Lee Wei Ling apologises for remarks on Bill

Dr Lee Wei Ling, the sister of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, yesterday spoke up against a Bill on contempt of court laws, only to apologise for some of her comments hours later after getting a clearer picture.

She said that she had made wrong assumptions about the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill, which seeks to put in writing contempt of court laws that have until now been left to the courts to define. But she stood by her criticism of the law, saying that it would limit public discussion on issues of interest.

The Bill, which covers three main areas of the law of contempt including prejudicing court matters, disobeying court orders and scandalising the courts, is set to be debated when Parliament sits today.

Dr Lee yesterday first said in a Facebook post that the Bill would "gag debate on issues that are important to Singaporeans". To illustrate her point, she cited a letter she had written to The Straits Times in 2008 about retail magnate Tang Wee Sung being sentenced to a day's jail after he was convicted of trying to buy a kidney illegally.

CLEARER PICTURE

I am relieved by the clarification given by Mr Shanmugam, and I apologise for any embarrassment I may have caused to Mr Shanmugam.

DR LEE WEI LING, in a second Facebook post.

Dr Lee, who felt the sentence was too light, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam had encouraged and supported her in writing the letter. But she said Mr Shanmugam, who was then a lawyer in private practice, "seems to see justice only from the point of view of the Government" now.

A few hours after her post went up and was shared widely, she put up a second post saying she had been wrong in her assumptions.

She said she had spoken to Mr Shanmugam, who had clarified that the letter she wrote in 2008 would be allowed under the proposed law.

She added: "I am relieved by the clarification given by Mr Shanmugam, and I apologise for any embarrassment I may have caused to Mr Shanmugam."

Currently, contempt of court laws are based on laws established by judgments of cases heard in court. The Bill seeks to provide greater clarity on what kind of actions run afoul of the law and also sets the maximum punishment.

Three Nominated MPs (NMPs) have proposed changes to the Bill that they said would make the legislation clearer. The proposed changes, listed in a notice of amendments issued by Parliament on Friday, will be tabled at today's Parliament sitting, when NMP Kok Heng Leun will also present a parliamentary petition on behalf of a group seeking to delay the passage of the Bill.

The 249 Singaporeans who signed the petition contend that it may restrict legitimate discussion of issues that are of public interest.


Correction: The story has been corrected for a wrong spelling of Mr Tang Wee Sung's name. We are sorry for the error. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline 'Lee Wei Ling apologises for remarks on Bill'. Print Edition | Subscribe