Workers' Party's Sylvia Lim says she had asked to speak on second day of Budget debate

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim was not in the House when her name was called on the second day of the Budget debate.
Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim was not in the House when her name was called on the second day of the Budget debate.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE/GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Was Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim supposed to speak on the first day or second day of the Budget debate?

The issue came up during the debate on Wednesday (Feb 28) when Ms Lim took issue with a report in The Straits Times that stated she was due to speak during the debate on Tuesday.

Her name had been called several times by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on Tuesday, but Ms Lim was not in the House and the debate eventually moved along to Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC).

It turned out that while Ms Lim's request to speak on Wednesday had been accommodated by Government Whip Chan Chun Sing, the Budget debate had proceeded more quickly than expected and her name was called on Tuesday instead.

Before speaking about the Budget on Wednesday, she took a moment to delve into the matter. "I think we had an arrangement with the Government Whip that under the original schedule, I'll be speaking today. So I think The Straits Times was not aware of this, but I hope that they will print a correction to create any mis-impression that has been generated by this report," she said.

In an e-mail to The Straits Times, she also clarified that WP chief Low Thia Khiang, who is the opposition party's Whip, had indicated to Mr Chan last week that Ms Lim wanted to speak on the second day of the debate.

Mr Chan, clarifying his role in deciding on the sequence of speakers, said he tries to accommodate all requests by MPs to speak on a particular day, and had done so in Ms Lim's case.

However, he said, he also wanted to remind MPs that "Parliament may move along faster or slower depending on the speakers preceding you".

"Parliament moved along faster than expected yesterday. Your name was called, you were not in the chamber, so we moved on," said Mr Chan, reminding MPs to be present when their names are called.

He added that the list of MPs due to speak on the Budget is published by Parliament daily, a copy of which is placed in the MPs' room in Parliament.

The list had stated that Ms Lim was scheduled to speak after Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) and before Mr Chong, both of whom delivered their speeches on Tuesday.

Mr Chan said MPs can inform him early if they are not able to speak at the assigned time, and he will reassign another slot to them, as was done for Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) on Wednesday.

Mr Png was unable to attend Parliament due to a family emergency.

In response, Ms Lim said: "I would like to thank Government Whip for his confirmation of the prior communication to speak on day two, and I do accept his point, I should have informed him that I would want to speak today as earlier indicated."

Mr Chan answered: "I would like to thank Ms Lim, and I would also like to confirm that when I replied Mr Low's e-mail to me, that I have said, I promise I will try to sequence the speakers in the order that he prefers, but that I could not guarantee that you will be (speaking) on a particular time slot because things may move along as we have seen."