Singapore parliamentary speaker quits after affair

Bloomberg and AFP

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 - Page 5

Singaporean Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer yesterday announced his resignation after confessing he had an extramarital affair with a community worker, setting off a fresh sex scandal in the city-state.

Palmer, 44, a married father of one, also quit his seat in parliament and membership of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Revealing that he “had a relationship” with a staff member of a community organization called the People’s Association, Palmer, who is a lawyer, said he was “deeply sorry” to his supporters, the PAP as well as his family.

The association’s chairman is Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍), who is also secretary-general of the PAP.

Lee quickly announced he had accepted Palmer’s resignation, saying members of parliament have to uphold the highest standards of conduct.

“It is necessary that all PAP MPs and advisors to grassroots organizations uphold the highest standards of personal conduct, especially in dealings with constituents, grassroots activists and staff, and that the party be seen to hold its MPs and advisors to these standards,” the prime minister said in a letter to Palmer accepting the resignation, and posted on Lee’s Facebook page.

Palmer said he made a “grave mistake” of improper conduct after being involved in a relationship with a member of a government agency who worked in a district he used to represent, Today newspaper reported.

The resignation is the latest high-profile case involving an affair in the city following the prosecution of former heads of the anti-drug agency and Civil Defense Force, for allegedly accepting sexual favors from female executives seeking contracts. More than 40 people, including a former bank executive and a school principal, were charged in a scandal earlier this year involving a minor selling sex to men.

Palmer told a press conference yesterday that his conduct was improper and it was a serious error of judgement, according to the newspaper.

The speaker of parliament presides over the sittings by lawmakers. Palmer was the eighth speaker of parliament and was elected in October last year for the position, according to the parliament’s Web site.

Palmer holds a seat in the Punggol East ward, a single-seat constituency, suggesting Singaporeans in the district would have to go to the polls to elect a new representative. Politicians in Singapore compete in single-seat wards or multiple-seat districts called Group Representation Constituencies.

Singaporeans voted in a by-election in May this year after a member of parliament from the opposition Workers’ Party was expelled from his party for “indiscretions in his private life.” The Workers’ Party retained its seat in the by-election.