Questions about Tan Chuan-Jin & Cheng Li Hui's affair, answered in Parliament

A summary.

Joshua Lee | Hannah Martens | August 02, 2023, 07:07 PM

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the affair between Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and former People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Cheng Li Hui and their subsequent resignations in Parliament on Wednesday (Aug. 2).

Aside from admitting "in retrospect" that he should have "forced the issue earlier", PM Lee also provided more information about the affair and how the party handled it.

How long did the "inappropriate relationship" between Tan and Cheng last?

Less than three years.

Tan and Cheng's relationship began after the 2020 General Elections. PM Lee first learned about their affair in November 2020.

Tan and Cheng were spoken to and counselled separately, said PM Lee.

The pair said they would stop the affair. However, they did not.

In February 2023, PM Lee spoke to them again separately.

Tan admitted that he was wrong and offered to resign which PM Lee accepted.

However, Tan had to first ensure that residents in Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marine Parade were taken care of.

In the meantime, PM Lee told Tan to end his relationship with Cheng.

Recently, PM Lee came across information that Tan and Cheng's affair continued, so he decided that both of them had to resign immediately.

Why did PM Lee take more than two years to ask Tan and Cheng to resign?

PM Lee said that, right at the onset, both Tan and Cheng would have had to resign as MPs "at some point".

He would also have asked Tan to resign as Speaker before the end of the term.

The issue was when they had to do so.

PM Lee felt that there was some "leeway to take some time, to decide what further steps to take" since Tan said in November 2020 that he would end the relationship.

By giving the matter time, PM Lee had hoped to give the couple a "softer exit" and save them and their families from public embarassment.

However, PM Lee admitted "in retrospect", he should have "forced the issue earlier", especially knowing how things eventually turned out.

What were some of PM Lee's considerations when deciding how to handle the affair?

He said that there are "many factors" to consider when dealing with such relationships, such as the circumstances, how "inappropriate or scandalous" the behaviour was, the family situation, as well as the impact on innocent parties, like spouses and children.

This is in line with how the party deals with such inappropriate relationships that happen from "time to time".

It has been the PAP's long-standing practice since the days of Lee Kuan Yew.

Is an affair between a Speaker of Parliament and an MP particularly problematic?

It seems that the issue was that aside from being an extra-marital affair (Tan was still married), there was also the dynamics between the Speaker of Parliament and an MP.

The affair was problematic as the Speaker has "some official capacity vis-a-vis MPs", PM Lee said.

The affair also put other MPs and staff in an awkward position and it was "just not proper".

However, if it was a case of the Speaker and MP being in an "open, legitimate relationship", that relationship would have "perfectly alright" as there is no direct reporting line between the two.

How will this incident affect the ruling party?

PM Lee said that this incident, as well as the recent investigation into Transport Minister S Iswaran, has dealt the PAP a hit.

However, he assured Singaporeans that his government will continue to protect the integrity of the system, keep it incorruptible and maintain high standards of propriety.

"I will not flinch or hesitate to do my duty, to keep our system robust and clean. This is how the PAP Government can continue to deserve the trust that Singaporeans have placed in us."

Photos via MCI YouTube, PAP Website & Wikipedia