Honesty is foundation of democracy, not debates that include lies: Ong Ye Kung on COP report
MPs and the parties they represent have a duty and responsibility to ensure integrity and honesty remain the foundation of democracy in Singapore, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event at Woodlands Health on Saturday (Feb 12), Mr Ong said having different voices and ideas, as well as rigorous debates on how the country should be run, is good.
But not if they are based on lies and falsehoods, he added.
"What's the use of having rigorous debates but they contain lies and falsehoods, and party leaders are not correcting falsehoods and making empty promises. That does not serve our people well.
"It's not the kind of democracy we want to have," said Mr Ong, who was attending a topping out ceremony at the 1,800-bed Woodlands Health campus, which is expected to open by the end of next year.
The Health Minister was referring to comments on social media and from the Workers' Party (WP) that democracy here has taken a beating as a result of the Committee of Privileges (COP) findings and recommendations.
The eight-member committee chaired by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin was formed to look into former WP MP Raeesah Khan's lies in Parliament.
On Thursday, the COP released a report which recommended a fine of $35,000 for Ms Khan, former MP for Sengkang GRC.
It also recommended that WP chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and WP vice-chairman Faisal Manap, be referred to the Public Prosecutor for investigations to consider if criminal proceedings ought to be instituted.
The Committee said Mr Singh had been untruthful under oath, which may amount to perjury. As for Mr Faisal, it found that his refusal to answer the Committee’s questions could constitute contempt of Parliament.
On Friday, Mr Singh posted on WP's Facebook page that there is a prospect of him and Mr Faisal losing their parliamentary seats and stepping down as MPs if either of them is fined $2,000 or more.
Mr Ong said referring the cases to the Public Prosecutor is the correct thing to do.
"Should the issue go to trial, Pritam and Faisal can furnish evidence and clear their names. The issue of being outnumbered by PAP (People's Action Party) members doesn't come up in a court of law," he added.
"If no wrong is done, there is no fear of the Leader of the Opposition losing his seat."
As for WP's suggestion that it will affect the building of a democratic society, Mr Ong said democracy has to be built on a foundation of honesty and integrity, and not just contestation.
"Every lie, every repeated lie, every neglect of the lie weakens the foundation," he said.
"Every member of the House, every party that is represented in the Chamber, has a duty and responsibility to protect that foundation."
Mr Ong said he felt both shocked and saddened when Ms Khan confessed to the lie on Nov 1 last year.
As it is a serious matter, it had to be referred to a COP.
"We are all human and make mistakes," added Mr Ong. "But when we make a mistake, how a political leader then comes out to confront and correct the mistake is also a mark of the standard of integrity for the leader, for the party he represents, for Parliament and for our democratic institutions."