On Wednesday (1 October), the Workers’ Party said in a statement that its chairperson and MP of Aljunied GRC Sylvia Lim has filed a full motion in Parliament on issues relating to the case of former domestic worker Parti Liyani such as accessibility for all under Singapore’s criminal justice system.
The statement noted that the motion “calls on the government to recognize and remedy its shortcomings in order to enhance justice for all, regardless of means or social status”, including a suggestion to review the justice system.
The motion was supported by Sengkang GRC MP and fellow WP member He Ting Ru.
This follows after an earlier adjournment motion filed by Ms Lim was not selected in a ballot among four other motions put forth by other MPs last month. Instead, a motion by Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng on secondhand smoke was selected instead.
Now, you might be wondering what the difference is between an adjournment motion and a full motion.
An adjournment motion is taken up after a motion has made for parliament to adjourn. But before it does, an MP may raise a matter that they want to address. Under the Standing Orders of Parliament which governs how Parliament sessions are run, an MP is given 20 minutes to speak on the matter. Following that, a minister has 10 minutes to respond.
Only one MP can raise an adjournment motion for each day Parliament sits. As such, when there are more than one motions submitted, the selection of which motion gets to be heard is left up to a balloting procedure.
It’s all timed and rather controlled.
You can watch the Mr Ng’s adjournment motion on protection against secondhand smoke here:
In contrast, a full motion basically allows for a debate to take place relating to the issue that has been raised with no time limit. So long as any MP has something to say on the matter, they can. The debate will continue until everyone has said their piece.
Earlier this month when Ms Lim’s adjournment motion was not selected, the public became frustrated with the balloting procedure that doesn’t seem to prioritise matters that are urgent and important to the people.
Even Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai took to Facebook to say, “MP Sylvia Lim only stands a 20% chance of being drawn in the ballot process although most Singaporeans would probably prefer the Parti Liyani case to be heard first before Secondhand Smoke or any of the other matters raised by the PAP MPs.”
Though Ms Lim’s motion was not selected, Speaker of the House Tan Chuan-Jin came out to say that just because the motion was not selected this time around doesn’t mean that it would not ever be addressed.
He explained in a Facebook post, “In fact Parliamentary Questions have been filed and Minister K Shanmugam Sc had already stated that the issue would be fully addressed via a Ministerial Statement, which would obviously include a full and substantive debate.”
The thing is, while Mr Shanmugan has said that he would make a statement on the matter, there is no clear promise that any answers will be provided or that pertinent issues relating to the criminal justice system will be covered or debated.
A full motion, on the other hand, opens up the House to a full debate.
However, one disadvantage of a full motion is that MPs may flood the motion with questions and submissions that may derail the essence of the debate in the first place.
For example, the motion moved by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in November 2019 titled “Governance of Aljunied-Hougang Town Council” in which he moved to have the Workers’ Party MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang recuse themselves from financial matters at the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (ATHC) following the AHTC court ruling.
The debate of the motion—which took almost four hours—ended up being an attack on the WP’s integrity and conduct.
Below is a snippet of that debate:
So, in this full motion that Ms Lim has filed about the criminal justice system, prompted by the Parti Liyani case, the WP with its 10 MPs may find itself besieged as they face a cage-fight with 90 other PAP MPs.
However, it just may just as likely go the other way and we might have another scene from WP where Jamus Lim fended off the attacks from of seven other MPs and holding his ground. Time will tell.