PSP's Leong Mun Wai should be responsible & substantiate allegations against teachers: Indranee Rajah

Leong was called out by Indranee for "grandstanding" in Parliament and not providing details on his allegations.

Matthias Ang | January 11, 2022, 04:12 PM

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Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai was reprimanded by the Leader of the House Indranee Rajah for "grandstanding" in Parliament, and for failing to provide details that were requested of him over allegations he had made, by citing the screenshot of unverified messages from a Telegram group chat.

This follows the Jan. 10 sitting where Leong alleged he had received feedback from residents that some children were subject to vaccination differentiated safe management measures (VDS) in schools, something which Education Minister Chan Chun Sing confirmed was currently not government policy.

What was the allegation made?

On Jan. 10, Leong said he received "feedback" from residents that some teachers have allegedly already practised VDS measures in schools. He asked:

"So can the minister confirm that if the teachers are practising that, or if any officers in the schools are practising that, that is against government policy at the moment? Thank you."

Chan then asked Leong to clarify and provide further information on which schools and what VDS measures have been implemented, and which teachers have been doing so.

Leong replied, "Speaker, the resident who have feedback to me are on my WhatsApp messages. Can I refer to the messages and I give a reply later? Thank you."

In response, Chan said he would appreciate if Leong could let him know which teacher in which school has practised what VDS measures, so the feedback can be looked into and follow-up action can be taken, if necessary.

Chan also stated that at this point, there are no plans to apply VDS in schools.

Leong repeats same allegation on Jan. 11

On Jan. 11, Leong stood up in Parliament.

However, instead of providing more info as Chan requested earlier, Leong repeated his allegation from the previous day, and said it was his "duty as a Parliamentarian" to bring concerns to the House.

"You may wish to know from ground feedback that many distressed parents are still trying to get reassurance from you and your ministry and to be very clear of your position," he said.

Here, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-jin interjected and said, "This is not to make another speech. You were meant to clarify, I think, the source of some of the feedback that you provided."

Leong cites screenshot of messages from anti-vaccination group chat, but no info on schools or teachers

After another attempt to continue with his speech, and another intervention by the Speaker, Leong said that the point he raised on Jan. 10 was based on a screenshot from a Telegram chat group named "SG Concerned Parents", which had been sent to him by a Facebook friend.

Leong then proceeded to read out the messages within the screenshot, before Tan asked if Leong could share information on which schools allegedly imposed these measures so Chan could investigate.

"We are asking you to substantiate by giving airtime to substantiate what you said yesterday. So is that going to come out...or are you just going to repeat the screenshot? Do you know the source?" Tan asked.

Leong responded, "There's no mention of the school on the screenshot, ok? But this is public information on the public domain "SG concerned parents", a chat group with close to 6,000 members. So, if the ministry wants, they can contact the persons..."

Tan then asked if Leong had no clarification about which school his allegations stemmed from, other than the screenshot from the Telegram page.

"You have no idea what the school was, you have not verified whether that was true or not, et cetera," Tan said.

Leong said, "Yes, I want to clarify that. That is where I got my information."

Indranee: Allegation besmirches teachers as a whole

At this point, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah rose to make the following statement, saying that she wished to give some advice to the member, Leong.

"I have in this House before spoken about the importance of being able to substantiate allegations that are made in this House. And we have seen what happens when members make allegations which cannot be substantiated or (are) irresponsible.

I wish to remind the member (Leong) exactly what transpired yesterday: The member stood up and made an allegation that teachers in MOE were practicing vaccination differentiated measures. It is an allegation which is cast out there and besmirches teachers as a whole.

Minister Chan Chun Sing stood up to ask for details of this allegation. And the reason why you provide details if you are a responsible Member of Parliament, is because when you come to this chamber and you're given a seat in this chamber, you're expected to discharge your duties responsibly. When you make allegations against teachers, and just cast it out there, you must be able to substantiate it and that is why Minister Chan asked, please provide me with the details of which school and which teacher so that the Ministry of Education can follow up.

What we have seen today is Mr Leong Mun Wai coming here firstly, to grandstand and make broad allegations, or broad speeches, that have no bearing whatsoever on the details that were requested of him.

We have seen that when you, Mr Speaker, requested him to provide those details, he prevaricated and evaded and now finally we discover that the details cannot be forthcoming because he's referring to a Telegram chat where there are no details at all.

So I just wish to conclude by reminding members, that they are given the privilege of speaking in this chamber, and that privilege must be exercised responsibly and I hope that that is something that the member will bear in mind."

Tan asks Leong if the point is taken, with interruptions from Leong

Following Indranee's warning, the following exchange occurred between Tan and Leong.

Tan: Is the point taken, Mr Leong?

Leong: Speaker, thanks. Can I ask the Minister-

Tan: I'm asking you whether the point is taken?

Leong: Um, I want to ask one question.

Tan: I'm asking you whether the point is taken? If you have no response to that, you can sit down, thank you very much.

Leong: No, I noted the point, but I have my question. Can I ask the question?

Tan: No, you have no question. Thank you. We are moving on.

Leong: Speaker.

Tan: We are moving on, you can sit down.

Leong: No, I want to ask then what is feedback-

Tan: Order. To proceed to read the orders of the day and the motion.

Top image from MCI/YouTube.

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