SINGAPORE: Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng has been nominated to take over as Speaker of Parliament, following the resignation of Tan Chuan-Jin earlier this month over an extramarital affair with a fellow ruling party MP.
While Mr Seah has said that he prefers to let his “actions speak for him” and to be “judged for that,” when asked whether he can be an impartial Speaker, critics have dubbed his selection a missed opportunity for the Government to nominate an independent figure as Speaker – especially given the hot mic incident involving former Speaker Tan.
While some Singaporeans have expressed disappointment over Mr Seah’s nomination as the next Speaker, others are recirculating some of the more embarrassing remarks and posts he has made online. The most notable gaffe which has resurfaced online is Mr Seah’s post that appeared to poke fun at US Vice-President Kamala Harris’ name.
In the widely ridiculed post that he put up on social media in 2021, Mr Seah had written: “As we know, VP of USA, Ms Kamala Harris chose Singapore for her first stop for her Asia tour. And with it, a friend pointed out to me that Kamala’s name spelt backwards is Alamak … what a coincidence!”
Alamak is a colloquial term that is used when things go wrong.
Mr Seah’s post sparked swift backlash, with many decrying his unprofessionalism and tactless joke. The post’s attempt to make light of Vice-President Kamala Harris’ name was particularly problematic to many, as it seemed to mock a minority-race politician’s name, sparking accusations of racial insensitivity.
The Singaporean politician later took down his post, saying: “Yes, I did post this on my FB page last evening just before I went for my MPS. Midway through my MPS, a friend ping me and as I reflected on it, I agree it was not appropriate and decided to take down the posting.”
Despite his retraction, the recirculation of the controversial social media post appears to have further soured public sentiment regarding his selection as Speaker.
Mere days before his affair with a colleague came to light, Mr Tan apologised after he was caught saying the F-word under his breath, in reference to opposition MP Jamus Lim. Right after Assoc Prof Lim ends a speech on poverty and welfare, Mr Tan was heard muttering “f***ing populist”.
While Mr Tan copped to the vulgar remark after a video of the moment went viral, his apology failed to stave off a public uproar and renewed concerns about the treatment of opposition MPs and the need for a respectful and inclusive environment in Parliament.
Asserting that the Speaker’s conduct was especially jarring as it was unbefitting of the office he holds, Singaporeans called 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 its 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 said an independent figure would be better equipped to foster an unbiased environment within the parliamentary proceedings and argued that a Speaker who does not belong to the ruling party would be less likely to display bias or favouritism towards the government.
Asserting that this would ensure a more equitable representation of diverse viewpoints and facilitate a more robust and constructive parliamentary debate, critics have said that this would also promote greater transparency, accountability, and effective checks and balances in the parliamentary system. /TISG