NCMP Hazel Poa introduces Private Member’s Bill to retroactively compensate suspended MPs

SINGAPORE: Last week, Hazel Poa, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) representing the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), submitted a motion to suspend Singapore’s Transport Minister, S Iswaran, from his parliamentary duties for the remainder of the current session of the 14th Parliament.

On Tuesday (12 Sept), Ms Poa in a Facebook post updated that she submitted a certified true copy of her Private Member’s Bill on Monday to amend the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act 1962.

This is the first time since independence that an Opposition MP has tried to introduce a Private Member’s Bill, according to Ms Poa.

Ms Poa explained that the Bill seeks to provide Parliament with the power to back-pay the MP allowance that was withheld from an MP who has been suspended from the service of Parliament.

Her colleague, NCMP Leong Mun Wai, who also serves as the secretary-general of PSP, supports this bill.

However, she said this is only the first step in the legislative process of a Private Member’s Bill.

“At the next sitting on or after 19 September, Parliament will vote on whether to give leave for me to introduce the Bill for First Reading. ”

Following this, the bill can be thoroughly debated during the Second Reading, which is expected to take place in October.

The Private Member’s Bill submitted by Ms Poa aligns with her earlier motion to halt Mr Iswaran’s MP allowance, which amounts to S$192,500 annually, during the ongoing investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), during which he is not carrying out official duties.

The bill aims to ensure that Parliament has the power to back-pay Minister Iswaran via a Motion of Parliament should he subsequently be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Before a Private Member’s Bill can be introduced to the Parliament, notice must be given by not less than three successive publications of the Bill in the Government Gazette.

It has to contain a clause saving the rights of the President, the State and all other parties, except those mentioned in the Bill.

After its Second Reading, the Bill must be referred to a Select Committee, which will hear the views of any affected party who has presented a petition to Parliament on the Bill.

This is to ensure that the Bill prejudices no private right or interest, except where justified therein.

Arrests of Transport Minister and Billionaire Ong Beng Seng spark intrigue in ongoing CPIB investigation

On 14 July, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) disclosed that both Transport Minister S. Iswaran and prominent billionaire businessman Ong Beng Seng were arrested on 11 July.

They are currently cooperating with the authorities in connection with a case that the CPIB had discovered. However, specific details regarding the nature of the probe were not provided by the CPIB.

On 2 August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament that Mr Iswaran’s monthly salary has been reduced to S$8,500 until further notice as he was relieved of his ministerial duties.

Iswaran’s MP pay unaffected: Parliamentary motion required for suspension

Notably, ministerial salaries have not seen adjustments since 2012.

At present, the benchmark ministerial monthly salary is set at S$55,000, equating to an annual income of S$1,100,000. Of this sum, S$715,000 is fixed, while the remaining portion is variable.

In response to queries from Dennis Tan, Workers’ Party MP for Hougang SMC, PM Lee reveals that while the ministerial salary for Iswaran was cut to S$8,500, his MP pay remains untouched, as the allowance is not at the discretion of the prime minister, unlike the ministerial salary.

To stop the allowance, Parliament would have to move a motion to suspend the MP from its service.

“An MP’s allowance will be withheld once the MP is suspended from the service of Parliament… A motion would have to be moved in Parliament to suspend the Member from the service of Parliament. His or her allowance would be withheld thereafter,” PM Lee said.

According to the Public Service Division (PSD), the annual allowance for Members of Parliament (MPs) stands at S$192,500 or about S$16,000 monthly.

PM Lee instructed Minister Iswaran to take a leave of absence pending the completion of the investigation. The minister will remain in Singapore during this period and will be denied access to any official resources and government buildings.

During his absence, other Members of Parliament from his West Coast constituency will also take up his MP duties at West Coast GRC.

While the investigation is ongoing, PM Lee cautioned against speculation and conjecture. He underscored the importance of allowing the CPIB to conduct the investigation fully, thoroughly, and independently.

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