Vivian Balakrishnan apologises to Leong Mun Wai for 'private comments' made during Parliament session
SINGAPORE: Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said on Wednesday (Sep 15) that he has called Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) NCMP Leong Mun Wai to apologise for his "private comments to a colleague" in Parliament on Tuesday.
"I disagree with him on the issue, but I should not have said what I said," Dr Balakrishnan wrote in a Facebook post. "Mr Leong has accepted my apology."
Mr Leong was involved in a 10-hour debate in Parliament about foreign labour, Singaporeans' jobs and livelihoods, as well as free trade agreements.
The debate started on Tuesday afternoon and stretched past midnight.
In a video of the sitting, which was livestreamed on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Communications and Information, a voice can be heard saying "he's illiterate", after Manpower Minister Tan See Leng replied to a question from Mr Leong.
A voice is heard a few minutes later saying "seriously, how did he get into RI? Must have been a lousy school".
According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr Leong attended Raffles Institution in the 1970s.
Clips of the comments have been widely shared on social media.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, Mr Leong said he had received a call from Dr Balakrishnan, who "conveyed his apology".
"I accepted his apology. Let’s put our time to better use for Singapore and Singaporeans," Mr Leong said.
However, he added that he is "also curious to know" who else had been involved in the conversation and "the reason why they held the institution that (he) attended in contempt".
Early Wednesday morning, Parliament passed a motion by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on securing Singaporeans' jobs and livelihoods.
Parliament also rejected a competing motion by Mr Leong, who called on the Government to "take urgent and concrete action to address widespread anxiety among Singaporeans on jobs and livelihoods caused by the foreign talent policy".
The motions were debated together but voted on separately.
In a post on PSP's Facebook page, the party's secretary-general Francis Yuen said Mr Leong and NCMP Hazel Poa "stood their ground" and spoke up "passionately".
Noting that the debate was about "protecting the interests of our Singapore core", Mr Yuen added: "This core will have to be complemented by real foreign talent that is brought in through sound foreign talent policies and effective implementation by the relevant government agencies."
Mr Yuen said that the debate was not about racism or xenophobia, although "relentless attempts have been made to label PSP as such".
"We believe the public knows and understand why we had to table the motion and get this debate going," he added.
"Unlike some quarters who may find dissenting voices illiterate, we have confidence that our fellow Singaporeans are enlightened and educated, and will not miss the woods for the trees."
In a separate statement, Mr Yuen also said that it was "shocking to listen to such remarks coming from a minister and a diplomat representing Singapore".
"His disdain for a fellow parliamentarian and disrespect for a very renowned school is disappointing to say the least."