SINGAPORE – MPs have various avenues to raise issues in Parliament beyond submitting adjournment motions, said Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on Thursday (Oct 1).
For instance, they can choose to put forth a substantive motion or file parliamentary questions, he added in a Facebook post.
The issue has come under the spotlight in the past week after Mr Tan revealed that Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim’s adjournment motion on enhancing equity in the criminal justice system was not selected in a ballot held on Tuesday.
Ms Lim had hoped to raise the issue following the high-profile court case involving former maid Parti Liyani, who was initially found guilty of stealing $34,000 worth of items from the family of her former employer, prominent businessman Liew Mun Leong.
Her subsequent acquittal by the High Court has raised questions about the criminal justice system’s treatment of people who are less well-off.
On Tuesday, Mr Tan said Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng’s adjournment motion on second-hand cigarette spoke in homes was picked after the ballot.
This prompted Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai to ask in a post on his social media pages why second-hand smoke was deemed “more important” than criminal justice.
The Progress Singapore Party NCMP noted that with five adjournment motions submitted, Ms Lim stood only a 20 per cent chance of being drawn in the ballot process, “although most Singaporeans would probably prefer the Parti Liyani case to be heard first before second-hand smoke or any of the other matters raised by the PAP MPs”.
His party’s NCMPs will raise the issue of parliamentary proceedings not giving priority to the more important issues of the day, Mr Leong said.
Freelance journalist Kirsten Han also asked if Mr Ng could cede his slot to Ms Lim, adding that “surely the issue of equity in the criminal justice system is very much urgent and current now”.
An adjournment motion is typically filed by an MP who wishes to speak at the end of a Parliament sitting on a topic for which the Government is responsible.
If more than one MP files an adjournment motion, balloting takes place. Those who are not picked can opt to resubmit their adjournment motions for balloting another day.
“Balloting gives equal chance for any notice of a topic an MP wishes to raise to be picked and debated in due course,” said the Parliament in a Facebook post on Thursday. “It is a fair and transparent process free from any bias or pre-determination.”
In his post on Thursday, Mr Tan pointed out that “a fair number” of parliamentary questions have been raised over Ms Parti Liyani’s case by members from all sides of the house.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has also said he be will be delivering a ministerial statement on the matter.
Separately, Mr Ng said he has filed a parliamentary question on whether the Home Affairs Ministry will consider allowing foreign domestic workers and other work permit holders to be accompanied by non-legal personnel in police interviews.
“It really is not a case of either or,” he said, referring to Ms Parti’s case and the issue of second-hand smoke. “I will speak up on both issues and both important issues will be debated.”