In a PMO statement released yesterday, PM Lee has waived his parliamentary privilege and released the ministerial statements and the accompanying materials which he delivered in Parliament on 3rd and 4th July regarding the 38 Oxley Road dispute.
“As I stated I would do in my Ministerial Statement on July 3, 2017, I am reproducing the speech that I made in Parliament here as a statement made by me outside of Parliament which are not covered by Parliamentary privilege,” PM Lee said.
So what exactly is ‘parliamentary privilege’?
According to Singapore’s Parliament webpage, it is:
|Words spoken in the course of parliamentary proceedings are privileged, that is, immune from any action in the courts. This privilege allows Members to speak freely and frankly without fear of legal consequences. Breach of this privilege can render a Member liable to a reprimand, fine, suspension or imprisonment, as may be recommended by the Committee of Privileges. The House also has the power to suspend the privilege and immunity of a Member in respect of liability in civil proceedings. Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act (Cap. 217)|
Simply put, this means that your MPs have an immunity in Parliament to speak their minds freely – and they will be not be sued for it.
Parliamentary privilege is not something unique to Singapore, but is commonly adopted by countries whose constitutions are based on the Westminster system, such as UK, Canada. Other countries know this as the ‘parliamentary immunity’.
What does this mean for PM Lee?
By lifting the parliamentary privilege, it means that PM is opening himself to possibly getting sued by his siblings, if they think that he is lying/ defaming them.
There were previous instances where the parliamentary privilege has been lifted in Singapore as well, with one of the most recent ones being Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, where he accused WP of lying in Parliament.
So what now?
Looking at how the Lee siblings have decided that they welcomed the notion of settling the dispute in private “without the involvement of lawyers or government agencies” after the parliamentary privileges have been waived… We’ll make a guess that perhaps PM Lee might have actually been honest.
Most importantly, the Lee siblings have stated in their statement: “For now, we will cease presenting further evidence on social media, provided that we and our father’s wish are not attacked or misrepresented.” Thank god, Singaporeans are already very sick of this.
Let’s hope they make good on their promise.