Parliament debate on Oxley dispute must be robust, says Halimah

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob said there must be robust debate about the Oxley Road dispute so that the allegations surfaced can be put to rest.
Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob said there must be robust debate about the Oxley Road dispute so that the allegations surfaced can be put to rest. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - There must be robust debate in Parliament on the Oxley Road dispute so that the allegations surfaced can be put to rest, said Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob on Sunday (July 2).

She added that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has sent a strong signal for all Members of Parliament to question him and his Cabinet colleagues thoroughly, by asking for the whip to be lifted for People's Action Party MPs.

"What I do hope is that we will have a very robust debate tomorrow, and that we will have some finality on the issues that have been raised because I think that is really in the interest of the country," said Madam Halimah at the sidelines of a community event.

She made the call in response to questions from reporters about the upcoming Parliament sitting on Monday (July 3), during which PM Lee will respond to allegations by his siblings that he misused his power.

The Prime Minister's younger brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, has said that Parliament is not the correct forum to look into the allegations made in the ongoing feud over the fate of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road.

He said that since the parliamentary session puts PM Lee before his subordinates, many MPs will hold back and the issue will not get a full and transparent airing.

"Historically, few PAP MPs have dared to dissent even when the party whip was lifted," he said in a Facebook post last week.

But Madam Halimah said these fears were unfounded as Parliament is not made up of the Prime Minister alone and has checks and balances.

A number of MPs across party lines, and including nominated MPs, have already indicated that they will be speaking at the session, she added.

"So definitely that is important. There is a check and balance. There is a ballast in Parliament" she told reporters on Sunday, a day ahead of the anticipated debate. "So I don't think that people ought to be concerned that there will not be a proper debate tomorrow."

She also highlighted PM Lee's move to lift the party whip, which is typically done to allow MPs to vote according to their conscience instead of along party lines.

Technically, it is not necessary to lift the party whip for MPs to speak freely in House debates, she said, but doing so sends a strong signal that they are free to debate as well as vote.

Madam Halimah said: "PM has made a very strong signal by saying, 'Look, I'm lifting the whip', meaning that it's up to PAP MPs also to robustly question PM and the Cabinet on issues they are very concerned about, that they are not clear about so that we will have a very meaningful debate."

Asked about Mr Lee Hsien Yang's claim that PAP MPs will not dare to speak up, she said that they have "not been shy to criticise the Government".

Madam Halimah, who is MP at Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, was also asked by reporters if she will be standing in the upcoming Presidential elections since she has not confirmed or denied the persistent rumours that she will run.

To this, she laughed and pointed out that the deadline for applications is at the end of August.

"Frankly speaking at this point of time, as you know, my hands are really full... There's a lot on my plate, so let me just concentrate on my work and the amount of things I have on my plate first. I need to clear that," said Madam Halimah who was at an event to distribute fans to low-income residents in the neighbourhood.