‘Freer debates’ in Parliament encouraged but ‘out of order’ MPs will be stopped from speaking: Tan Chuan-Jin

20-Jan-2022 Intellasia | TodayOnline | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin has said that he would like to be more open in allowing “freer debates” in the House, but it does not mean that parliamentarians have free rein “to take liberties to do whatever they so wish”.

Tan did not say what prompted his Facebook post on Tuesday (January 18), but his comments came a week after a terse exchange in Parliament, which ended with him stopping Progress Singapore Party member Leong Mun Wai from asking a question and telling him to sit down.

“If every member decides to speak and debate and question just because they feel like they ought to, it’d be chaotic and it would be inappropriate,” Tan wrote on Facebook.

“In these instances, when members are so denied that space to speak, it is because they have been out of order or there are no provisions for them to do so.”

And when that happens, Tan said that his role as Speaker is to ensure discipline and to maintain dignity and order in the House.

His post included a series of infographics produced by Parliament on the rules for conduct in the House, which highlighted that the Speaker may direct a Member of Parliament (MP) to stop speaking if the MP persists in “irrelevance or tedious repetition”.

“These rules are not meant to restrict,” Tan said. “Rather, it manages the space so that we can be consistent, fair, allow business to proceed and provide time for more members to speak.”

THE EXCHANGE LAST WEEK

On Monday last week, Leong, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), asked Education minister Chan Chun Sing about feedback he claimed to have received from residents “that some teachers have already practised vaccination differentiated safe management measures in schools”.

In response, Chan said that there were no plans to carry out infection controls tied to vaccination status for children aged 12 and below in schools and asked Leong for the name of these schools.

Leong said that the feedback from the residents was in WhatsApp messages and that he would need to refer to them before making a clarification.

The next day, Leong told the House that the complaints he had brought up originated from a Telegram chat group called SG Concerned Parents, and that the messages there did not name any schools.

Leader of the House Indranee Rajah rebuked Leong for making the unsubstantiated claims, describing the NCMP’s explanation as an attempt to “grandstand” or make broad speeches that have no bearing on the details requested by the Education minister.

A terse exchange between Tan and Leong followed.

When Tan asked if Leong had taken the point made by Ms Indranee about the need to exercise the privilege to speak in Parliament responsibly, the NCMP tried to ask another question but was stopped by Tan.

“I’m asking you whether the point is taken,” Tan said. “If you have no response to that, you can sit down. Thank you very much.”

‘HOW TO DEBATE LIKE THAT?’

Since then, Leong has commented on Facebook that his fellow NCMP Hazel Poa and he have been repeatedly stopped from speaking.

“You haven’t seen how many times they have stood up and prevent (sic) Hazel and I from speaking. How to debate like that?” he wrote last Wednesday.

Tan, in his Facebook post on Tuesday, said that he expects parliamentarians to be able to substantiate what they say in the House.

He wrote: “In most instances, members have been responsible and mature in their behaviour and conduct, and there has been little need for me to crack the proverbial whip or I guess to wield the Mace!

“But if I need to be firm, I will not hesitate to do so. It’d certainly be remiss of me to do otherwise.”

Tan, when asked what sparked his comments on Facebook, referred TODAY’s query to a spokesperson from Parliament who said that the organisation routinely posts explainers such as this to educate the public on parliamentary processes.

Leong has not replied to TODAY’s request for comment.

https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/freer-debates-parliament-encouraged-out-order-mps-will-be-stopped-speaking-tan-chuan-jin-1794241

 

Category: Singapore

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