Parliament: Speaker Seah Kian Peng ends Leong Mun Wai’s complaints on Vivian Balakrishnan & Murali Pillai

Seah said that Leong's complaint about Vivian was "out of time", while Leong and Murali should "agree to disagree".

Fiona Tan | September 18, 2023, 03:30 PM



The Speaker of Parliament Seah Kian Peng put an end to Leong Mun Wai's complaints against fellow Members of Parliament (MPs) Murali Pillai and Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament on Sep. 18, 2023.

The complaints concern separate incidents in Parliament.

What happened in Parliament then

The Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong grew visibly frustrated during his Parliamentary exchanges with People's Action Party (PAP) MP for Bukit Batok Single Member Constituency (SMC) Murali on Aug. 3, 2023.

Leong felt that Murali had wrongly "labelled" him as advocating for "low rent control" in the latter's statements during the second reading of the Lease Agreements for Retail Premises Bill.

On a broader level, Leong was also upset with how the government labelled him in the past.

He claimed that they had portrayed him as "xenophobic" and "trying to raid the reserves" when he spoke about job displacement in Singapore in September 2021 and when PSP proposed the"Affordable Homes Scheme" in February 2023 respectively.

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Leong filed a formal complaint against Murali on Aug. 16, 2023, to request for Seah to make a ruling as to whether Murali's Aug. 3, 2023 statements contravened the Standing Orders of Parliament, section 50(6) by imputing improper motives to Leong, among others.

He also asked Murali to retract his statements and "apologise for the misleading impression that was created" should the latter be found to be in contravention of Standing Order 50(6).

Murali did not contravene Standing Order 50(6)

On Sep. 18, 2023, Seah said in Parliament that he had perused the relevant Aug. 3, 2023, Parliament speeches and found that Murali had not contravened Standing Order 50(6) during his statements.

Seah believed that Murali did not suggest improper motives or impugn Leong's honesty, integrity or personal character.

He said Leong and Murali simply had differing views of what the other meant when referring to rent control and that this is the nature of parliamentary exchanges and debates.

He said: "Such exchanges are part and parcel of normal debate in Parliament. Sometimes, members' opinions may be irreconcilable. They should agree to disagree."

Seah added: "Each member sets out his or her position, and if a member feels that they have been misunderstood, they can seek to clarify or defer with other members position."

On this, Seah said that both Leong and Murali were given the full opportunity in Parliament on Aug. 3, 2023, to clarify and explain what they meant during the exchanges.

Leong also complain about Vivian's "illiterate" comment "out of time"

Seah said he received another complaint from Leong on Aug. 16, 2023, regarding a remark Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan made in Parliament more than two years ago on Sep. 14, 2021.

Back then, Vivian was caught on a live microphone criticising Leong, "He's illiterate... Seriously, how did he get into RI? Must have been a lousy school."

Leong asked Leader of the House Indranee Rajah in Parliament on Aug. 2, 2023, why Vivian had not formally apologised for his remark in September 2021.

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

In his second written complaint, Leong now wished for Vivian to withdraw his remarks formally and to put his apology on record in the Hansard, either in writing or through a personal explanation at the sitting of Parliament, Seah said.

Seah said he forwarded Leong's complaint to Vivian, who responded to Seah on Sep. 15, 2023.

According to Seah, Vivian accepted that his remarks at the time were inappropriate and stood by his previous apology to Leong.

Seah said Vivian's letter to him will be published in Hansard, thereby recording his position on the Parliamentary record.

Noting that Vivian had personally and publicly apologised and that Leong had acknowledged and accepted the former's apology, and that two years have elapsed since Vivian made the remarks in Parliament, Seah said that the matter was "now closed" and that no further action needs to be taken about Leong's second complaint.

"In my opinion, the complaint is out of time, by reason of the long passage of time. It was not made at the earliest opportunity as required on the Standing Order 100 7(c) after the member had notice of the alleged remark."

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