Tuesday night ended annoyingly late for all Members of Parliament, as well as those who were tuned in to watch the Parliamentary debate of the year. In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that in August this year, PSP’s Leong Mun Wai filed a motion to debate CECA — one of Singapore’s many Free-Trade Agreements.
On PSP’s Anti-Foreigner Stance
The debate kicked off with a well-delivered and detailed speech from Finance Minister Lawrence Wong. He began by appealing to the Progress Singapore Party leaders to refrain from pursuing their current “anti-foreigner” narrative. This is extremely crucial as such sentiments can indirectly cause racial tensions between Singaporeans.
It is also important to keep in mind that while we watch parliament proceedings from the comfort of our homes, people from all over the world could very well be watching as well. Potential investors, trade partner countries, and even our local expats or naturalised citizens and PRs who may feel unwelcome after being exposed to a narrative like the one Leong Mun Wai has repeatedly shared not just in parliament, but also via Facebook.
Leong Mun Wai’s Comments on DBS CEO Piyush Gupta
Law Minister Shanmugam took the stand to highlight Mr Leong’s comments from a parliamentary debate a year ago. In September 2020, Mr Leong called for a cap on foreigner-to-citizen ratio in firms. Referring to DBS’ CEO, Piyush Gupta, he commented: “However, I am deeply disappointed now because 22 years after his appointment, DBS is still without a home-grown CEO.”
While Mr Gupta was indeed born in India, he had been working in Singapore since 1982 as the South East Asia Pacific CEO for Citibank. He became a Singaporean citizen in 2009, which is also the same year he started work at DBS. Since then, Mr Gupta’s contributions to Singapore and our country’s most prestigious bank are parallel to none. Without his leadership, DBS bank, along with our economy, would not be what it is today.
Plus, he’s been in Singapore for 39 years. That’s more years in Singapore than many of us Singaporeans have been alive for.
Mr Leong’s comments were definitely uncalled for, and it seems like he hasn’t taken any time to reflect on his performance and conduct in parliament.
Getting a solid stance out of PSP on CECA is harder than buying a winning TOTO ticket
Speaker of the House Tan Chuan Jin, along with the rest of the MPs sitting in for the session were visibly and audibly frustrated with a debate that wasn’t going anywhere. The discussion went round in circles, with Mr Leong doing a full 180 each time he was grilled on his position on the topic of FTAs.
Here’s how the exchange went:
Mr Leong: “We are supportive of FTAs and even CECA in general. But we need more information about all these FTAs. If we do not have more information we cannot say we are wholeheartedly supporting them. It has to be evaluated on a case by case basis.”
Minister Shanmugam: “Mr Leong says that now they’ve got nothing to object to CECA and other FTAs. I think that’s an important statement, and I would like that recorded. I think we all need to note that…”
Mr Leong: “Uh, point of order, point of order. Uh, I think the minister is misquoting me. I said I’m supporting FTAs in general, including CECA. But I didn’t say I’m supporting CECA wholeheartedly. We need more information.”
Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin: “So are you supporting or not supporting?”
Mr Leong: “We have not enough information to support.”
Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin: “So are you supporting or not supporting? If you have not enough information, are you supporting or not supporting? I’m not very clear.”
Mr Leong: “I’m not supporting.”
Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin: “So you are not supporting CECA or FTAs is that right?”
Mr Leong: “The FTAs, we need more information as well on a case by case.”
Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin: “So I’m trying to understand what your position is. So you’re not supporting FTAs including CECA?”
Mr Leong: “So we are supporting FTAs in general for the benefits that FTAs can bring — trade to our country, investors and all that. But we are concerned that modern FTAs do have provisions on the movement of natural persons. And so for each FTA we want to look into the details. That’s what we are saying.”
Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin: “Minister?”
Minister Shanmugam: “Sir, I’m quite confused by the answer.”
Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin: “I’m quite confused as well.”
Minister Shanmugam: “So may I ask sir, to you, to Mr Leong, just tell us does he and does PSP support FTAs? A simple answer will do.”
Mr Leong: “We support FTAs in general.”
Minister Shanmugam: “Would that include, sir, support for CECA?”
Mr Leong: “Yes. In general. Yes.”
Minister Shanmugam: “Let’s then have it recorded as that he and PSP supports CECA and FTAs in general. Now, may I then ask why is CECA specifically identified in the motion when I assume that there is nothing to distinguish between CECA and other FTAs in Mr Leong’s mind.”
Mr Leong: “As i have said in my speech, we do not have full disclosure on the movement of natural persons provisions CECA has and even some of the FTAs so we would like to know more. Before we know more information about that, we cannot shut off discussions on the FTAs and CECA, which the Government is trying to do. After the July 6th ministerial statement, next day in the ST, the govt straightaway said CECA has no effect on our ability to affect immigration. But the data provided by the govt is not conclusive….”
@gongsimisgYou heard it here first, Parliam3ntary Hitz. Sta sta sta stats my shit. ##politics ##singaporepolitics ##progresssingaporeparty ##tiktoksg ##fypsg ##fyp♬ Like That (feat. Gucci Mane) – Doja Cat
Aside from the fact that Mr Leong seems unable to formulate his thoughts to form a concrete stand on FTAs or CECA, he seems to also lack a whole lot of professionalism in parliament. From smiling at his phone while Minister Shanmugam responds to him, to interrupting other members of parliament mid-speech. The cherry on top is probably Mr Leong asking if his colleague Ms Hazel Poa could answer the questions for him.
We’re still wondering why anyone would vote for PSP members at all.