Leong Mun Wai apologises, withdraws Keppel bribery case allegation after being called out for repeated 'unparliamentary' conduct
SINGAPORE — Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai has apologised and withdrawn allegations over a bribery case linked to Keppel Corp after Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam called him out for "unparliamentary" conduct.
- Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai withdrew allegations he made about ex-Keppel Offshore and Marine executives and apologised
- Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said, however, that "next steps" are being considered over Mr Leong's conduct given other "unparliamentary" conduct of his
- Mr Shanmugam and Mr Leong sparred during the former's ministerial statement on a Facebook post that the Progress Singapore Party member had made on Monday
- Mr Shanmugam said the post, written in relation to a recent debate regarding Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern, had contained misrepresentations and inaccuracies
- Mr Leong had also cast aspersions on Mr Shanmugam and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean who had separately mentioned the Lees' case in the House
SINGAPORE — Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai on Wednesday (March 22) apologised to Parliament Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and withdrew an allegation over a bribery case linked to Keppel Corp, after he was called out for repeated "unparliamentary" conduct.
However, Mr Leong refused to withdraw other claims he made in a recent social media post, prompting Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam to state that "next steps" will be considered over Mr Leong's behaviour of "abusing parliamentary privilege" and breaching parliamentary rules.
On Monday, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member published a Facebook post which, among other things, called into question the Government’s characterisation of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern as having “absconded” from Singapore.
He said that Mr Shanmugam had tried to “muddy the waters” by bringing into the picture the high profile case of Indonesian maid Parti Liyani and her former employer Karl Liew.
He added that by raising the Lees' case in the House, Mr Shanmugam and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean “run the risk of turning Parliament into a platform to colour public opinion on criminal proceedings”.
Separately, Mr Leong had also previously raised the bribery case involving six ex-Keppel Offshore & Marine (O&M) executives in seeking to contrast their anonymity with the naming of the Lees.
On Wednesday, in a lengthy ministerial statement interspersed with tense exchanges with Mr Leong, Mr Shanmugam said that by making the allegations on social media, Mr Leong had breached Parliamentary privilege, adding that it was not the first time he had done so.
Section 31(g) of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act states that: “No person shall publish any statement, whether in writing or otherwise, which falsely or scandalously defames, or which reflects on the character of, the Speaker or any Member touching on his conduct in Parliament or anything done or said by him in Parliament.”
Offences under the Act can attract a fine or jail term, depending on which clause or section is being breached.
Mr Leong’s social media post was published after Mr Shanmugam had told Parliament on Monday why it was disclosed that the Lees were being investigated by the police for lying under oath.
He had also addressed the issue of why the names of ex-executives linked to the high-profile Keppel O&M bribery case were not made public.
These were in response to parliamentary questions filed by opposition party members, including Mr Leong, in relation to the matter.
The debate on Wednesday stretched over an hour with the minister pausing at various points in his statement to pose questions to Mr Leong, which sparked debates between the pair each time.
At the end of the debate, Mr Leong withdrew a statement he had made in Parliament on Monday describing the unnamed ex-Keppel O&M executives as “actually guilty”, and apologised to Mr Tan about how he had responded to one of his questions.
Earlier, when Mr Tan sought to clarify whether he was withdrawing the allegation that the executives were guilty, Mr Leong replied: "Speaker, if the minister didn't ask me, I suggest you do not ask."
Mr Leong, however, refused to budge when asked to withdraw the other statements on the social media post. After not receiving a direct reply despite asking several times if Mr Leong would do so, Mr Shanmugam said: “I take it that member does not withdraw the statements. We will then proceed to consider what the next steps ought to be.
“If at any time member changes his mind, before a decision is reached, he can let us know.”
TODAY has sought clarification from Mr Leong if he will be taking down the Facebook post, which was still online as of Wednesday evening.
ON LYING UNDER OATH AND ABSCONDING
Mr Shanmugam said that Mr Leong’s post had avoided mentioning that the Court of Three Judges and Disciplinary Tribunal have said that the Lees had lied under oath.
After being pressed a few times to answer directly on whether he agreed that the courts had made such findings, Mr Leong affirmed the minister’s statement.
However, when asked by Mr Shanmugam if there was a possibility of criminal conduct given the court's findings, Mr Leong said: “You don’t put in new ‘if’, ‘what’, in this Parliament. If you have ‘if’, ‘what’, let the courts decide. That is what we are trying to drive at.”
The NCMP eventually agreed that a proper investigation ought to be carried out should there be a possibility of criminal conduct.
Mr Shanmugam then drew attention to his reply on Monday where he said the Lees had “essentially absconded”, a characterisation which Mr Leong disagreed with in his Facebook post.
He outlined again the exchanges between Mr Lee and the police, and referred to a social media post in which Mr Lee referred to himself as a “fugitive”, before showing the House the definition of the word “fugitive” in two dictionaries.
“This is how Mr Lee describes himself. He says that he has run away to avoid the police,” said Mr Shanmugam.
He noted that Mr Lee and Mr Leong come from the same political party and have “posted many photos together” and shared each other’s social media posts.
Mr Shanmugam then asked Mr Leong if he could say in Parliament whether or not Mr Lee will come back and cooperate with the authorities.
Mr Leong said the issue on hand was about “whether every citizen is given fair treatment” and not Mr Lee’s political affiliation.
“When we name a person to have absconded, we must follow our criminal procedure properly. So if you have not issued him a written order, then your process has a problem. And you don't have the right to say that he has absconded,” said Mr Leong.
Mr Shanmugam said that “everyone including Mr Leong knows that” the Lees have left the country and that they had themselves told the media that they are not returning to Singapore.
“So, let's not hide behind the smooth smokescreen of whether or not a CPC (Criminal Procedure Code) order was issued. They were asked to cooperate and they have run away, and you can say they have absconded when they themselves know they are fugitives,” said Mr Shanmugam.
NAMING OF KEPPEL O&M EXECUTIVES
Turning to the issue of the Keppel O&M case, Mr Shanmugam referred to Mr Leong’s speech on Monday, where the latter had described the company's former executives as “actually guilty”.
Asked repeatedly how he arrived at the impression that the individuals were found guilty in a court of law overseas, Mr Leong said: “This is based on the (fact that) the case has been such a big case overseas, and in Singapore, and Keppel (O&M) has paid such a big fine.”
When asked by Mr Shanmugam if he was prepared to withdraw the statement if the minister can say the individuals have not been found guilty overseas, Mr Leong agreed.
Mr Shanmugam then said that one individual linked to the case has pleaded guilty in the United States, while no one else has been found guilty. Mr Leong then withdrew his statement.
'MUDDY THE WATERS' BY MENTIONING PARTI LIYANI
Mr Shanmugam then turned to the portion of Mr Leong’s Facebook post where the latter said that “bringing up the Parti Liyani case is just another attempt to muddy the waters”.
“The member has ascribed an improper motive to me. The essence of his statement is that I used an example which is irrelevant and that it was used to confuse Parliament,” Mr Shanmugam said.
Mr Leong said he was mainly comparing how the two cases involving Keppel O&M and the Lees were treated.
“When you bring in a new case, in a way, you’re clouding the thinking of people. I didn't say it is irrelevant. I didn't say you're confusing Parliament. Minister, don't put words into my mouth,” said Mr Leong in response.
Asked to clarify what he meant by “muddy the waters”, Mr Leong first said that the minister was “testing whether I was from a lousy school or not”, before saying that to his understanding, muddying the water meant “cloud(ing) the real issue because you introduce new things into the discussion”.
'COLOURING' PUBLIC OPINION ON FAMILY DISPUTE
At the start of his address, Mr Shanmugam had quoted Mr Leong’s social media post, which said that by bringing up the Lees' case in the House, Mr Shanmugam and Senior Minister Teo had “run the risk of turning Parliament into a platform to colour public opinion on criminal proceedings”.
The post added that the case was fundamentally a family dispute.
Mr Shanmugam said that he had already explained on Monday why the matter had to be answered in response to a parliamentary question.
Mr Leong said he understood that the matter was of public interest and had been debated in Parliament before, but disagreed that there was a need to raise the issue again in the House.
“Well, then that's a false basis because the issue came about because there was a question that was raised, and answers were given,” said Mr Shanmugam.
REPEATED BREACH OF PARLIAMENTARY RULES
Wrapping up his statement, Mr Shanmugam said that Parliament is a place for debates and exchange of viewpoints.
But when a member does not raise a point in the House but proceeds to publish a Facebook post “with both improper statements and untrue statements, then he is abusing parliamentary privilege”.
“He is in breach of parliamentary rules. And that is why we have to pull it up and ask a number of questions. That is why I decided to ask the member a number of questions because Parliament should not be brought into disrepute with this kind of conduct,” Mr Shanmugam said.
He added that this “has become a pattern with Mr Leong”, citing incidents in February 2021 and May 2021, as well as in March 2022 when the PSP member apologised in Parliament for misrepresentations he had made, or when he was told that he had breached parliamentary procedure.
The incident last year relates to Mr Leong's social media posts that the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Tan, did not give him a chance to speak during a debate on the Manpower Ministry's budget. The posts described Mr Tan's actions as "completely ridiculous". Mr Leong apologised for his posts after he was called to do so by Deputy House Leader Zaqy Mohamad.
The February 2021 incident relates to a comment that Mr Leong made in which he mischaracterised the Monetary Authority of Singapore by stating that finding a local to take on a chief executive position in a bank was not a key performance indicator. Mr Leong apologised to Mr Ong Ye Kung, who was then a MAS board member, for his remark.
The May 2021 incident relates to the debate on the Significant Infrastructure Government Loan Bill, in which Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat urged Mr Leong to do his homework before coming to Parliament to debate on fiscal numbers. Mr Leong then interjected during Mr Heng's speech, even though he was not called by the Speaker to do so.
Related topicsParliament Leong Mun Wai K Shanmugam
Read more of the latest in