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Leong Mun Wai apologises, withdraws Keppel bribery case allegation during heated debate with Shanmugam

07:12 Min
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai (PSP) had a heated exchange in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 22), which saw Mr Leong apologising to Parliament Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and withdrawing an allegation over a bribery case linked to Keppel Corp. Lauren Ong reports.

SINGAPORE: Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai (PSP) had a heated exchange in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 22), which saw Mr Leong apologising to Parliament Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and withdrawing an allegation over a bribery case linked to Keppel Corp. 

During the exchange, which revolved around whether Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife Mrs Lee Suet Fern have "absconded", Mr Leong was called out for repeated "unparliamentary" conduct.

On Monday, Mr Shanmugam said that Mr Lee and his wife have "essentially absconded", in a reply to Mr Leong's parliamentary question on why the couple were named but not the people investigated in the Keppel Marine & Offshore corruption case.

Mr Shanmugam said that people under investigation are generally not named, but there are exceptions, and gave other reasons and examples of other cases.

After Monday's Parliament sitting, Mr Leong took issue with Mr Shanmugam's reply and wrote on Facebook: "What SM Teo and Minister Shanmugam have done is run the risk of turning Parliament into a platform to colour public opinion on criminal proceedings.  

"Absconding is a criminal offence and it should be for the courts to decide whether Mr and Mrs Lee have done so. It is not for the minister to pre-judge on that score."

On Wednesday, Mr Shanmugam rose to address Mr Leong's allegations on Facebook that he called "serious misrepresentations".

He also said that Mr Leong has breached parliamentary procedure repeatedly, saying: "This has unfortunately become a pattern with Mr Leong.

"In Parliament, we are prepared for serious debate. Members can be as tough as they wish. And if anyone has questions, they can be raised as we are discussing, rather than keeping quiet here, and then going out and casting aspersions."

The minister cited three instances where Mr Leong breached the rules of parliamentary procedure: The NCMP apologised in Parliament on Feb 25, 2021 for misrepresentations, and again on Mar 8, 2022 for "improper and uncalled for comments", as well as on May 10, 2021 when he "seriously breached" the procedure and was told so.

Mr Shanmugam said that in his view – and in the context of Mr Leong's Facebook post – that the NCMP has breached Section 31(g) of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, which states that no one shall publish any statement which "falsely or scandalously" defames a member of the House for his conduct or words in Parliament.

Anyone found to have contravened Section 31(g) faces a jail term of up to two years, a fine of up to S$5,000, or both.

The minister also asked Mr Leong to delete his Facebook post, accept that he has misrepresented his position and apologise.

On whether the couple absconded, Mr Shanmugam set out the sequence of events when the police asked the couple to assist with investigations. He displayed a copy of a letter given to the couple asking them to come for an interview.

He said the police liaised via email with Mr Lee over a suitable date, which was set on Jul 13. But on that day, an email was sent to the police saying that they would not attend the interview. By that time, the couple had left Singapore.

Mr Leong's point was that the couple had not been served written orders under the Criminal Procedure Code to report to the police to assist with investigations. 

But Mr Shanmugam pointed out that Mr Lee wrote on Facebook on Mar 7, and later also on Instagram, that he has been "made a fugitive" by his own country.

"Everyone, including Mr Leong, knows that they have left the country, that they are fugitives, and they have told the media that they are not returning to Singapore. They have absconded," said Mr Shanmugam.

Screenshot of a letter from the police to Mr Lee Hsien Yang asking for his assistance in an investigation into potential offences of giving false evidence.


Throughout his speech, Mr Shanmugam asked Mr Leong a series of pointed questions on whether he agreed with certain points the minister made on Monday.

When Mr Leong tried to elaborate while responding, Mr Tan reminded him to answer the questions directly and to make his own statements at the end of the minister's speech.

At one point, Mr Leong objected to the questioning and said: "I am not going to answer the minister like (I'm) answering in court. This is a legislative chamber, this is not a legal chamber. I have my way of answering."

Mr Shanmugam also asked Mr Leong to either substantiate or withdraw a statement that the Non-Constituency MP had made in Parliament on Monday - that the people involved in the Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) corruption case were "actually guilty".

"One cannot under the cloak of parliamentary privilege make these sorts of statements about people and if he does not withdraw, then sir we will consider what else needs to be done," said Mr Shanmugam.

When it was put to Mr Leong by Mr Shanmugam that it was untrue that all the individuals involved in the KOM case had been found guilty overseas, Mr Leong said: "If the minister says that they have not been found guilty overseas, then I'm prepared to withdraw my statement."

Mr Shanmugam then said he was "glad" that Mr Leong had withdrawn his statement.


When Mr Tan attempted to clarify with Mr Leong if he had indeed withdrawn his statement on the six individuals involved in the KOM case, Mr Leong replied: "Speaker, if the minister didn't ask me, I suggest you do not ask."

His response was met with an audible "wow" from Mr Shanmugam and a rebuke from Mr Tan, who said: "Can I just remind you (Mr Leong), as illustrated, I have been more than tolerant, more than accommodative, of you on various occasions when you speak up.

"Let me remind you, that at the very least, let’s retain the decorum of this debate whether you're addressing myself or other members. Is that clear? You can sit down."

Mr Leong then apologised to Mr Tan.


Mr Leong and Mr Shanmugam also debated other related issues, including whether the minister was trying to "muddy the waters" by raising the Parti Liyani case as an example where a person was named while under investigation for lying under oath.

Mr Leong wrote in his Facebook post that "bringing up the Parti Liyani case is just another attempt to muddy the waters. So let us concentrate on the difference between the LHY (Lee Hsien Yang) and KOM (Keppel Offshore & Marine) cases".

Mr Shanmugam said: "The essence of his statement is that I used an example, which is irrelevant, and that it was used to confuse Parliament."

When asked by Mr Shanmugam, Mr Leong said that he did not accept that the Parti Liyani case was relevant to the discussion. He also said that the issue was about the Lee Hsien Yang case and the Keppel Offshore & Marine case, and there was no need to "bring in a new case".

"When you bring in a new case, in a way, you are clouding the thinking of people. I didn't say it's irrelevant, I didn't say you are confusing Parliament. Minister, don't put words into my mouth," he said.

To which, Mr Shanmugam said: "Sir, may I ask? What is the meaning of muddying the waters?"

"Speaker, now minister is testing whether I'm from a lousy school or not," Mr Leong replied.

Mr Tan then explained that the debate was meant to clarify what Mr Leong meant by "muddying the waters" in his Facebook post. He also reiterated that the parliamentary debate should be done within the House and not carried on in a "one-dimensional way" outside.

"The question is you made a statement out in a Facebook post about 'muddying waters' and I think minister is asking what exactly do you mean. And there is no allegation about what school you come from, I'm sure you're from a very good school," said Mr Tan.

Mr Leong then explained what he meant by "muddying the waters", and later added that the Parti Liyani case will cloud the judgment of other people, but insisted he was not "casting aspersions" on the minister.

He also asked Mr Shanmugam to elaborate again on why the phrase "muddying the waters" was an issue.

Mr Shanmugam repeated his reasons for raising the Parti Liyani case, then said: "If (the) member thought that that was not relevant, I am happy for a debate. I am not saying everyone has got to agree with what I said ... Don't be a coward, keep quiet here, say 'it's an attempt to muddy the waters'. That's casting aspersions on me ... that is not acceptable."

Mr Shanmugam asked Mr Leong to withdraw his allegation that the Parti Liyani case was raised to "muddy the waters", but Mr Leong said that he would not withdraw that statement.

After his exchange with Mr Leong, the minister said: "I take it that the 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."

Responding to queries from CNA on whether Mr Leong had been referred to a committee looking into alleged breaches of parliamentary privilege, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said on Wednesday evening: "At this time, no complaint has been made against any Member."

Source: CNA/hm(mi)


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