Chambers intends to bring any charges, and if so, what the charges are.”

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Mr S Iswaran was arrested in July and is under investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). After his arrest, Mr Iswaran was instructed to take a leave of absence. He has been interdicted from duty with a monthly reduced pay of S$8,500. He continues to draw the full annual MP allowance of S$192,500. Mr Iswaran’s ministerial duties are being covered by Acting Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat. His responsibilities as an MP are being covered by the other MPs in West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC). /TISG