SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-jin recently found himself in an inappropriate hot-mic situation during a parliamentary sitting in April, as he uttered an offensive language, f**king populist, which many believed was aimed at the Workers’ Party member of parliament Assoc Prof Jamus Lim.
The remark was made after Assoc Prof Lim made a speech on the struggles faced by segments of Singaporeans and called for the government to provide more support for the less fortunate during the first day of debate on the President’s Address on Apr 17.
In light of this incident, RDU also repeated their calls for a non-partisan Speaker of Parliament, which they had raised after the 2020 Singapore General Election. The current Speaker of Parliament, Tan, is an elected member of parliament, winning the Marine Parade GRC with the People’s Action Party in the previous election.
“Even before this Freudian Slip, there has been some concern that the Speaker is a member of the ruling party’s Central Executive Committee, which raises the risk of unconscious favouritism towards his own party when attempting to act with fairness towards all Members of Parliament,” said RDU in a statement on Jul 11.
“We recommended that Parliament should have a non-partisan Speaker as this would eliminate any risk of fairness in parliament being compromised. This is not a novel suggestion as Singapore has had impartial Speakers in the past, such as Sir George Oehlers, A.P. Rajah, and Punch Coomaraswamy, who were not affiliated with any political party.”
Although the speaker of parliament has extended an apology to the Sengkang GRC MP, which was accepted by the WP parliamentarian, Red Dot United (RDU) believes that there should be a formal parliamentary investigation to address the breach of parliamentary decorum caused by the Speaker’s actions.
“When I listen to speeches made, like everyone, I do form views on them. 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. I have also spoken to the Member, A/P Jamus Lim, to make that apology as well; which he has kindly accepted,” posted Speaker of Parliament Tan in a Facebook post.
“This investigation will document the incident and serve as a precedent for future cases. It would also serve to ensure consistency and proportionality of consequence for breaches of the Standing Orders when they occur and be an overt act of upholding the principles that maintain the integrity of parliamentary proceedings,” expressed RDU.
RDU added that upholding parliamentary standards is crucial to maintain public trust and confidence in the institution. If parliament were to address this incident promptly and with transparency, it would demonstrate their commitment to accountability and the preservation of parliamentary dignity.
“We encourage Parliament to reaffirm its commitment to maintaining a respectful and constructive environment conducive to robust democratic discussions, by addressing this issue appropriately,” added RDU.