Vivian Balakrishnan apologises to PSP's Leong Mun Wai after ‘illiterate’ comment circulates online

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) apologised to NCMP Leong Mun Wai for comments he made in Parliament on Sept 14, 2021.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) apologised to NCMP Leong Mun Wai for comments he made in Parliament on Sept 14, 2021.PHOTOS: MCI/YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE - Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has apologised to Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai for remarks the minister made in Parliament.

Dr Balakrishnan, in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Sept 15), said: "I called Mr Leong Mun Wai today to apologise for my private comments to a colleague in Parliament yesterday.

"I disagree with him on the issue, but I should not have said what I said. Mr Leong has accepted my apology."

During a marathon debate on two motions on jobs and livelihoods in the House on Tuesday, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng and Mr Leong had several exchanges after Dr Tan delivered his speech.

At one point, after Mr Leong had spoken, a voice could be heard saying "he's illiterate".

Later, after another exchange between Dr Tan and Mr Leong, a microphone picked up someone saying: "Seriously, how did he get into RI?... Must have been a lousy school."

It is understood that these remarks were made by Dr Balakrishnan.

Dr Tan is then heard replying: “I’m from Monk’s Hill.”

RI refers to Raffles Institution, where Mr Leong studied in the 1970s, while Dr Tan studied at Monk’s Hill Secondary School. Dr Balakrishnan received his early education at Anglo-Chinese School. 

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Mr Leong said he received a call from Dr Balakrishnan on Wednesday and that the minister conveyed his apology for his comments.

Mr Leong said he accepted the apology.

He added: "I am also curious to know who are the other persons who were involved in the conversation and the reason why they held the institution that I attended in contempt."

He also called for everyone to put their time to better use for Singapore and Singaporeans.

PSP, in a Facebook post on Wednesday, made reference to the incident.

It said: “Yes, our maiden parliamentary motion may have been rejected by Parliament. But we believe the public knows and understands why we had to table the motion and get this debate going.

“Unlike some quarters who may find dissenting voices illiterate, we have confidence that our fellow Singaporeans are enlightened and educated, and will not miss the wood for the trees.”


The comments were picked up by a microphone during a debate on two motions on jobs and livelihoods in Parliament on Sept 14, 2021. PHOTO: MCI/YOUTUBE

Video clips of the comments have been widely shared on social media platforms.

Netizens speculated that the voice was that of Dr Balakrishnan, who was sitting next to Dr Tan.

The exchange may have been picked up by the microphone that Dr Tan had used, which he left on after he delivered his speech.