SINGAPORE - Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai on Thursday (March 23) deleted parts of a Facebook post that Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said had cast aspersions on him.
But Mr Leong stopped short of acceding to Mr Shanmugam’s parliamentary request to delete the entire post and accept that he had made serious misrepresentations.
The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) NCMP removed from his post his charge that Mr Shanmugam’s citing of former helper Parti Liyani’s case in an earlier Parliament sitting was an attempt to “muddy the waters” regarding the case of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern.
The law minister had said the couple had absconded from Singapore after earlier agreeing to cooperate with police investigations.
Mr Leong also removed a paragraph that said Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and Mr Shanmugam’s actions had risked turning Parliament into a platform to colour public opinion on criminal proceedings, and that it is not for Mr Shanmugam to pre-judge whether the couple had absconded.
The edits came one day after he refused to withdraw several statements, delete the Facebook post and apologise to Mr Shanmugam for what the latter called “really unparliamentary and not acceptable” conduct.
In another Facebook post put up after the edits were made, Mr Leong explained that he had intended to raise certain points that were weighing on his mind after he had deliberated on Mr Shanmugam’s response to his parliamentary question on Mr and Mrs Lee’s case that the Law Minister had replied to on Monday.
He reiterated that it was not his intention to cast aspersions on the ministers, nor to act in an unparliamentary manner, and that he had raised those points “solely in the public interest”.
“I have since considered the matter further following (Wednesday’s) parliamentary proceedings and have decided to withdraw those statements by deleting them from the Facebook post which I made on Monday evening. This should address the concerns raised,” he wrote.
Mr Leong said he did not consider it appropriate to delete his entire post, as Mr Shanmugam had requested.
“My post made numerous other points which I consider to be valid and to which no objection appears to have been made,” he said. “It would, therefore be a disproportionate response to delete the entire post.”https://www.facebook.com/leongmwofficial
In his ministerial statement on Wednesday, Mr Shanmugam had called on Mr Leong to delete his Facebook post, withdraw his statements and to make an apology.
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Mr Leong withdrew a separate allegation he had made previously in Parliament that executives in the Keppel Offshore & Marine (O&M) case were “actually guilty” after Mr Shanmugam clarified that only one person had pleaded guilty in the United States.
The NCMP also said he was not asking for the principle that individuals in investigations be named even if no case is brought against them in court.
But Mr Leong did not withdraw his other statements, which prompted Mr Shanmugam to tell Parliament that next steps would be considered to respond to Mr Leong’s breach of parliamentary proceedings and rules.
In the edited post, Mr Leong continued to take issue with Mr Shanmugam’s use of the term “absconded” for Mr and Mrs Lee as he said this implies guilt, and Mr Shanmugam had confirmed that the couple had not been served written orders to report to the Police.
On Wednesday, Mr Shanmugam told Parliament that saying that Mr Lee had absconded was not a prejudgment of his guilt, but a factual description that he had left Singapore without cooperating with the police.
“That’s what absconding means - run away without cooperating with the police,” he said.
Mr Leong’s edited Facebook post also retained his position that the PSP took issue with the disclosure that Mr and Mrs Lee were being investigated by the police when individuals in the Keppel O&M case were not named, although he removed his call for “more clarity to ensure that a double standard is not being practiced”.
He said the general public would view the Keppel O&M case as of equal, if not more, significant public interest as compared to 38 Oxley Road and that the executives were already named publicly in Brazilian court filings and Bloomberg news reports.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.