Remarks by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the press conference on the resignations of the Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui on 17 July 2023 at the Istana.
Good afternoon everybody, I called this press conference to supplement the two statements that were put out a few minutes ago that Mr Tan Chuan-Jin has asked to step down as Speaker of Parliament and Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, and to resign from the People's Action Party. MP Cheng Li Hui has also resigned from Parliament as an MP and resigned from the PAP.
I accepted both their resignations. I wish Mr Tan did not have to leave politics under such circumstances. But he understands that he must be held accountable to Parliament, Party, constituents and to his family for his actions and conduct. I also wish Ms Cheng did not have to leave under such circumstances, but things have happened and it was necessary.
Besides Mr Tan’s recent unparliamentary language used, there is also the issue of his inappropriate relationship with fellow PAP MP Ms Cheng Li Hui. This is, in comparison, the more serious matter because he was the Speaker and she an MP, and there should not have not been a relationship.
I had spoken to Mr Tan about this relationship most recently in February this year. He admitted that what he did was wrong, and offered his resignation to me. I had accepted his resignation. But I told him: first I needed to make sure the residents of Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marine Parade continue to be taken care of. Meanwhile his relationship with Ms Cheng had to stop.
But very recently, I came across information that strongly suggested that the relationship had continued. I decided then that Mr Tan had to go forthwith, whether or not the arrangements were ready. It could not wait any longer.
At around the same time, the video clip of Mr Tan mis-speaking in Parliament circulated. He was away. After he came back, I asked to see him. During our discussion, he agreed to leave immediately – both for his unparliamentary conduct as well as his inappropriate relationship with Ms Cheng, which he had told me he would break off but he did not.
Ms Cheng has also resigned as MP for Tampines GRC and as a PAP member. She too had been counselled, including by me also in February this year. But nevertheless she had continued the relationship with Mr Tan.
It saddens me to discover that these two PAP MPs have fallen short of the high standards of propriety and personal conduct that we expect from all PAP MPs. When such a situation arises, it is my duty as Secretary-General of the Party to deal with them and put things right. This means to counsel, to correct, to admonish, and ultimately, if necessary, to remove the MP from the Party and Parliament.
It is painful to do this to our friends and comrades-in-arms, and it can also be politically embarrassing and costly. But the PAP has to maintain party discipline and standards of conduct. Our duty is to Parliament and the people of Singapore, and that is paramount.
I assure the residents of Kembangan-Chai Chee division of Marine Parade GRC and Tampines East division of Tampines GRC that the remaining GRC MPs will continue to look after your interests and serve you to the best of their ability.
Specifically, Mr Edwin Tong will take care of Kembangan-Chai Chee residents in Marine Parade, while Mr Masagos Zulkifli will take care of Tampines East residents in Tampines.
As for the Speaker of Parliament, I will nominate a new Speaker by the next sitting of Parliament, on Aug 1 when I will also be making a Ministerial Statement. In the meantime, the Deputy Speaker Ms Jessica Tan will be the Acting Speaker.
I urge all Singaporeans – including the press – to give Chuan-Jin and his family, as well as Li Hui and her family, space and time to heal from this episode. Chuan-Jin and Li Hui’s conduct was inappropriate. They have resigned their seats.
But you can imagine the pain and anguish they and their families are going through. We should show compassion to them, and hope that in time they can heal.
High standards of propriety and personal conduct, together with staying clean and incorrupt, are the fundamental reasons Singaporeans trust and respect the PAP, and give us their mandate to form the government and work together with us to improve the lives of Singaporeans.
PAP MPs – whether they are Ministers or backbenchers – must uphold these cardinal values at all times. Without party discipline, without integrity, we are nothing, so this is an absolute requirement.
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