Balloting to pick 1 adjournment motion out of 5 prompts Speaker of Parliament & opposition to comment

Who gets to speak on what and how it is decided is a part of parliamentary process.

Belmont Lay | September 30, 2020, 06:08 PM

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin has dismissed as "a false narrative" the suggestions about how a proposed adjournment motion on the criminal justice system pertaining to high-profile Parti Liyani case put forth by an opposition Member of Parliament has not been picked as an issue for debate for the next parliamentary session.

Tan added comments to original post

Tan added more comments to his original post about the balloting process as a rebuttal.

The comments came after some commenters online expressed their views that the result of the adjournment motion ballot was evidence of bias in favour of the ruling People's Action Party with regards to parliamentary proceedings.

In his Facebook post on Sep. 29, Tan assured Singaporeans that the high-profile Parti Liyani case will get a full airing as Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam will be delivering a ministerial statement on the matter.

The high-profile court case involves the former domestic helper of Changi Airport Group’s former chairman Liew Mun Leong, where Parti was acquitted of theft.

In his rebuttal, Tan wrote: "It is disrespectful to the Singaporeans whose lives are impacted by the issues being proposed."

"Just because a motion is not picked this round does not mean it would not be picked again. But more critically, how on earth is this the be all and end all?"

Tan continued to comment on his own post: "Some folks who claim to care about the process have no interest to fact-check nor to find out more. While we live in a information-rich environment, we can be remarkably not evidence-based at all."

What happened

It was announced earlier on Tuesday that Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim's motion to speak on enhancing equity in Singapore's criminal justice system at next week’s Parliament sitting was not selected in a random ballot.

Titled, "Justice For All: Enhancing Equity In The Criminal Justice System", Lim's motion aimed to make reference to "deeper issues" raised by the recent acquittal of the former domestic helper.

Instead, PAP MP Louis Ng's adjournment motion about protection against secondhand smoke in the home was picked.

The ballot had to be conducted as Tan had to choose from five adjournment motions for the next sitting.

The four ruling party motions that were submitted were from PAP MPs Ng and Carrie Tan of Nee Soon GRC and Jalan Besar GRC’s Wan Rizal and Denise Phua.

The adjournment motion that was drawn from the ballot was from Ng and Lim.

Ng and Lim were both present to witness the ballot.

What is an adjournment motion?

An adjournment motion allows an MP to raise additional matters of public concern for up to 20 minutes at the end of a parliamentary sitting.

The motion is decided by ballot if more than one MP wishes to move an adjournment motion for the sitting.

Ng had written on Facebook on Sep. 12 about raising the matter of secondhand smoke in Parliament as the number of disputes over cigarette smoke in Housing and Development Board flats had increased during the pandemic.

He had written about this issue as early as Sep. 6.

In response to the chatter, Ng then posted on Sep. 30 about the importance of both issues, saying it is not an either or process.

He wrote on Facebook: "It’s my third time having to ballot for an adjournment motion. But it really is not a case of either or. Either debate the issue of secondhand smoke or the Parti Liyani case."

"I will speak up on both issues and both important issues will be debated."

PSP steps in

On Wednesday, Sep. 30, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) also stepped into the fray as it said it plans to follow up on the "failure of the current parliamentary procedure" to give priority to "the more important issue of the day".

These comments came courtesy of PSP's Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai, in a Facebook post.

Leong said in his Facebook post that with five submissions in total, Lim had only "a 20 per cent chance of being drawn in the ballot process".

He added that "most Singaporeans would probably prefer the Parti Liyani case to be heard first before secondhand smoke or any of the other matters raised by the PAP MPs".

"The failure of the current parliamentary procedure (standing order) to give priority to the the more important issue of the day to be heard and processed is another issue we will follow up in the future," Leong said.

He added: “For now, we hope the parliamentary questions that PSP have raised separately will be addressed fully by the Minister of Law and Home Affairs.”

Leong then posed a series of questions he said he hopes will be addressed.

He said addressing the questions would be "the only way" to regain public confidence and trust in Singapore's criminal justice system.

"We continue to advocate that for the Parti Liyani case, which is one of national importance, an Independent Committee of Inquiry be convened to investigate the case independently and to recommend remedial measures," Leong said.

The questions by Leong are:

- To ask the Minister for Home Affairs if he would appoint a committee of inquiry consisting of "members not affiliated to the Government" to conduct a public inquiry into the police and Attorney-General's Chambers' conduct regarding the investigation and prosecution of former maid Parti Liyani

-To ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether "an expedited trial process can be created for economically vulnerable foreign accused persons"

- Whether the honorarium for volunteer lawyers under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS) can be increased to signify their contributions

- Whether an Office of Public Defender can be created to provide legal assistance to accused people in Singapore like the Public Defender Service in the United Kingdom

- Whether steps are being taken to strengthen the interpreter service in the Singapore Police Force in light of findings in Ms Parti's case

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