Parliament Still “Whipped” Even Without The Party Whip, 38 Oxley Road Debate Shows

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Are Our MPs Still Whipped Without The Whip?

When it was revealed that Parliament will convene a sitting on the 38 Oxley Road saga, it was also announced that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong would lift the party whip for this Parliament session so parliamentarians can ask honest questions without having to toe the party line. Read our story about the party whip being lifted.

The party whip ensures all members of the same party must vote in accordance with the party’s stance. PM Lee being the leader of the People’s Action Party (PAP) would have meant that all PAP MPs would have to fall in line in Parliament if he did not lift the whip.

Now that the 2-day parliamentary debate has ended, we’ve decided to take a look at whether the lifting of the party whip served its purpose in the debate, or are our parliamentarians truly whipped, with or without the whip.

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The PAP People

The first day of the saga commenced with opening addresses from PM Lee:

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and 2 key members of the Cabinet — Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is chairman of the Ministerial Committee looking into 38 Oxley Road;

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and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who was Minister for Culture, Community and Youth when the National Heritage Board signed a Deed of Gift from the executors of founding father Lee Kuan Yew’s estate to receive items of significance for an exhibition.

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Not surprisingly, none of these ministers said anything that would give anybody cause to think that the allegations against PM Lee by his siblings were true in any way.

And no other parliamentarians put forth any insightful questions which the PM could respond to in order to show that he was indeed not guilty either.

Basically, if the MPs did intend to ask any questions to clear up the matter, they were peripheral — which meant that PM Lee would find it easy to skirt around the real issues at hand.

The No-Surprise-They’re-Speaking Out People

The first speaker to actually raise substantial questions over the allegations was of course everybody’s favourite opposition MP Low Thia Khiang , who provided us with shreds of amusing but meaningful quips that livened up an otherwise dour and meaningless debate. 

Read the full transcript of his speech on Channel NewsAsia or better still, watch our video of him in Parliament.

Apart from these quips, Mr Low also questioned the choice of responding to the Lee siblings’ allegations with “scattered evidence”, and said that “that good government cannot be achieved on social media” — Well clearly he has not read The Straits Times’ coverage of the saga.

In addition, Mr Low set a precedent for many other speakers in questioning the Prime Minister on his refusal to settle the issue in court given that it would put a stop to the “you say, I say” exchange between him, other government politicians and his siblings.

This was a sentiment shared by his Workers’ Party Comrade and Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera too. Read our story on what Mr Leon Perera said.

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Mr Perera questioned the validity of the ministerial committee, which he described as “a panel that would not be seen by anyone”, and one which is “potentially compromised by the fact that its members directly report to an individual who has personal ties to the matter at hand”.

The People Speaking For Real Singaporeans

Other Workers’ Party members joined in this vigorous questioning of the accused too.

However, one may say that as members of an opposition party, of course they would take the chance to put the PAP in a bad light.

Well, how about the speeches by the Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs), who have no party affiliation and are thus supposed to be neutral?

For example, Mrs Kuik Shiao-Yin echoed the voices of the man in the street in her address. Read our story on Mrs Kuik Shiao-Yin and her speech that resonated.

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In her speech, Mrs Kuik said she hoped that this dispute does not turn out to be “nothing more than some personal game of brinksmanship being played rather than a genuine desire to improve our political process”.

She also argued that PM Lee’s siblings should be brought to court, as “we, the people, cannot be asked to tolerate a situation where the powerful are allowed to say or do whatever they wish, never be held accountable for it and then freely exercise their option to leave the country behind for greener pastures when they are done with their personal agendas”.

The 3 aforementioned speakers were not alone in speaking out for greater transparency as well as a fair opportunity for Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling to substantiate their accusations.

The People Who Truly Deserve Taxpayers’ Monies

Then there were the PAP members who, despite their party affiliation, sought to clarify the allegations.

For example, MPs such as Mr Zaqy Mohamad and Ms Rahayu Mahzam.

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However, these queries were easily dealt with.

And only one came closest to attaining the rigour that non-PAP members had displayed: Ms Rahayu, who suggested that PM Lee’s statutory declaration may come across as a sleight-of-hand challenge to the validity of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will.

Speakers’ Corner?

In his closing speech, PM Lee’s failure to address this statement illustrates the murkiness that still lurks in spite of the debate.

And amid our research, we also managed to note a curious point about the parliamentarians who reportedly spoke out during the debate — take a look at the chamber’s seating plan, with the red boxes denoting those who reportedly spoke, based on media reports since there is no “live” Parliament streaming:

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Strangely, most of those who spoke were seated on the side facing the Prime Minister.

Of those sitting on the Prime Minister’s side of the house who spoke, only MPs Sun Xueling and Louis Ng actually raised questions on the issue.

I guess all those on that side must really have his back.

Party Whipped

As we have seen, a large majority of parliamentarians chose to abstain from questioning the authenticity of the allegations or speak out against their leader — thus, it wouldn’t be difficult for observers to come to the conclusion that the lift on the party whip was ineffective, if the intention was to encourage the MPs to ask the incisive questions.

To those parliamentarians who fought for Singaporeans who want to know the truth, and for this nightmare to end, we applaud you.

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Featured images from Parliament.gov.sg and YouTube

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