Can Ministers’ word in Parliament be relied upon?


Can Ministers” word in Parliament be relied upon in the future?

I refer to the article “Government has not curbed public prosecutor’s discretion for Section 377A: A-G Lucien Wong” (Straits Times, Oct 3).

It states that “The Government has not removed or restricted prosecutorial discretion for Section 377A, Attorney-General Lucien Wong said in a statement released on Tuesday (Oct 2).

He noted that former A-Gs, Professor Walter Woon and Mr V. K. Rajah, “have recently suggested that it is not desirable for the Government and Parliament to direct the public prosecutor (PP) not to prosecute offences under Section 377A of the Penal Code, or to create the perception that they are doing so”.

“Such comments may give rise to the inaccurate impression that the exercise of the PP’s discretion has been removed or restricted in respect of Section 377A.”

In this connection, according to mothership (Sep 9) –

“Janadas Devan, Chief of Government Communications and Director of Institute of Policy Studies on 8 Sep:“Till the majority changes, the “uneasy compromise” on 377A, as PM Lee described it, that we decided upon more than a decade ago, remains the only viable position: Given the majority view, the law remains on the books. But the Government does not and will not enforce 377A.””

So, can assurances given by Ministers in Parliamentary debates on our laws, be relied upon?

What are some other examples of this issue?

Well, for example – the HDB “asset enhancement’ policy.

… when banks were allowed to do HDB loans from 1 January 2003 –

(extract from Parliamentary debate in October, 2002 – “From 1st January 2003, HDB lessees who buy resale flats without any CPF Housing Grant and with bank loans will only need to occupy their flats for one year, instead of the current 21/2 years, before they can sell it in the open market.

Existing resale flats bought without any CPF Housing Grant will also qualify if the lessee re-finances his outstanding HDB market rate loan with banks or fully redeems his HDB market rate loan. The reduction in MOP will also apply to existing resale flats that are bought without CPF Housing Grant and without any loan from HDB”

… and possibly how the media licensing and expected online falsehoods’ laws, may be used to stifle freedom of expression, remains to be seen in the future?

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.