Say what? Things heard in Parliament that made you listen twice

PHOTO: Facebook/SingaporeParliament

Parliament seems like a serious place for serious things to be said.

The Chamber has strategically placed microphones on electronically-operated lecterns which are within reach for all Members of Parliament (MP).

But what happens when you hear that offhand comment, slip of the tongue or pop cultural reference live?

Now, with parliamentary proceedings live-streamed on YouTube, you can scrub again to that exact moment – and then regale your colleagues with something they didn't expect to hear.

Hot mic situation

Though a clear and distinct voice is heard whenever an MP speaks into the mic, sometimes nearby chit-chat can unwittingly be picked up.

At the tail end of a 12-hour session debating Singapore's foreign workplace policies on Sept 14, faint voices were heard right after Manpower Minister Tan See Leng answered Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai's question.

But there was one problem: The microphone – glowing red – was left on.

In a "Say what?" moment, some sharp-eared Redditors picked up a faint voice at the 9:49:46 mark that said: “Seriously, how did he get into RI (Raffles Institution)? Must have been a lousy school.” Another voice replied: "I'm from Monk's Hill."

It was unclear whose voices they were at first. But after much online chatter, one voice has admitted and apologised for his "private comments".

'Madam President'

Sometimes, standing behind the mic can trip you up. 

While discussing the 2017 elected presidency, not once, but twice did Minister Chan Chun Sing mistakenly address then-Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob as "Madam President" – as seen in the clip at the 0:04 and 1:22 mark.

The second time it happened, Chan immediately acknowledged his slip of the tongue and apologised: "Madam Speaker, sorry my bad."

Several MPs can be seen laughing in the video at the honest gaffe.

Earlier that year, rumours were circulating that Madam Speaker would be the front runner for the role which would made her the first Madam President in Singapore's history.

'You never walk alone'

On other days, standing behind the mic can empower you.

During the Budget 2020 debate, now-retired MP Lee Bee Wah, known affectionately to her residents as “Sister Flower”, declared her support for DPM Heng Swee Keat's efforts at the start of the pandemic. 

She made her endorsement known but in a light-hearted manner that only Liverpool Football Club fans would understand – by quoting the anthem now used as well for pandemic front-liners in UK and Europe.

She said: “Mr Speaker Sir, I won’t sing – I can’t. And I don’t want to empty this house. But I have this to say to DPM.

"Walk on, walk on. With hope in your heart, and you will never walk alone. You will never walk alone.”

READ MORE: I am not a 'yes woman': Retired politician Dr Lee Bee Wah on defying the odds

zakaria@asiaone.com