We have all seen the viral clip where Ms Indranee Rajah is shown throwing away her file and stomping her way to the podium, addressing Non-constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai to observe proper conduct in Parliament.
This act of Ms Indranee occurred during the heated exchange between Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, and Mr Leong lasted for over an hour on 22 March. Both Members of Parliament with the two throwing questions against each other, at points where they were essentially speaking over each other.
The debate between the two stemmed from a Facebook post made by Mr Leong, which criticized the disclosure by Mr Teo Chee Hean of the police investigation against Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern and Mr Shanmugam’s remarks that the couple had “absconded.”
In the heat of the exchange, Mr Leong told the Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin, not to ask him questions which Minister Shanmugam did not ask him.
This spurred Ms Indranee to action, as captured on the Parliament live stream where she flung her file aside and went for the podium to give Mr Leong a piece of her mind.
“Mr Speaker, as leader of the House, I would just like to remind members to conduct themselves in a parliamentary manner. And the tone in which we address one another is important. I would therefore ask Mr Leong to be mindful of that,” said Ms Indranee.
At the end of the exchange, Mr Leong expressed an apology to Mr Tan for his earlier behaviour.
It bears noting that during the exchange, Mr Shanmugam also said something that could be deemed unparliamentary.
The Minister, in addressing Mr Leong, said: “Disagree, explain debate, and so that the public can have a better understanding if you think it is not relevant. But don’t be a coward.”
The use of the word “coward” against a parliamentarian is rare in the history of the Singapore Parliament.
So rare that the last time the word was used against a Member of Parliament was in 1962 when Kenneth Michael Byrne, then-Minister for Health called former Workers’ Party Chairman and MP for Anson SMC, David Marshall, an “absolute coward” during the motion for the merger of Singapore and Malaysia.
Following Mr Bryne’s remark, Sir George Oehlers, who was Speaker of Parliament, said, “Order. Now the Minister is completely unparliamentary. The word “coward” should never be used of a Member of this Assembly. Will he please withdraw?”
Mr Bryne withdrew the remark immediately and was warned to “not disregard the authority of the Chair”.
In contrast to Sir Oehlers’ response to the use of the term “coward” upon a fellow MP, Speaker Tan Chuan Jin, who was chairing the session, sat there and allowed Mr Shanmugam to carry on his attack on Mr Leong.
Ms Indranee, as Leader of the House, also did not take issue with the word but instead only stood up, as shown in the clip when Mr Leong presumably got lost in the heat of things as he stood his ground and refused to play the game as the Minister of Home Affairs and Law had intended to.
It should also be noted that Mr Leong was hauled back to Parliament by Minister K Shanmugam for the exchange amid his mourning for the loss of his mother, whose funeral was just a day before.
This article was first published on The Online Citizen and republished on Gutzy as Minister of Communication and Information Josephine Teo requested the article to be removed under the POFMA declaration that she issued on 21 July 2023
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