NMPs Anthea Ong & Walter Theseira abstained from voting for parliamentary motion against WP MPs

They were the only two parliamentarians who abstained, though their reasons were quite different.

Joshua Lee | November 05, 2019, 07:44 PM

Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) Anthea Ong and Walter Theseira chose to abstain from voting in the Parliamentary motion that was introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Nov. 5 in Parliament.

Heng spoke for 65 minutes as he called on Workers’ Party (WP) MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from all financial matters at the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

While Ong supported the first part of the motion -- that members of the House need to maintain high standards of integrity and accountability, she questioned the need for this motion, especially since it is non-binding:

"I am unsure of the need for this motion which has no legal force when passed, given the powers already vested in the Minister through the Town Councils Act to order AHTC to take necessary and swift actions."

This motion when passed by the House becomes a resolution of Parliament. A resolution of the House is not legislation nor does it have any legal force.

Given this, Ong asked if the call for Low and Lim to be discharged of their responsibilities be made by the Minister through the Town Councils Act.

At the same time, Ong said that she is concerned that the motion relates to matters which have not fully concluded in court.

"I am concerned that any comments that we make now, while possibly protected under certain Parliamentary privileges could still potentially fall under contempt of court," she said, adding that their debate might be perceived to be interfering with the due judicial process in the administration of justice.

Ong ended her speech by affirming her support for the "ideals of integrity and accountability expected of members of this House" and said that she takes her responsibility as a non-partisan Nominated Member of Parliament seriously, but taking the above into consideration, she chose to abstain.

Walter Theseira: Concerned about political nature of motion

Similarly, NMP Walter Theseira agreed with DPM that members must maintain high standards of integrity and accountability.

While he agreed that the AHTC breach of fiduciary duty is serious, he is not convinced that it was done to enrich the personal self-interest of the members.

Theseira also raised similar points. He said:

"I am personally concerned that [part 4] of the motion has the effect of a political resolution. I would have hoped that there were other means of addressing the serious concerns raised in the judgement."

He then said that he is uncomfortable as a non-elected member in participating in what may be a political resolution. Hence he chose to abstain from the motion.

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