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Two NMPs express discomfort with motion, abstain from voting on it

Two NMPs express discomfort with motion, abstain from voting on it

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 06 Nov 2019
Author: Rei Kurohi

Ms Anthea Ong noted that the motion relates to matters which have not fully concluded in court, while Associate Professor Walter Theseira said he was concerned about the political nature of the motion.

Photo credit: Gov.sg

Two Nominated MPs yesterday expressed discomfort with a motion filed by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on the governance of Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), and abstained from voting on it.

Ms Anthea Ong and Associate Professor Walter Theseira both said they supported the first part of the motion, which calls on Parliament to affirm the importance of MPs maintaining high standards of integrity and accountability.

But Ms Ong had concerns about other parts of the motion, including a call for AHTC to require Workers' Party MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from financial matters at the town council.

She noted that the motion has no legal force, even if it is passed, and asked if Mr Heng's call for AHTC to discharge its responsibilities should instead be made through the Town Councils Act, which empowers a minister to order a town council to take remedial action to address deficiencies or correct irregularities in its conduct.

Ms Ong also noted that the motion relates to matters which have not fully concluded in court.

"I am concerned that any comments that we make now, while possibly protected under certain parliamentary privileges, could still potentially fall under contempt of court," she said.

Prof Theseira said he was concerned about the political nature of the motion.

He added that the motion calls on AHTC, a political entity led by elected MPs, to undertake a certain course of action, though it is non-binding.

"I'm uncomfortable, as a non-elected member, in participating in what may be a political resolution. Hence, I will abstain from voting on the motion," he said.

In response, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee and Second Minister for Education and Finance Indranee Rajah both said the motion does not amount to sub judice.

Mr Lee said the crux of the matter was about what ought to happen in the interim period between the High Court's judgment and when the WP MPs' appeal is heard.

Ms Indranee noted that the motion does not suggest that the findings are either right or wrong.

Mr Lee said in the case of a company director or the head of a charitable organisation who had been found by the court to have been dishonest, the organisations and the public would expect the trustees to do the "right and proper thing" and recuse themselves from financial matters.

He said he did not blame the two NMPs or the public if they perceive the motion to be a partisan one, but added the WP would expect no less from the People's Action Party if the situation were reversed.

Rei Kurohi


I worry that commenting on and acting from the judgment when the case has not concluded with finality, especially if this matter is brought to the Court of Appeal, may be perceived to be interfering with the due judicial process in the administration of justice.

NOMINATED MP ANTHEA ONG, on why she felt uncomfortable with the motion and decided to abstain from voting on it.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

 

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