Ministers’ speeches not to be taken seriously?

Yahoo News reported:

“[Law Minister K Shanmugam] also agreed with what [deputy Attorney General Hri Kumar] stated in court that one should not refer to “every MP’s speech and every minister’s speech and then try and interpret as if it’s a statutory interpretation. You go back to the legislation.””

This is utter rubbish by Shanmugam.

First, the speech being referred to here is a KEYNOTE speech IN PARLIAMENT by THE PRIME MINISTER on a CONSTITUTIONAL amendment to the Elected President scheme.

It was a significant and momentous occasion to introduce the Reserved Election.

Second, such speeches in Parliament are important – this is why there is an OFFICIAL RECORD of these called The Hansard. Parliament expends resources to record these speeches for a reason – so that they can be referred to when necessary, even by the courts (as I shall explain below).

Before the minsters’ and MPs’ remarks and speeches are recorded in The Hansard, they are asked to verify that their remarks and speeches are accurate and true before they are entered into official record. This is why Hansard records take at least a week after a sitting before they are available online to the public.

The Hansard is not some two-bit useless junk of records. It is Parliament’s OFFICIAL and AUTHORITATIVE records of proceedings, recording context and giving insights to intent of legislations and debates.

The Law, under the Interpretation Act, also gives regard to Hansard records. [See Nizam Ismail's comment in the comment section below.]

Third, such speeches set in context the subsequent debate or legislations which follow. Laws are not made in words alone but also in context, in spirit. This should be quite clear to the Law Minister, himself a Senior Counsel. The spirit (context, intent) of the laws is as important (if not more so) than the wordings of the laws.

One such recent instance was the Government’s case against Dr Ting Choon Ming and The Online Citizen, where the Government claimed that the former 2 parties had harassed it by publishing an article online. The Government was claiming that the Protection from Harassment Act should be invoked in this instance to compel Dr Ting and TOC to remove the article.

The court rejected the Government’s argument.

Why?

Because in Parliament, during the debate on the Bill, it was clear that the law was meant to protect the truly vulnerable, and not an entity like Mindef, which the Government claimed needed protection from Dr Ting and TOC.

The learned judges had recourse to the parliamentary speeches by the Law Minister himself (Shanmugam), and the context of the debate and the legislation being contemplated, and the judges made the decision based partly on this.

This is significant because in Parliament itself, during the debate on the Bill, WP’s Pritam Singh had asked Shanmugam if the Act would apply to organisations and govt departments.

Shanmugam said the Interpretation Act would apply – meaning that yes, the Harassment Act would apply to organisations which the Interpretation Act deems to be “persons”.

But the courts rejected this, partly because of the context of the debate in Parliament as recorded in the Hansard, which the court referred to.

So, to summarise, for the Law Minister to dismiss in a rather cavalier manner the words spoken in Parliament is quite astonishing to me.

If such parliamentary speeches and contexts are not to be taken seriously, then what really is the whole point of Parliament?

May as well pack up and go home and save everyone’s time, if words spoken in the House meant nothing much.

 

 

* Facebook posy by Andrew Loh.

 

 

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17 Responses to “Ministers’ speeches not to be taken seriously?”

  • Singaporeans Shaking Heads!:

    Like MediaCorp Actor Chen Tian Wen says, it is UNBELIEVABLE!

    Singaporeans are shocked and bewildered!

    They have never witnessed anything like this before!

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  • Titiana Ann Xavier:

    The PAP government has no respect for laws. It always acts as if it is above the law. The average layman is unable to understand legal verbiage and Shanmugam loves to talk above his head. The Hansard is relevant to those with vested interest. In time to come, the PAP government will be running a lawless country.

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  • oxygen:

    I THOUGHT HON. JUSTICE CHOO HAN TECK convicted the SDP5 on what he described as “legislative intent” of parliament in passing the illegal assembly law legislation.

    So if the words and intention of Parliament is NOT to be taken seriously, Justice Choo & THE LAW must have got the SDP5 conviction ALL WRONG.

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  • oxygen:

    AGC ADVICE TO PAPpy is Parliament elects the President. The High Court says so too. The Court of Appeal concur.

    BUT THE PRESIDENT WAS ELECTED BY PEC and 16-members of a committee OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT who decided on race-eligibility to then elected an INDIAN PRESIDENT in place of a Malay.

    Parliament meantime watched the circus show and now tell SL that the AGC’s advice is irrelevant.

    PAPpy is showing the nation that never mind what the law says, we do what his convenient as forewarned to the nation . It is one-step further of PAPpy’s mantra of – never mind what the people like it or not, we do what we think is right.

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  • Tell me im not imagining:

    More n more im feeling as tho im living in a communist run country.
    Someone please tell me im just imagining things.
    Am i ??
    Very unsettling with all these news coming out lately …

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  • Silent:

    I have no more confidence with this government. There is no more credibility, it self-serving and has no respect to the law.

    The bottomline is ” did PM mislead the parliament in his speech; did PAP MPs fully understood his speech or they were just afraid to seek clarification?”

    It that the way legislation is made?

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  • Prata unimpressive:

    Thats why they like to say the base on rule of law.

    But we know law is imperfect.

    One donkey ever said, “but its in the constitution. We have to follow it.” something like that. Another said something like, well you can try to change the law if you find it an issue but for now you have to abide by it.

    Rule of Law is a Double-edged sword.

    Once one understands how law works, how language is a tool, how words can be ambiguous, how language is an art and not a science, how legal jargon is not same as normal language, one will not be impressed by any politician or lawyer.

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  • N.Jungne:

    Ministirs and MPs should be allowed to speak in their own mother-tongue, closer to the people.

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  • Change We Must:

    Yes, If parliamentary speeches and contexts are not to be taken seriously, then why we need a Parliament?
    Wow!, it means all parliamentary speeches by ministers and MPs all the times since our independence are talk cock session. So we don’t have to take the words of all those people making speeches in the parliament from now on. Our MPs and ministers can just go to the kopitiam drink kopi and talk cock in the next kopitiam parliament session , some more got kopi to drink.

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  • LIONS:

    Lee Ah Long thinks he is Lee JONG UN.
    He wants to show he is THE LAW?

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  • Forget Rule of Law:

    it is just a cover for rule of the law makers .

    Always remember laws are written by law makers. A law is only as good as the law makers.

    If there are more of them on the left, the right edge of the sword will be sharper and swing more to that side.

    If there are more of them on the right, the left edge of the sword will be sharper and swing more to that side.

    If you want the sword to stay more or less in the middle, then there must be more or less the same number on both left and right sides.

    Donkey enough?

    Prata unimpressive:
    Thats why they like to say the base on rule of law.

    But we know law is imperfect.

    One donkey ever said, “but its in the constitution. We have to follow it.” something like that. Another said something like, well you can try to change the law if you find it an issue but for now you have to abide by it.

    Rule of Law is a Double-edged sword.

    Once one understands how law works, how language is a tool, how words can be ambiguous, how language is an art and not a science, how legal jargon is not same as normal language, one will not be impressed by any politician or lawyer.

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  • C'est la vie:

    *****
    The PAP have monopolised all that they can. Reconstructed the laws to favour them. Have in place, every important decision maker on the island, on every activity known to man, on their side. They have every bloody aspect on life, law and living covered …….. utterly and thoroughly covered.

    And yet when they, the self righteous demigods in tainted white robes deliver a “wrong” sermon/advice/lesson in the House of God/Parliament, they reserve the right as “God” often does …….. not to be taken seriously !!!
    ***
    *****

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  • Sr Citizen:

    Quote If such parliamentary speeches and contexts are not to be taken seriously, then what really is the whole point of Parliament? Unquote

    A rhetorical question

    The Aristocracy is tripping all over their inner wears. The facade is collapsing bearing the reality that ‘might is right’. To preserve and enhance the Aristocracy, you need more force for compliance.

    Paradoxically, this is what the 70% wants. Leave them alone to enjoy their chosen governance.

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  • pap Selected INDIAN president:

    Sr Citizen:
    Quote If such parliamentary speeches and contexts are not to be taken seriously, then what really is the whole point of Parliament? Unquote

    A rhetorical question

    The Aristocracy is tripping all over their inner wears. The facade is collapsing bearing the reality that ‘might is right’. To preserve and enhance the Aristocracy, you need more force for compliance.

    Paradoxically, this is what the 70% wants. Leave them alone to enjoy their chosen governance.

    Leave them alone to enjoy their chosen governance. – since last GE, we agree, wholeheartedly. let them the 70% sheep suffer.

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  • 'act' and 'look' so serious:

    since when can take the white monkey idiots seriously. ownself-check-ownself and not-my-brudder kind of standard. can you take them seriously.

    yet, the white idiots tok kok big big about integrity just becos they ‘act’ and ‘look’ so serious in parliatmant.

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  • another white idiotic tok kok:

    //[one should not refer to “every MP’s speech and every minister’s speech and then try and interpret as if it’s a statutory interpretation. You go back to the legislation.””//

    another white idiotic tok kok. aiyoh, ministars and mps must be careful when giving speech lar. else, if even ministars and mps can get it not so right (euphemism for wrong) and 151th can big big print it out. it is lagi ok for ah beng, ali and muthu to tok kok even more lar about ministar and mps’ speech lar.

    go to legislation ? so got disagreement on legislation, go to court right ? then how if judges said cannot decide and the rights must go back to garment (partliatment) ?

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  • F.....king pink:

    The shame and others are using pariahment to mock Sinkies! If they choose that it be serious they will use what were spoken to whack you!

    However, in this case shame use it to mock Wp n its chairman Sylvia!

    Now we can safely conclude that pariahment laws n deeds are indeed no longer sacrosanct? It is a chamber for tired whites to snooze………the dpm, chan mp for tp and Pinky were f…….king around and they called it a major speech on our constitution n subsequently turn the constitution upside down?

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