From ‘WP MPs ‘untruthful’, says Vivian’, 10 July 2013, article by Elgin Toh, ST
WORKERS’ Party MPs Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh made “false and untruthful” statements to cover up their town council’s demand for extra charges for hawker centre cleaning, the Government charged yesterday.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan reprimanded them thus in Parliament, before telling the media he was withdrawing his parliamentary privilege for his statements. The highly unusual move means he is effectively challenging the two MPs to sue him for defamation for accusing them of lying.
…Explaining why he would not let the matter rest, he framed the issue as one of integrity and clean politics, and not the cleanliness of hawker centres. “All of us will make mistakes. But when a mistake is made, just come clean and say so… don’t cover up. That’s why I have not let this go.”
…Rising to speak, WP chief Low Thia Khiang said he agreed with Ms Lim that the episode arose from a misunderstanding over annual versus quarterly cleanings. As the 36-minute exchange came to a close, the minister urged Mr Low:
“Because I know you to be an honourable man, I appeal to you: Go back, do a thorough investigation of what’s gone on and what’s gone wrong in your town council and put it right.”
The Environment Minister may think the PAP is the epitome of ‘clean politics’, but as Low Thia Khiang retorted after the backhanded compliment, his confrontational style akin to a pitbull not letting go of a bone may not necessarily be ‘good’ politics either. Earlier in June, Balakrishnan said: “Either Mr Pritam Singh OR the hawkers are telling the truth. It is obvious that the hawkers are speaking the truth.” A terribly long-winded way of calling someone a LIAR, for someone who insists on calling a flood a flood (and a spade a spade). It is set theory for babies; Either a Circle has edges or a Rectangle has edges. It is obvious that a rectangle has edges. Duh.
This hawker spat was given a rest due to the haze, but now that it’s clear skies, the Minister decided it was time to exhume the ceiling cleaning debacle. While people are DYING of dengue. This time, he suggests that Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh are ‘dishonourable’ by taunting Low Thia Khiang and cornering him to do the ‘right thing’. The Parliamentary Privilege allows MPs to speak ‘freely and frankly without fear of consequences’, but it doesn’t say anything about penalising you if you act like the whole world owes you an apology.
Breaching this privilege comes with consequences, including imprisonment. That, I would assume, includes stuff like insulting the PM’s dead mother, or exposing a fellow MP’s racy affair, though it’s unlikely that anyone would put a PAP MP, not to mention a Minister, in jail for abuse of this immunity and spewing nonsense in Parliament (In 1987, however, JBJ was fined $1000 for acting in a ‘reprehensible manner’ and threatening to TEAR down the very pillars of society). Being a wise guy who takes smug digs at fellow parliamentrians doesn’t make you any more a ‘clean’ politician than the possibility of a ‘clean’ hawker centre. For a profession that is known throughout the world as a ‘dirty game’, it takes some serious cheek to believe that you’re setting an example of something totally opposite.
This style of ‘clean politics’, or rather ‘come-clean politics’ is similar to LKY pouncing on James Gomez during the 2006 election, where he called the then WP candidate a LIAR, a ‘bad egg’ and wondered what he ‘uses those brains for’. He even dared the WP to sue his ass, which is what Vivian is doing here. At least the old man didn’t need to tease us with logic puzzles in his accusations. Last year, Khaw Boon Wan accused the WP for misleading voters during the Yaw Shin Leong incident and to COME CLEAN too, which we all know by now is an euphemism for ‘Stop the goddamn BULLSHIT already’. Except you can’t say Bullshit in parliament without breaching your bullshit parliamentary privilege.
I guess it’s pretty obvious right now that Low never did accept Vivian’s invitation to chit-chat over a cup of kopi after all. Some may call the Minister’s hawker ceiling obsession a tenacious pursuit for truth. In the face of more dire matters at hand, I see it more as a crafty diversion.