Pritam Singh rejects Indranee Rajah’s suggestion that WP has no ‘moral authority’ to question future cases of misconduct
Pritam said that the motion was "hurried" and "premature".
Workers’ Party (WP) Secretary-General Pritam Singh rejected the idea that the WP had lost its “moral authority” to raise questions in future inquiries.
During the contentious Nov. 5 debate on the Parliamentary motion calling on WP MPs Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim to recuse themselves from all financial matters of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), Indranee Rajah rose to speak.
Indranee, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Education and Finance, acknowledged that the WP MPs intended to file an appeal of the High Court’s ruling, as “it was their right to do so”.
What if it was a government official?
However, she said that the question remained of what is “the appropriate thing” that the MPs and town councillors should do between now and then.
Indranee said that as all the lawyers in the parliament know, that the judgement, once given, until and unless it was overturned, remained.
In a judgment released on Oct 11, High Court Judge Kannan Ramesh found that Low and Lim had breached their fiduciary duties and were liable for damages suffered by the town council.
Indranee gave a hypothetical example of a government official found to have been dishonest, but who intended to appeal the ruling.
“Would we say, it’s fine. Let him or her remain in place because he’s appealing. It’s okay.”
She then asked why don’t the same standards apply to elected public figures such as the WP MPs, and added:
“But it also means that next time there’s any incident, and there’s an inquiry pending, the WP has no moral authority to ask for any official to stand down or stand aside whilst the case is being heard or whilst the matter goes for appeal. No moral authority at all.”
WP MPs will continue to question such issues
However, Pritam disagreed.
He said that it depended on the circumstances, on whether the case was a criminal or civil one, and the nature of the dispute. Pritam said:
“So I reject any suggestion that the Workers’ Party will not have any moral authority to question an issue like that when it comes up.”
Pritam then cited the example of the Keppel bribery scandal, and said that he and his fellow parliamentarians were given a little less than 48 hours to file questions on the prosecution case involving Brazil, the U.S., and Singapore.
Keppel bribery scandal
“Slightly less than 48 hours. Not a single PAP MP filed a question on the matter, probably one of the most serious corporate issues, corporate scandals that have affected Singapore’s government-linked company.
So if WP MPs will have no moral authority to file any question on a matter like that, how sure are we that a PAP MP will file a question?”
In response, Indranee said that Pritam’s response was a “classic” attempt at “distraction”, and said:
“When you have somebody in a public position, and a court has found that they have done something wrong, there has been a breach of fiduciary duties, lack of integrity, that they have not acted with appropriate candour, does that person, should that person remain in position whilst those findings are there, whilst they still stand, and whether or not an appeal is pending.”
In the rest of his speech, Pritam said that he and the rest of the WP MPs read the motion carefully, and they would unanimously vote against it.
He said that the WP agrees with the “first limb” of the motion, which called on the House to affirm the importance of high standards of accountability and integrity for MPs.
However, he pointed out that not only will the WP MPs file an appeal, the plaintiffs might do so too, and that the case was a “live issue”.
“To that end, there is no reason for Parliament to be prematurely hijacked as a substitute for the judicial process when the window for the appeal of the judgment has not closed.”
Pritam: Motion is “hurried” and “premature”
Pritam also said that if there was any recusal to be made, it would be done if the AHTC council decides so, and not WP.
He added that he had “absolute trust and confidence” in Low and Lim’s leadership, and praised the work they have done as part of the town council.
Pritam concluded, saying that the “two words that have defined this motion are hurried and premature.”
Top image from gov.sg.