SINGAPORE: Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin has apologised for “unparliamentary language” after netizens scrutinising the recording of a parliamentary sitting that took place close to three months ago, alleging he uttered an expletive directed at Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim.
As Assoc Prof Lim ended his speech, Mr Tan invited People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Vikram Nair to take the mic. However, just before Mr Nair began his remarks, some netizens listening closely to the proceedings claimed to have heard Speaker Tan mutter what sounded like “f**king populist” under his breath, seemingly referring to Assoc Prof Lim.
The moment unfolded during the parliamentary sitting on 17 March this year, immediately after Assoc Prof Lim delivered a speech addressing poverty and social welfare in Singapore.
In his wide-ranging speech, the Sengkang GRC MP said: “Mr Speaker, we have been remarkably recalcitrant in our willingness to support our poor. We can do more, much more if we want to truly call ourselves a first-world nation. Indeed, we surely must.”
Although it was difficult to ascertain exactly what Mr Tan said, as his voice was low and muffled, the recording of the 17 April sitting is circulating again on social media, with netizens pointing each other to the 1:25:27 mark.
Redditor u/loldumbf*** wrote: “did TCJ say f**king populist to Jamus Lim in parliament?” to which Redditor u/adorablewrongdoerr responded, “Not sure about the curse word, but I can definitely discern the word “populist”. The real question is are we surprised…”
Noted writer and socio-political Andrew Loh also pointed to the portion of the sitting on his Facebook page as he asked: “Listen to the audio after Jamus Lim had spoken, and immediately after Speaker Tan Chuan-jin had called Vikram Nair. It is at the 1:25:00 mark. Tell me what you hear. You may have to turn up the volume a little to hear it. Did I hear what I think I heard?”
The allegation has reignited discussions about the treatment of opposition MPs and the need for a respectful and inclusive environment in Parliament. Critics argue that any perceived derogatory remarks, intentional or unintentional, undermine the spirit of open dialogue and may discourage alternative viewpoints.
Mr Tan has since admitted to uttering the expletive and has revealed that he has apologised to Assoc Prof Lim. He wrote on Facebook this morning: “There is a recording of a Parliament sitting in April this year that has been circulating. I had to listen to the recording as I did not recall the occasion.
Based on the clip it appears that I had a reaction to a speech made in the chamber. 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.”
While some have accepted Mr Tan’s apology, his remark has raised concerns regarding the decorum and professionalism expected from members of Parliament, particularly the Speaker, who plays a crucial role in maintaining order and ensuring fair discourse during sessions.
The Parliament of Singapore has a code of conduct that governs the behaviour of its members and emphasizes the importance of respectful and professional interactions. It remains unclear at this point whether parliamentary officials and leaders will review the matter and take appropriate steps to address concerns.