Key issues debated in Parliament

The Parliament of Singapore. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE – A year after the 2020 General Election (GE), Singapore’s 14th Parliament debated issues ranging from tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainability, the impact of free trade agreements to racism.

There were also several procedural changes for House debates after the Workers ‘Party (WP)’ s historic gains in the GE, with the opposition party winning 10 parliamentary seats.

Here are some of the key issues that have been debated by MPs on both sides of the aisle since Parliament opened on August 24 last year:

Underground voters

For the first time in Singapore’s history, Parliament has an Opposition Leader (LO), with WP Leader Pritam Singh assuming the role. As LO, he has a maximum of 40 minutes to speak on any question of his choice in Parliament.

Shortly after the opening of Parliament, Singh said that WP aims to make targeted surveys of ministries and public bodies in order to search for “essential” information for developing alternative policies.

He also called for the formation of no more select committees to facilitate more positive conversations about policy making.

For its part, the government has said it is striving to take a open and constructive approach on politics amid a stronger opposition presence in parliament.

The government and the PM had a heated debate on the results of GE 2020. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong raised the perspective of “free rider” voters – Singaporeans who vote for the opposition but want a People’s Action Party (PAP) government. This drew a rebuttal from Singh who said residents of WP constituencies in Aljunied, Sengkang and Hougang would not appreciate being labeled as “stowaways”.

The ECSC and the problems of racism

One of the most heated parliamentary debates has been the issue of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECSC) between Singapore and India, stemming from allegations that the ECSC has had a negative impact on the workforce. Singapore artwork.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam challenged NCMP Leong Mun Wai, who had consistently spoken out against the ECSC, to raise the issue in Parliament. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, a former trade negotiator, and Minister of Manpower Tan See Leng delivered their separate ministerial statements on the issue last week.

Ong accused PSP of using Free trade agreements and the ECSC as “political scapegoats” to discredit the government. Tan first revealed some official workforce data, such as Indian workers representing a quarter of the 177,100 holders of an employment subscription in Singapore.

The debates on the ECSC also took place amid a number of racially motivated attacks, which were condemned by both sides of the House.

Sustainability plans

This year, the government has done its best to put sustainability at the forefront of policy making.

Among the steps, Singapore will carry out studies on the protection of its coasts, build sensors to monitor the effects of heat build-up in urban areas and introduce more ways to obtain cashback for recycling items.

Each ministry has also unveiled sustainable development plans to Parliament amid growing global concerns about climate change. Among the slew of plans, the Ministry of Defense will put in place a Singapore Armed Forces Sustainability Office, the Department of Transport is expanding green assets in Singapore and the Department of Education will boost sustainability education in schools.

Statutory councils are also doing their part to fight climate change. Among them, the National Environment Agency will deploy the environmental sanitation regime to improve cleanliness.

COVID-19 response

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its second year, Parliament continued to debate safe management and supportive measures in Singapore to help workers, businesses and households overcome the world’s biggest challenge. country since independence.

At the venue of the National Day rally, Prime Minister Lee delivered a parliamentary speech and focused on Singapore’s response to the pandemic to date. He acknowledged that the government would have dealt differently with issues such as the quarantine of returning Singaporeans and the dormitories of migrant workers. He said that in hindsight, the government would have asked Singapore residents to wear masks and acted more aggressively in the dorms earlier.

In response to a question from Singh on whether the government would convene a commission of inquiry, Chief Minister Teo Chee Hean said a after action review of the government’s response to the coronavirus will be broader.

One of the most debated issues related to the pandemic was the use of data obtained from Singapore’s contact tracing systems. Parliament passed the systems-specific COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment) Bill to ensure that the data collected can only be used for contact tracing or the investigation of serious criminal offenses.

Liyani Party Case

The high-profile acquittal of former Party servant Liyani, who was employed by the family of prominent business executive Liew Mun Leong, aroused great public interest and led to a Shanmugam Ministerial Declaration in Parliament.

The one-month gap between when a police report was filed against Liyani for theft and the officers who attended the alleged crime scene was one of the many failures in police procedures that resulted from the ‘case and led to an investigation into the conduct of the officers involved. .

Therefore, the General Prosecutor’s Office (CAG) underlined two specific areas for improvement. AGC will develop guidelines on the valuation of stolen items and examine how it prepares for trials based on the Liyani case and others.

Shanmugam also told the House that the Law Department is considering setting up a Office of the Public Defender, under which the government employs lawyers to defend people in financial difficulty facing criminal cases.

Restructuring of the SPH

Singapore Press Holdings’ media business has faced intense challenges in recent years due to falling advertising revenues and changing consumer trends.

Therefore, SPH announced that it will restructure its media business to become a non-profit entity and a limited liability company (CLG), with financial support provided by the government and other investors.

After delivering his ministerial statement on the restructuring of SPH, Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran responded to parliamentary questions and said that a the culture of editorial independence already exists in Singapore’s media industry and this will continue as part of SPH’s new business model.

Iswaran also announced that Former Minister Khaw Boon Wan is said to be SPH’s media affairs chairman.

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