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Witnesses need not seek permission for toilet visits, Parliament office clarifies in response to Sylvia Lim

SINGAPORE — Witnesses at parliamentary committee hearings do not need permission to visit the bathroom, a parliamentary office said on Wednesday (Feb 16) in response to Workers’ Party chair Sylvia Lim.

Ms Sylvia Lim (pictured) described the treatment that she had received as a witness during the Committee of Privileges hearings as bordering on “oppressive”.
Ms Sylvia Lim (pictured) described the treatment that she had received as a witness during the Committee of Privileges hearings as bordering on “oppressive”.
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SINGAPORE — Witnesses at parliamentary committee hearings do not need permission to visit the bathroom, a parliamentary office said on Wednesday (Feb 16) in response to Workers’ Party chair Sylvia Lim.

In a press statement, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said that it would like to give the "background and context for the standard protocols applied to all witnesses like Ms Lim", who had described the treatment she had received as a witness as bordering on “oppressive”.

During Tuesday's debate on a report by Parliament's Committee of Privileges on former Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan’s lies in the House, Ms Lim stated that she had been accompanied by security personnel when she visited the bathroom, and permission had to be sought after she requested to use the disabled toilet to have more space.

The MP for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency also questioned the “strenuous questioning” of the WP leaders, stating that she had waited for two days in a guarded room and had been denied the use of any communication devices.

Responding on Wednesday in a statement, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said that its protocols balance the witnesses’ well-being with the need for due process.

“To protect them against perceptions of undue influence, all witnesses were advised not to have communication devices and other electronic equipment with them until they have completed their testimonies,” the statement said. 

Witnesses waited alone in assigned rooms where they could be physically reached by staff members when their turn to testify came. They were also provided reading materials, meals and drinks for their comfort and convenience, it added.

“Every witness also had an attending parliament officer who could immediately respond to any requests or queries. At no time was permission needed for witnesses to use the toilet and they could make their own way there whenever they wanted.”

In Ms Lim’s case, the parliamentary office said that she had “specifically asked” the parliament officer for the nearest handicapped toilet to freshen up with more space and privacy. 

“Before showing Ms Lim the way, the officer had verbally informed a supervisor on their movement in case the Committee of Privileges called upon Ms Lim while she was at the toilet. It was unfortunate that Ms Lim had misunderstood the officer’s routine status update.” 

It also noted that Ms Lim did not express any concerns to the committee then, which would otherwise have immediately addressed them. 

“Including the period she was at Parliament House as a witness for the Committee of Privileges, yesterday (Feb 15) was the first time she had expressed her concerns. Nevertheless, we welcome this opportunity to affirm that all protocols are carried out to balance witnesses’ well-being with the due process,” the parliamentary office said.

Related topics

Committee of Privileges Workers' Party WP Sylvia Lim witness security Parliament

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