SINGAPORE: Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera of the opposition Workers’ Party and Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat had an exchange of words in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 7) over a tobacco bill amendment passed earlier in the day.
In the debate about the bill, Mr Perera had asked to “allow confirmed smokers access to e-cigarettes, at least for a certain period of time, as part of their efforts to quit smoking or reduce consumption”.
Later, Mr Chee said: “During the debate, Mr Perera, in his speech, supported the use of e-cigarettes, which is also what tobacco companies have advocated.”
“I’d like to seek clarification from Mr Perera, that I understand he’s the CEO of Spire Group which is a research and consulting company. I wanted to ask and confirm if the Member has any interest he wishes to declare.”
Mr Perera replied: “My comments are not in any way motivated by any prospect of financial gain.”
“As a general matter of policy, the work my company does, does not pertain to tobacco business at all. And that’s a position we have taken historically, so I do not serve tobacco clients in my private capacity in the work that I do for this company.
“I take very strong objection to any implication that the opinions that I’ve expressed in my speech for the Tobacco Bill was motivated by commercial considerations in any way,” he added. “They were motivated purely on matters of principle and matters of opinion.”
Mr Chee then said: “I had only asked the Member if he had any interest to declare. Can I also ask Mr Perera if Henkel, a key manufacturer of adhesives for cigarettes, is a client of the Spire group of which Mr Perera is CEO?”
Mr Perera responded: “Henkel, I believe, has been a very small past client. But as I mentioned earlier, we don’t support tobacco companies. We don’t work with tobacco companies as clients … and therefore there is no commercial motivation in the comments I’ve made.”
He then appeared to move away from the speaking rostrum, before returning to reiterate: “And I want to register my very strong objection to any insinuation that there is any commercial motivation to the comments that I’ve made.”
“They are matters of principle … matters of my own opinion and they are not motivated by any prospect of financial gain or commercial gain,” Mr Perera added.
“So I want to register a very strong objection to that.”