Everything About the Heated Exchange Between Leong Mun Wai & Shanmugam Over a Facebook Post


Usually, we don’t hear much of non-constituency members of Parliament (NCMPs) in the news.

But ever since Mr Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) was elected as an NCMP, it seems he’s been making headlines every now and then.

Known for being outspoken in Parliament, this trait has sometimes led to trouble brewing between him and our leaders.

Just recently, he angered Shanmugam with things he said in Parliament and on Facebook, which spells bad news.

How the Beef Unfolded

It all started with a heated debate in Parliament on Monday, 20 March.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had to answer supplementary questions raised by Mr Leong regarding the “double standards” surrounding the government’s decision to name Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern amid their ongoing probe.

The police are currently investigating Mr Lee and Mrs Lee for allegedly lying under oath during judicial proceedings over the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will.

Mr Leong first asked Mr Shanmugam whether the police specifically issued a written order to the Lees to attend the investigation at a police station.

He then brought up the Keppel Offshore & Marine (O&M) case, calling it a “more serious” one, and noted that its executives are guilty and their names are already in the foreign jurisdiction documents.

He added that the Keppel O&M case was of profound public interest and questioned why there was a double standard between the two cases.

In response, Mr Shanmugam stated that he had already carefully explained the difference between the Keppel O&M case and the Parti Liyani theft case involving Mr Karl Liew as well as the case of the Lees.

He then probed Mr Leong to provide more details based on his explanation and mention the part he disagreed with before he could claim double standards.

Replying to Mr Leong’s first question, Mr Shanmugam said that the Lees received an e-mail inviting them to an investigation, to which they promised their attendance and agreed to do an interview.

The Lees, however, left the jurisdiction and told the public and police that they would not cooperate with the police. This is why Mr Shanmugam said that they have “essentially absconded from justice.”

To abscond is to leave quickly or secretly before being taken into custody or under arrest.

He later added that the disclosure surrounding the Lees’ case was consistent with that of Mr Karl Liew in the Parti Liyani case.


Pulling an UNO reverse card on Mr Leong, Mr Shanmugam asked through the Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin why Mr Leong was approaching this case with double standards himself, suddenly showing concern for the Lees while he was quiet when Mr Karl Liew faced a similar circumstance.

Mr Leong then accused Mr Shanmugam of framing his question in a different context.

The room was warming from this fiery exchange, so Mr Tan told him to “lower the temperature.”

Mr Leong asked Mr Shanmugam his first question again, but Mr Shanmugam declined to repeat himself, stating that he had already answered it.


The Plot Thickens

Dissatisfied with Mr Shanmugam’s response in Monday’s parliamentary sitting, Mr Leong took to Facebook to criticise Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and Mr Shanmugam’s decision to name the couple.

“What SM Teo and Minister Shanmugam have done is run the risk of turning Parliament into a platform to colour public opinion on criminal proceedings.”

Mr Leong said later in the post that “absconding is a criminal offence, and it should be for the courts to decide whether Mr and Mrs Lee have done so. It is not for the Minister to pre-judge on that score.”

Addressing Mr Leong’s Facebook allegations on Wednesday, 22 March, Mr Shanmugam said there were “serious misrepresentations” in his post.

He mentioned that this was not the first time Mr Leong had breached a parliamentary procedure.

On 25 February 2021, Mr Leong first apologised for misrepresentations. This occurred again on 10 May 2021, when he “seriously breached” the procedure, and on 8 March 2022 due to “improper and uncalled for” comments.


According to Mr Shanmugam, Mr Leong had breached Section 31(g) of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act which states that no one shall publish any statement which “falsely and scandalously” defames a member of the House for his or words in Parliament in his Facebook post.

Anyone found to do so could face a jail term of up to two years, a fine of $5,000, or both. Mr Leong was then asked to take down the post, acknowledge that he had misrepresented his position and apologise.

Mr Shanmugam then laid out more details about whether the Lees absconded, including a sequence of events from when the police asked the couple to assist in investigations and a copy of the letter inviting them to an interview.

Though Mr Lee said he was “made a fugitive” by his own country on an Instagram post uploaded on 7 March, Mr Shanmugam emphasised that they were not fugitives and left the country on their own accord.

Because of that, they absconded.


Mr Leong Rebels

Mr Shanmugam asked several questions directed to Mr Leong on whether he agreed with specific points the Minister made on Monday throughout his speech on Wednesday.

Outspoken as usual, Mr Leong said, “I am not going to answer the Minister like (I’m) answering in court. This is a legislative chamber, this is not a legal chamber. I have my way of answering.”

Mr Shanmugam asked him to substantiate or withdraw a statement about whether the people involved in the Keppel OM case were “actually guilty.”

“If the minister says that they have not been found guilty overseas, then I’m prepared to withdraw my statement,” said Mr Leong, which finally made Mr Shanmugam happy.

But Mr Leong, being persistent, continued to rebel. When asked whether he wanted to withdraw his statement by Mr Tan, he said, “Speaker, if the minister didn’t ask me, I suggest you do not ask.”

This was met by an audible “wow” by Mr Shanmugam before Mr Leong was reprimanded by Mr Tan, who told him to “retain decorum” when addressing other members of Parliament, to which he apologised.

Fuel Is Added to the Fire

Mr Leong had also mentioned that Mr Shanmugam bringing up the Parti Liyani case was an “attempt to muddy the waters,” and urged to redirect attention to just the case of the Lees and the Keppel OM case in his Facebook post.

This was addressed on Wednesday when Mr Shanmugam said that the point of stating this was to claim that he had used an “irrelevant example” and was trying to “confuse Parliament.”


However, Mr Leong disagreed, saying, “When you bring in a new case, in a way, you are clouding the thinking of people. I didn’t say it’s irrelevant, I didn’t say you are confusing Parliament. Minister, don’t put words into my mouth.”

When asked by Mr Shanmugam what the meaning of “muddying the waters” was, Mr Leong deflected, “Speaker, now Minister is testing whether I’m from a lousy school or not.”

He is making a reference to the hot mic saga involving Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister Tan See Leng.

But Mr Leong eventually answered the question and added that the mention of the Parti Liyani case could cloud the judgements of others, but insisted that he was not casting aspersions on Mr Shanmugam.

Mr Shanmugam responded that he would be happy to debate why he brought up the case, telling Mr Leong not to be a coward and keep quiet.

He added that saying it was “an attempt to muddy the waters” was like casting aspersions on him.

Still, Mr Leong refused to withdraw his statement that the Parti Liyani case was brought up to “muddy the waters” when asked by Mr Shanmugam.

Mr Shanmugam then said that subsequent steps would be taken.

Still, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament responded to queries by CNA on Wednesday evening that “at this time, no complaint has been made against any Member,” regarding whether Mr Leong had been referred to a committee investigating alleged breaches of parliamentary privilege.