Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong disclosed in Parliament on Monday that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) is being chaired by Mr Tan Kee Yong, the Secretary to the PM and the Secretary to the Cabinet.
Mr Lee said this in response to Workers’ Party Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Yee Jenn Jong, who had also asked the former if the committee had been convened.
Mr Lee said it was formed two months ago.
From news reports of Mr Lee’s parliamentary answer, it is unclear who are the other members of the EBRC, except that they “comprise a small number of civil servants.”
As for 58-year old Mr Tan himself, he has been with the Administrative Service for more than 30 years, and has served in various positions, including the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and the Public Service Commission.
He had also been deputy secretary (services) at the Education Ministry, and chief executive of the Singapore Land Authority.
When asked by Mr Yee if the composition of the EBRC could include non-government representatives, as indeed was the case in Singapore pre-Independence, Mr Lee was reported to have said he “did not think it was an entirely good idea.”
He cited the example of the United States where, he said, such members would “carve it up among themselves” in a political deal.
“It’s a political deal, I think that’s not a good arrangement… it’s best we leave this to the civil servants,” he said.
Instead, Mr Lee said Singapore’s EBRC comprised civil servants who have “domain knowledge” which enables them to review the boundaries, taking into consideration population make-ups, and housing developments.
Nonetheless, Mr Lee said, “If there is a need for outside expertise I think that can be considered. We have no hesitation to look for outside expertise.”
Mr Lee dismissed Mr Yee’s suggestions that the minutes of the committee’s deliberations be made public.
He said he did not feel that it would be helpful to have “every twist and turn in the minutes reported and published.”
Mr Yee also called on the Government to commit to a minimum time period, such as six months, from when the EBRC report is published to the calling of an election.
“It has been as short as one day from the report to the calling of elections in the past,” said Mr Yee. “A longer period will allow residents who have been moved out from their constituencies to be able to adjust to the changes.”
Mr Lee gave assurance that “there would be time for everyone to digest the committee’s report once it was published.”
“The committee will publish its report to the maximum extent possible,” Channel Newsasia quoted Mr Lee as having told Parliament.
“We will make sure that there is enough time elapsed so that everybody can read the report, understand it and know where they stand before elections are called,” Mr Lee said.
However, Mr Lee said he didn’t think it is possible “to say that we promise a certain minimum period such as six months, because it depends very much on the exigencies on the situation and on when elections become necessary.”
While the EBRC has taken up to four months to complete its review of the boundaries of the electoral constituencies in the past, the Government had called elections as soon as just a day after the EBRC report was released.