'Standard protocols' applied to Sylvia Lim during COP hearing; permission not required to use toilet: Parliament office
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Workers’ Party chair Sylvia Lim suggested that her experience while waiting to give oral evidence to the Committee of Privileges bordered on "oppressive".
SINGAPORE: “Standard protocols” apply to witnesses at parliamentary committee hearings, and these protocols “are carried out to balance witnesses’ well-being with the due process”, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said on Wednesday (Feb 16).
Witnesses are also free to use the toilet whenever they wish to do so, the office said.
The office was responding to an account shared by Workers’ Party (WP) chair Sylvia Lim in Parliament on Tuesday of her experience while waiting to give oral evidence to the Committee of Privileges (COP).
In her account, Ms Lim said: “I waited for two days in a guarded room and was denied the use of any communication devices. When I needed to visit the bathroom, I was accompanied by security. When I requested to use the disabled toilet to have more space, permission was sought.”
“Doesn't all this border on oppressive? Our courts of law do not subject witnesses to such treatment,” she added.
The office said that "standard protocols" applied to all witnesses regarding the use of communication devices and the requirement to wait in designated rooms before they were called upon to give evidence.
“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,” it said.
“They individually waited in assigned rooms where they could be physically reached when it was their turn. They were provided reading materials, meals and drinks for their comfort and convenience.
“Every witness also had an attending Parliament officer who could immediately respond to any requests or queries.”
The office also said that witnesses could use the toilet whenever they wanted to.
"At no time was permission needed for witnesses to use the toilet and they could make their own way there whenever they wanted," it said.
It attributed Ms Lim’s experience to a misunderstanding.
“On the occasion Ms Lim recounted, she had specifically asked the Parliament officer with her for the nearest handicapped toilet to freshen up with more space and privacy,” the office said.
“Before showing Ms Lim the way, the officer had verbally informed a supervisor on their movement in case the COP called upon Ms Lim while she was at the toilet.
“It was unfortunate that Ms Lim had misunderstood the officer’s routine status update.”
The office added that any concerns raised by COP witnesses would have been addressed immediately.
“Any concerns and feedback made known to the COP by witnesses would have been immediately addressed,” it said.
“Including the period she was at Parliament House as a witness for the COP, yesterday 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.”
On Tuesday, the House voted to proceed with recommendations made by the COP after its investigation into former WP Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan for lying in parliament.
In its final report on Feb 10, the Committee had recommended that Ms Khan be fined S$35,000 for lying in Parliament, and proposed that WP secretary-general Pritam Singh and vice-chair Faisal Manap be referred to the public prosecutor for further investigations.