SINGAPORE - Leader of the House Indranee Rajah issued a stern reminder to MPs on Tuesday (Jan 11) after Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai failed to substantiate his earlier allegations about vaccination-differentiated measures in schools.
Reminding MPs that they have to exercise their privilege of speaking in Parliament responsibly, she noted that Mr Leong had on Monday claimed that teachers were practising such measures - an allegation "which is cast out there and besmirches teachers as a whole".
During Monday's sitting, Mr Leong said he had received feedback from residents that some teachers have already practised vaccine-differentiated safe management (VDS) measures in schools.
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing then asked him for further information, including details about the schools and the supposed measures. Mr Leong replied that the feedback was on his WhatsApp message list and he could respond later.
On Tuesday, the NCMP began his clarification by addressing Mr Chan, saying "many distressed parents are still trying to get reassurance from you and your ministry and to be very clear of your position".
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin then asked Mr Leong to make his clarification, and "not to make another speech".
After several reminders from the Speaker, Mr Leong told the House that his point on schools practising VDS measures was based on a screenshot from a Telegram chat group called SG Concerned Parents, which was sent to him by a Facebook friend. The screenshot said a teacher had scolded a student for being unvaccinated, he added.
Mr Tan then repeatedly asked for details about the school. Mr Leong said there was no mention of the school on the screenshot, but this was "public information" in the chat group, which had close to 6,000 members.
Ms Indranee then spoke to issue "salutary advice" to Mr Leong.
"I have in this House before spoken about the importance of being able to substantiate allegations that are made in this House, and we have seen what happens when members make allegations which cannot be substantiated or are irresponsible," she said.
Ms Indranee was alluding to former Sengkang GRC MP Raeesah Khan, who resigned from the Workers' Party in November after she admitted to lying in Parliament about details of a sexual assault case that she had alleged was mishandled by the police. A parliamentary committee is currently investigating the matter.
"What we have seen today is Mr Leong Mun Wai coming here, firstly, to grandstand and make broad allegations or broad speeches that have no bearing whatsoever on the details that were requested of him," Ms Indranee said.
"We have seen that when you, Mr Speaker, requested him to provide those details, he prevaricated and evaded, and now finally, we discover that the details cannot be forthcoming because he's referring to a Telegram chat where there are no details at all."
She underscored how MPs must exercise their privilege of speaking in the House, and said that she hoped this was something Mr Leong would bear in mind.
When asked by the Speaker if he had taken Ms Indranee's point, Mr Leong said he had noted it but wanted to ask a question. Mr Tan replied by saying that Parliament was moving to the next item on its agenda.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.