CECA debate: Hot mic catches 'illiterate', 'lousy school' remarks

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Indiscrete remarks, apparently about NCMP Leong Mun Wai, were overheard in Parliament on Tuesday, 14 September 2021. (SCREENGRAB: Ministry of Communications and Information)
Indiscreet remarks, apparently about NCMP Leong Mun Wai, were overheard in Parliament on Tuesday, 14 September 2021. (SCREENGRAB: Ministry of Communications and Information)

UPDATE: Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan apologised to PSP's Leong Mun Wai on Wednesday evening over his "private comments to a colleague in Parliament yesterday".

SINGAPORE — A clip purportedly showing comments made during a Parliamentary sitting about an individual who was "illiterate" and went to a "lousy school" went viral on Wednesday (15 September). 

It is unclear who the comments are referring to. 

Footage from the Parliament livestream shows that the remarks were made around the time when Manpower Minister Tan See Leng sat down after he addressed questions by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP). 

Dr Tan is seen looking in the direction of Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who is sitting next to him. 

The livestream covers Tuesday's often heated 13.5 hour debate on the motion tabled by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on securing Singaporeans’ jobs and livelihood, and a separate motion by Leong and fellow PSP NCMP Hazel Poa on foreign talent policy. 

A considerable part of the debate was focused on several ministers rebutting Leong's views on the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). 

At the 9:47:56 mark of the marathon session, shortly after Dr Tan spoke in response to Leong's motion, someone can be heard saying, "He is illiterate."

Subsequently, at the 9:49:17 mark, after Dr Tan delivers his remarks, someone asks, "How did he get into RI?" 

A voice chimes in about a “lousy school". Someone then says, "I'm from Monk's Hill." According to an interview with Dr Tan published in The Peak on 1 July 2013, the minister studied at Monk’s Hill primary and secondary schools.

In the background of the clip, the mic at the podium where Dr Tan spoke is glowing red, indicating that it has not been switched off.

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