The motion to suspend Transport Minister S Iswaran as a Member of Parliament (MP) was rejected in Parliament on Sep. 19, 2023.
All People's Action Party (PAP) and Worker's Party (WP) MPs voted against the motion filed by Progress Singapore Party (PSP) two Non-Constituency MPs, Hazel Poa and Leong Mun Wai.
On the other hand, the two PSP MPs voted against Leader of the House Indranee Rajah's motion titled "Consideration Of Matters Regarding Member Of Parliament", which asks for the Parliament to:
- Affirms the need for Members of Parliament to uphold the highest standards of integrity and conduct themselves in accordance with the law;
- Affirms the need to deal firmly and fairly with any Member of Parliament who is being investigated for possible wrongdoing; and
- Resolves to consider the matter regarding Member of Parliament S Iswaran when the outcome of the ongoing investigations against him is known.
PAP and WP MPs voted for Indranee's motion.
S'poreans find it difficult to accept taxpayers' money used in this way: PSP
During her speech, Poa said PSP filed the motion as they believe Iswaran is "no longer performing his duties" as an MP since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong instructed him to take a leave of absence.
Iswaran was also interdicted from his ministerial duties due to the investigations on him by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). He has been drawing a reduced ministerial pay of S$8,500 monthly.
However, he continues to draw his full MP allowance of S$192,500 annually.
Poa said that for many years, Singapore has "justified the high salaries for political office holders on the basis of ensuring that our government remains honest and free of corruption".
Poa claims that Singaporeans, including herself, "find it difficult to accept that taxpayers' money is being used this way".
Prudent use of taxpayers' money, not a presumption of guilt: PSP
Poa suggested that her motion was about the prudent use of taxpayers' money, not a presumption of guilt.
She believes there's a need to prevent "corrupt MPs from benefiting financially".
She said they should also ensure "innocent MPs do not have to pay a price" for unfounded allegations.
However, she pointed out that existing laws do not cover clawing back an MP's allowance or reimbursing their pay after the suspension.
Hence, she said PSP prefers to suspend MPs, put them on no-pay leave first, and reimburse them later.
"That is why today I have moved this motion and sought leave to table a private member's bill to amend the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act in order to create the legal mechanisms to back pay and MPs that allowance if they're suspended," Poa said.
This way, she believes, there is no difference in outcome between suspending or not suspending Iswaran should he be found innocent.
If PSP is asking to suspend Iswaran, why not suspend Pritam Singh too: Indranee
When speaking on her motion, Indranee questioned the principles that led to Poa proposing suspending Iswaran "at this point of time".
If it's because Iswaran is under investigation, Indranee asked if Poa's proposal should cover "all MPs being investigated" and pointed out that other than Iswaran, Worker's Party chief Pritam Singh and vice-chairman Faisal Manap has been referred to the public prosecutor following the Committee of Privileges’ report on former WP MP Raeesah Khan.
"They have not been suspended. Is Miss Poa calling for their suspension as well? If not, then why not?"
@mothershipsg Indranee: "If not, then why not?" #sgnews #tiktoksg #sgparliament ♬ original sound - Mothership
Indranee made further arguments about "principles" over the course of the two-hour debate.
Amongst them, she said if the principle is because Iswaran is under investigation for corruption, she questioned, "What about rape? What about murder?"
In response to Indranee, Poa said that she had not thought about those other cases.
"It is not my intention to set out rules under which members can be suspended," Poa responded. "I am merely looking at a case in point where I feel there is a strong case for suspension."
Indranee believes Poa's response meant she "had not thought about the principle".
"This is worrying because it means that when PSP advocates something, they are not acting as a matter of principle, but as a matter of targeting a specific individual," said Indranee, who also reminded that Iswaran has not been proven of any wrongdoings at the moment.
At one point, she asked Poa to clarify if she was bringing the motion "as a matter of broad principle of general application" or a "targeted motion" directed at Iswaran.
Poa answered that she believes it's for "all disciplinary cases of that nature".
Will consider clawback of Iswaran's allowance if warranted: Indranee
Indranee categorised the PSP motion as "Let's just ignore whether or not he's done anything wrong; Let's just suspend him because it's a matter of money".
She believes that as a "matter of principle", they should wait for the outcome of investigations.
Indranee said that PM Lee holds very firm views on standards of integrity and conduct and that "he will not let the matter rest if thresholds have been crossed".
"I think that assurance I can give, which is that if certain thresholds have been crossed, and if warranted, and merited. We will do something."
She said that she can say "quite plainly" that they will consider a clawback and also "think how to do it".
"If we don't suspend him today, it does not mean that you cannot do so in the future," Indranee said. "If you do suspend him today, you're effectively saying that he has done something wrong when there is no basis at the present time."
Top image via MCI/YouTube