Forum: MPs should understand what they are speaking about in Parliament

Mr Viswa Sadasivan said the way Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai was questioned in Parliament may send the wrong message to the young (Thrust of parliamentary debates can send message to young, Sept 18).

Mr Viswa might wish to consider what message Mr Leong himself was sending - to young and old.

First, Mr Leong did not seem to understand what was in the motion he had proposed.

He supported the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), and also didn't. He couldn't name the provisions in Ceca he was objecting to, though his motion referred to provisions. And much more in the same vein.

It was wrong of Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan to call Mr Leong "illiterate", even in private, but I found it painful to watch Mr Leong's floundering and meandering performance. We can't expect every parliamentarian to be a Winston Churchill or Lee Kuan Yew, but surely they must do some homework?

Second, after the ministerial statements delivered in July that laid out facts about Ceca, Mr Leong accepted that Indian nationals did not have automatic access to Singapore's job market.

But he re-surfaced the same accusations in his motion last week, then couldn't back them up.

He persisted in insinuating that Ceca had opened the floodgates to Indian nationals. And he claimed that he also had concerns about other free trade agreements - naming the ones with the United States, Australia and China. But he could not explain why he and his party had focused only on Ceca.

The answer is clear. As Mr Leong himself admitted, his statements could be viewed as having racial undertones - that is, against Indians.

Serious issues involving the livelihood of Singaporeans were being discussed in Parliament.

Most people would agree that the young should be able to tell which MPs understand what they are speaking about in Parliament.

Syed Mohamed Tahir Alsagoff

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