Leong Mun Wai asks Indranee Rajah why no formal apology for him after Vivian Balakrishnan hot mic incident

He asked if it was a mistake.

Belmont Lay | August 02, 2023, 07:17 PM



Non-constituency Member of the Parliament Leong Mun Wai asked Leader of the House Indranee Rajah on Aug. 2 why he was not given a formal apology after the September 2021 hot mic incident involving Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

The hot mic incident occurred almost two years ago, towards the end of a Parliament session, when criticisms about Leong were picked up by live microphones.

A voice could be heard saying: "He's illiterate... Seriously, how did he get into RI? Must have been a lousy school."

It turned out the words were uttered by the foreign affairs minister.

Hot mic issues in Parliament

The Progress Singapore Party's secretary-general asked his question in Parliament, which was addressing the hot mic incident involving former Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin.

Having been on the receiving end of uncalled for remarks, Leong asked Indranee:

Sir, I would like to ask the Leader, in the case between Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and myself on the hot mic, why did the Leader think it was not necessary to ask him to make a formal apology in this House?

Indranee explained that the matter was not for her to raise, but she was doing so as Tan was no longer around, having resigned from party and government due to his extramarital affair.

In response, Indranee said: "In the normal case, it is the Speaker who has conduct of such matters and makes the ruling, and also, in the normal case, it would be the person who has the right to complain who would raise this."

Indranee added that the Speaker acted when a complaint was made previously in Parliament.

Complainant could have raised issue

She then said Leong could have raised the matter previously as he was the complainant, but he might not be able to now, given that it has been almost two years since the hot mic incident involving him occurred.

Indranee explained: "So actually, in this particular instance that Mr. Leong has referred to, if a formal apology were required, it would have been incumbent on Mr. Leong to raise the matter as a complainant."

"I have raised it here simply because it is the Speaker who had uttered the words, and other members can raise a complaint if they wish, but I felt that was appropriate that as Leader I should address it."

"Of course, he is no longer here in Parliament to deal with it. So somebody has to raise it."

Was it a mistake Tan Chuan-jin didn't demand Vivian apologise?

In a follow-up question, Leong asked Indranee if it was a mistake at that time that the Speaker failed to demand that the Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian make a formal apology.

In response to whether that was the case, Indranee said this issue was "not something which is really before this House" and that she does not intend to "revisit previous matters that were or were not decided upon".

"As far as I'm aware, it was not brought to the Speaker. He did not have to make a ruling," she added.

Indranee continued to explain that for Speaker Tan's case, she had to step up to address it as it was a matter of decorum and propriety.

She said:

"In this particular instance, it's not just a rude remark per se — it involved an expletive. It had to do with the decorum and propriety of this House. And that is why I felt it was necessary to address it.

And in the case of the remark by Minister Vivian, I noticed that Mr. Leong had accepted the apology. Just as in this case, Associate Professor Jamus Lim has accepted the apology. And if Mr. Leong wishes to take that matter further, it will be up to him except that I'm not sure whether he still is within time for his matter, but I'm sure he will take the appropriate advice on the regulations and the rules and do what is necessary."

Did not exercise authority over Speaker Tan

In response to Workers' Party MP Sylvia Lim, who asked Indranee if she compelled Speaker Tan to apologise for his hot mic incident, Indranee said she did not, as Leader, exercise any authority over him.

She said: "The answer's 'no'. I was not exercising any authority over him."

"What I wanted to do was to indicate to him that in my view, as Leader, at the very minimum, an apology or withdrawal of the comment and an apology should be required," she added.

Lim's question was couched as a query as to who, or if the Leader of the House, could have powers over the Speaker of Parliament, given that the Speaker role comes with powers to punish other members who fall short of the rules in the chamber.

Top photos via Leong Mun Wai Facebook/ Indranee Rajah Facebook