Leader of the House, Minister Indranee Rajah, on the Motion on "Consideration of Matters regarding Member of Parliament"
Leader of the House, Minister Indranee Rajah, on the Motion on "Consideration of Matters regarding Member of Parliament" on 19 September 2023.
Mr Speaker, sir,
I beg to move:
"That this House:
(a) affirms the need for Members of Parliament to uphold the highest standards of integrity and conduct themselves in accordance with the law;
(b) affirms the need to deal firmly and fairly with any Member of Parliament who is being investigated for possible wrongdoing;
(c) resolves to consider the matter regarding Member of Parliament S Iswaran when the outcome of the ongoing investigations against him is known."
As Members are aware, Mr Iswaran, who is a Member of West Coast GRC, is currently under investigation by the CPIB and is on leave of absence. At the direction of the Prime Minister, he has been interdicted in his capacity as a Minister on a reduced pay of $8,500 per month, until further notice, as explained by the Prime Minister in his Ministerial Statement delivered at the last sitting on 2 August 2023.
In response to a clarification by Mr Dennis Tan as to whether the reduced pay comprised both the Minister’s pay and MP allowance, the Prime Minister explained that Mr Iswaran's MP allowance was not interdicted as, unlike a Minister's pay, it was not at the discretion of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister pointed out that it was a matter for Parliament and that Parliament had not done that, nor in previous cases has it done so. Instead, what has happened is that the MP has been on leave of absence, and eventually when the case is settled one way or another, then consequences will follow.
I believe that it is in this context that the NCMP Ms Hazel Poa has filed her current motion. Indeed, in her Facebook post of 8 September 2023, Ms Poa expressly states that she filed the motion for Parliament to suspend Mr S Iswaran from the service of Parliament for the remainder of the current session of the 14th Parliament, "so that he no longer receives his MP allowance...".
In other words, Mr Speaker - or more accurately in her own words - Ms Poa is moving a motion to suspend Mr Iswaran solely in order to cut off his MP allowance.
Mr Speaker, this gives rise to some concern as to how this House should exercise its powers. We should make decisions on the basis of generally applicable principles, and not on individual cases in isolation.
We are being asked to suspend a Member. The suspension of an MP is a serious matter. If done, it must be done in accordance with the law, and on the right principles.
We need to know on what basis the suspension is sought. What threshold or criterion for suspension is the NCMP relying on, and what are the principles that lead Ms Poa to propose suspending Mr Iswaran at this point of time?
Ms Poa will be speaking in this debate after me, and I invite Ms Poa to clarify these matters.
Mr Speaker, this House is given the privilege of regulating the conduct of its Members and when it does so, it should act on principle, rationally and fairly, and the standards we espouse should apply to all Members.
That is why I have brought the motion in the terms set out above.
Mr Speaker, there should be no quarrel with the first limb of my motion. As lawmakers and elected representatives of our citizens, it goes without saying that Members of Parliament should uphold the highest standards of integrity, and to conduct ourselves in accordance with the law. Nevertheless, it is important to signal to Singaporeans that this is what we expect of ourselves, so that they have the assurance of knowing that we are committed to this.
However, we must also be realistic and recognise that there will be occasions when Members may come under investigation for possible wrongdoing, as is currently the case. The question is what approach this House should take when that happens?
This is dealt with in the second limb of my motion which asks the House to affirm that in the event a Member of Parliament is investigated for possible wrongdoing, we should act in a manner that is not only firm but also fair.
Again, I do not think that there can be any dispute on this, as a matter of principle and approach. The real question is how it is to be applied. Obviously, what is fair will depend on the individual circumstances of each case.
Ms Poa is calling for the suspension of Mr Iswaran. What is the principle that Ms Poa is advocating in calling for his suspension. Is it that he is under investigation?
If so, then her proposal should cover all MPs being investigated. At the moment, there are three members of Parliament under investigation - Mr Iswaran, Mr Pritam Singh and Mr Faisal Manap. Regarding Mr Singh and Mr Manap, Members will recall that this House had referred Mr Singh and Mr Manap to the Public Prosecutor following the outcome of the Committee of Privileges inquiry into the complaint against Ms Raeesah Khan. Notwithstanding that they are under investigation, they have not been suspended.
Is Ms Poa calling for their suspension as well? If not, then why not?
This brings us to the third limb of my motion, which is what we should do with respect to Mr Iswaran at this point in time.
All we know at this point in time is that Mr Iswaran is under investigation by the CPIB under the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, we do not know the facts or what specifically he is being investigated for. The outcome of the investigation is not yet known. We simply do not have sufficient material to make an informed decision at the present time.
As such, Mr Speaker, it is premature to take any action with regard to Mr Iswaran at this stage and doing so would be to prejudge the outcome of the investigations.
It would be better to wait for the outcome of the investigations before deciding what to do. That would put us in a better position to assess the right and fair course of action.
Mr Speaker, at the end of the day, it is important that we deal with situations like these objectively and dispassionately. We should not attempt to exploit such situations for political ends, but rather to do the right thing at the right time.
The PAP has been very strict with its MPs and Ministers, and will continue to be. I hope opposition parties will uphold equally high standards, not just in words but also in deeds.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move.
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