Singapore — In the midst of criticism of the balloting process of an adjournment motion filed by Workers’ Party (WP) Chairman Sylvia Lim last week, WP politician Yee Jenn Jong has recounted how he took great pains to file an adjournment motion at the last possible moment to avoid having to go through the ballot process back when he was a Non-Constituency MP (NCMP).
Mr Yee recalled on Facebook last Thursday (Oct 1) that he was the first to file an adjournment motion in the 12th Parliament of Singapore and that his motion was filed 11 months after that term commenced:
“When I was in the 12th parliament (2011-2015), I was the first to for that term. It was for 10 Sep 2012, 11 months after parliament had convened. Yup, not a single MP use this mechanism for 11 months.”
The opposition politician described the lengths he went to in a bid to avoid competition. Mr Yee filed his adjournment motion minutes before the cut-off time on the last day of the deadline to file such motions. He said that he was afraid that others might file adjournment motions to compete with him if he made his submission to early:
“For the adjournment motion I had filed, I went to Parliament House and waited at the library until 4.25 pm to email the Clerk of Parliament of my intention to file. Then I went to the Clerk’s office just below the library to hand in my printed request. 430 pm is the cut-off time for filing and it must be filed I think 3 working days before the sitting.
“I filed on the final day allowed for filing, a few minutes before cut off. I did so because I did not want to risk having to go for a ballot if I submitted my request too early and others start filing.
“This was because I was due to fly off on 10 Sep 2012 as a representative of Singapore’s parliament for an Asean parliamentarian gathering. I requested to delay my flight by a day. I did not want to risk my adjournment motion not be selected if there was to be a ballot. I had to travel and skip the sitting on 11 Sep.”
Only two days before Mr Yee’s post, Ms Lim lost a random ballot to pick an adjournment motion for Parliament this week. She had filed an adjournment motion on Sept 14 on the issues surrounding the court case involving former maid Parti Liyani.
On Sept 29, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin announced that Ms Lim had lost the ballot of the adjournment motions filed for House. A motion filed by People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Louis Ng, calling for protection against secondhand smoke in homes, won the ballot.
The result of the ballot sparked criticism of the way a motion is selected. Mr Tan responded with multiple rebuttals of the criticism. Mr Ng, when urged by the critics to withdraw his motion and give way to Ms Lim, said he would also speak on the Parti Liyani case in Parliament.
Referring to the recent ballot, Mr Yee commented that he does not remember ever having five motions up for ballot. He wrote on Facebook: “Perhaps there were a rare few times with more than one wanting to use the adjournment motion mechanism, but I do not recall ever having 5 at one time. Could be a new record.”
Mr Yee also set out why adjournment motions can be useful for MPs to call attention to issues since they have 20 minutes to speak without a prolonged debate afterwards.
On the back of comments by Mr Tan that MPs have an array of avenues to raise issues, Mr Yee pointed out that there is a time limit when MPs want to highlight issues through parliamentary questions (PQs). Revealing that the Speaker would interrupt him and ask him to hurry up when he tried to make a case when posing PQs to ministers, Mr Yee said:
“In any case, I am sure the Minister’s statement on this hot topic will be well debated upon. There is a limitation though when asking a Minister questions, on how long you can have to present your case. Technically, it should not be to make a speech in response to a Minister’s statement but to ask questions for clarifications.
“I had tried before to make a case or make a proposal when asking questions and the Speaker would interrupt and tell me to get to my question quickly. So a proper speech such as through an adjournment motion or a motion is better to lay out the points.”
Read his post in full here:
Adjournment motion – What is it?An adjournment motion allows an MP to speak for up to 20 minutes and a political…