I refer to the motions filed by the Leader of the House on the 14th of September, precipitated by the motion filed by PSP NCMP Hazel Poa on the 7th of September calling for the suspension of Mr S Iswaran.
There are two key issues for Parliament to consider.
First, whether it is fair and proper for a duly elected Member of Parliament to be suspended from responsibilities towards his or her constituents and legislative duties before due process is concluded.
Second, what Parliament ought to do when a Member of Parliament has been effectively interdicted from MP duties arising from actions taken by his or her Party leader.
First, let me speak on the issue of fairness. The honourable member Ms Hazel Poa’s case is that a member should be suspended from Parliament because he has been arrested and is being investigated for the serious offence of corruption. However, the centrality of the rule of law in Singapore renders the honourable member’s suggested course of action premature. A point made all the more stark because we do not even know the details of what Mr Iswaran is accused of. Parliament should be mindful of the dictum of presumption of innocence. With respect, I would also request the PSP colleagues in this House to consider the precedent their motion would create should a future government decide to fix opposition MPs by way of politically-motivated investigations.
Sir, in some cases, those who have been investigated under the Prevention of Corruption Act have not been charged. In a few other cases, accused persons who have been brought to trial have been acquitted, or the prosecution applies to withdraw the charges. In yet other cases, those convicted at first instance have seen their convictions overturned on appeal. Any of these scenarios could come to pass in Mr Iswaran’s case. In the Workers’ Party view, the wheels of justice must be allowed to fully turn before Parliament decides what to do.
The Workers’ Party cannot agree to the motion filed by the PSP. It would not just be unfair and premature, but significantly, this House would be seeking to overturn the electoral mandate given to Mr Iswaran by the people through the ballot box by prematurely passing judgment on him.
This leads me to the second issue on how to deal with an MP who has been put by his Party’s leader on an indeterminate leave of absence from Parliament with full MP’s allowance. While it is not appropriate to suspend Mr Iswaran from Parliament, it may well be appropriate to suspend the payment of his MP’s allowance. WP MP Dennis raised this matter of Mr Iswaran’s MP allowance in Parliament last month. Mr Speaker, there is disquiet amongst members of the public because he continues to collect his allowance. As far as I know, Mr Iswaran is neither performing duties in his constituency nor in Parliament and his likeness is not found on Town Council or People’s Association banners in West Coast GRC.
The Prime Minister said in this House last month that if Parliament wants to stop an MP’s allowance, Parliament has to move to interdict the individual as an MP and parliament has not done that and I quote, “what has happened is that the MP has been on leave of absence, and eventually when the case is settled one way or another, then consequences follow.” What needs to be noted however, is that the Prime Minister’s act of interdicting Mr Iswaran as Minister appears to have effectively interdicted him as a Member of Parliament as well.
For the Workers’ Party to decide whether to support the Leader’s motions, there are a few questions I would ask the Leader.
In order that this House can understand the full extent of the restrictions on Mr Iswaran as a Member of Parliament, my first question is: can the Leader confirm whether Mr Iswaran’s ban on entering Government buildings extends to Parliament House? Does Mr Iswaran have access to the Public Service Division’s Member of Parliament Appeal System and is he rendering assistance or expected to do so to his residents in his capacity as a Member of Parliament?
My second question addresses the Prime Minister’s comment “that consequences will follow”. It is unclear if those I quote “consequences” unquote include a clawback of the MP allowance. I would advance that such a clawback for the period during which he has not performed MP’s duties would be a reasonable expectation of the public. So my second questions is this: can the Leader tell us whether a clawback of Mr Iswaran’s MP allowance is within the PAP’s contemplation insofar as clause (c) of the Leader’s motion is concerned? For completeness, it is this issue that forms the basis of my Parliamentary question today and filed on the 7th of September about the duration Mr Iswaran is expected to be absent from Parliament.
My third question concerns para (c) of the Leader’s motion, where it says that this House will consider this matter when “the outcome of ongoing investigations is known”. This contrasts with what the Prime Minister said during the clarifications of the Prime Minister’s Ministerial Statement on Mr Iswaran last month. The PM said and I quote, “if there is a case, the case has not been heard, he has not been found guilty or acquitted or whatever.” My third question is this: can the Leader clarify whether the word “outcome” in para (c) of the Leader’s motion means that this House will consider this matter once investigations are completed and a decision has been made on whether charges will be preferred against Mr Iswaran, or if it means that the House will consider this matter only upon conclusion of the entire criminal justice process, including any possible appeal?
The Workers’ Party’s position on the Leader’s motion will turn on the responses to these three specific queries.
Hazel Poa’s motion – 7 Sep 2023
SUSPENSION OF MEMBER: That this House suspends Mr S Iswaran from the service of Parliament for the remainder of the current session of the 14th Parliament.
Leader’s Motion – 14 Sep 2023
CONSIDERATION OF MATTERS REGARDING MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
That this House:
(a) Affirms the need for Members of Parliament to uphold the highest standards of integrity and conduct themselves in accordance with the law;
(b) Affirms the need to deal firmly and fairly with any Member of Parliament who is being investigated for possible wrongdoing; and
(c) Resolves to consider the matter regarding Member of Parliament S Iswaran when the outcome of the ongoing investigations against him is known.
 PM Lee (in response to Dennis Tan): On the MP’s allowance, it has not been interdicted. The MP’s allowance is different from the pay, it is not at the discretion of the Prime Minister. If you want to do that, the Parliament has to move a Motion to interdict the MP as an MP and Parliament has not done that. And neither in previous cases, has Parliament done that. What has happened is that the MP has been on leave of absence, and eventually when the case is settled one way or the other, well, then, consequences follow.
Mr Speaker: Minister Chan.
Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, just to put on record. An MP’s allowance will be withheld once the MP is suspended from the service of Parliament, as provided by section 29(3) read with section 19 of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act 1962. 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.