WP MP Sylvia Lim

Earlier in the week, Culture Minister Grace Fu laid down her threat: Apologise by Thursday (Mar 8) or else…

Or else what?

A little known law created in the British colonial days of 1962 called “Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act”, could jail MP Sylvia Lim until the end of the Parliament session in 2020 and fine her S$50,000:

“20.—(1) For any dishonourable conduct, abuse of privilege or contempt, on the part of a Member, Parliament may —
(a) commit him to prison for a term not extending beyond the current session of Parliament;
(b) impose upon him a fine not exceeding the sum of $50,000;
(c) suspend him from the service of Parliament for the remainder of the current session of Parliament or for any part thereof; and
(d) direct that he be reprimanded or admonished in his place by the Speaker.”

The authoritarian Act can by-pass the Singapore Courts, and simply require a Select Committee appointed by the Speaker of Parliament – which of course would be filled by ruling party PAP members – to “investigate” and judge the offending MP. The High Court will have no judiciary over the Act and when found guilty of infringing the Act, the offending MP goes straight to jail.

This is as legal as granting Law Minister K Shanmugam with the powers to detain anyone without trial, never mind it is undemocratic.

Another little known fact is that MP Sylvia Lim is not the first Workers’ Party MP facing this “dishonourable behaviour” charge. In 1987, WP MP Jeyaretnam, more commonly known as JBJ, was fined S$26,000. He appealed to the Courts, where the judges washed their hands and simply said they have no power over Parliament ruling.

MP Sylvia Lim has mounted a superb defence behind why she is not apologising. The WP MP’s eloquence earned deserving praises from the public, which further embarrassed the ruling party ministers. Unfortunately, she is edging towards a cliff as several ministers continue to repeat allegations of “dishonourable conduct” – a pretext to enforcing the Parliamentary Privileges Act.