All Members of Parliament (MPs) were invited to debate the recent Workers' Party (WP) motion on the criminal justice system, but the opposition MPs did not do so, according to Minister in the Prime Ministers' Office Indranee Rajah.
According to Indranee, who is also Second Minister for Finance, the Speaker of Parliament went through the proposed amendments line by line, and that the opposition MPs were able to consider the amendments, but chose not to speak on it.
MP Murali Pillai suggested amendments to the motion
The motion came in the wake of the acquittal of former domestic helper Parti Liyani, who had all charges of stealing from her former employers overturned.
The motion originally stated: "That this House affirms that fairness, access and independence are cornerstones of Singapore's justice system, and calls on the Government to recognise and remedy its shortcomings in order to enhance justice for all, regardless of means or social status, including facilitating a review of the justice system."
During the debate, Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai suggested amendments to the motion, in order to "better reflect the actual course and substance of the debate".
According to Indranee, this should be considered a more constructive move, compared to simply rejecting the WP's motion altogether.
The new motion now reads: “That this House recognises that fairness, access and independence are cornerstones of Singapore's justice system, and affirms the Government's continuous efforts since independence to build a fair and just society and remedy any shortcoming in order to enhance justice for all, regardless of race, language, religion, economic means, or social status."
WP's Leon Perera weighs in
However, after the debate, the WP's Leon Perera, who is the MP for Aljunied GRC, posted a picture of the motion with amendments made to it, and said that the amendment "changed the meaning and sense of that motion".
He also said that the "overwhelming majority" of PAP MPs in Parliament passed the amended version of the motion, rather than the original one.
WP MPs given a chance to debate the amendments
In response, Indranee wrote on Facebook on Saturday (Nov. 7), clarifying the events that happened in Parliament.
She said that as the debate progressed, it "became clear" that there was bipartisan consensus that Singapore's system was not broken, but as with any system, it can be further improved.
Indranee noted that there was a lot of common ground between the PAP and WP MPs in the debate, and that both sides noted the steps taken by the government and the progress made over the years.
She said that the debate was actually about what the MPs could do to make the system even better, with suggestions from both opposition and PAP MPs.
As the debate drew to a close, Indranee pointed out that many of the suggestions put forward by the WP were already under active review by the government.
"For example, regarding the call to enhance access to justice, Minister Shanmugam said the government is reviewing the possibility of a Public Defenders Office," said Indranee.
She said that other suggestions could not be so easily implemented due to high costs and potential downsides, and that the PAP ministers "took pains" to explain why they disagreed with such suggestions.
Indranee clarified that the Speaker invited all MPs to speak on the amendment, and that the WP MPs were given a chance to debate the amendments.
She said that before speaking personally, she requested the Speaker to first clarify with the WP's Sylvia Lim, to check if she had wanted to speak on the amendment.
According to Indranee, Lim stated that she only wanted to speak to close the debate.
Indranee emphasised that the Speaker went through the proposed amendments line by line, and that the opposition MPs were able to consider the amendments.
Opposition MPs objected to certain amendments
While the opposition MPs did not object to certain minor changes, they did object to certain changes such as the second amendment.
The second amendment states that the House "affirms the government's continuous efforts since independence to build a fair and just society".
According to Indranee, Murali's suggested amendments were meant to establish common ground with the opposition, but it was "not to be".
However, she closed her Facebook post by stating that the government will continue in their efforts to improve their system, and enhance justice for all.
She also included a link to the video clips of the relevant parts of the debate in her Facebook post.
You can see Indranee's full Facebook post here:We deliver more stories to you on LinkedIn
Top photo via Gov.sg YouTube