(Left: Lim Tean, Right: PM Lee Hsien Loong)

PVP chief Lim Tean calls upon PM Lee to fulfill promise to size down GRCs, increase number of SMCs

The promise of “smaller GRCs and more SMCs” made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2016 must be delivered in the next General Election (GE) by dismantling large Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and adding more Single Member Constituencies (SMCs), said People’s Voice Party chief Lim Tean on Tue (16 Jul).

Pointing out that “there was a miserable increase of 1 SMC” in the last GE in 2015 from the 2011 GE, the number of SMCs should also undergo a more drastic change by taking up “at least half of all Parliamentary seats” in the upcoming GE, added Mr Lim.

“The PAP continued to ferry large numbers of unworthy candidates into Parliament by hiding them under the coattails of their Ministers in the GRCs … Many non-descript PAP MPs are hidden in those 2 outsized GRCs [Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol],”  he said, stressing that GRCs “should not be larger than 3 men teams”.

“MPs such as Cheng Li Hui of Tampines who proposed an increase in transport fares last year, Zainal Sapari of Pasir Ris-Punggol and Yi Chia Hsing of Chua Chu Kang who both proposed that the payout of monthly CPF annuities start from the age of 70 instead of 65 should all be made to stand in SMCs, so that voters can decide whether their proposals agree with the aspirations of Singaporeans,” argued Mr Lim.

A GRC is a large electoral division, both in terms of population as well as physical area, comprising a group of Members of Parliament (MPs) representing the interests of those residents in the electoral division, while an SMC is an electoral division that has a single MP representing the interests of those residents in the electoral division.

Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister suggested in 1982 that as young voters were less aware of the importance of voting in a racially balanced selection of MPs at the time, it was crucial to ensure adequate minority race representation.

Mr Lee’s view was then materialised via amendments made to the Constitution of the Republic and the Parliamentary Elections Act, paving the way to the current GRC system, whereby teams of candidates running for election in a GRC must include at least one member from a minority community.

Currently, there are 29 constituencies in Singapore, divided into 16 GRCs and 13 SMCs. As of today, PM Lee’s ward Ang Mo Kio and Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean’s ward Pasir Ris-Punggol have the largest number of MPs per GRC, with each GRC comprising six MPs.

Highlighting that the upcoming election will be “a watershed election”, or a crucial one that will potentially mark Singapore’s turning point, he also suggested that “the campaign period must be increased from the farcical 9 days to a minimum of 14”.

“Mr “New Taxes” Heng [Swee Keat] must also appear for the live debate with the leaders of the relevant Opposition parties since the PAP has proposed that he be the next Prime Minister”.

“If he chickens out of the debate, Singaporeans will know the true measure of the man,” said Mr Lim.

“[S]ince the PAP wants to foist their 4G leadership on Singaporeans, let’s see if they have the mettle to go toe-to-toe with the Opposition for at least 2 weeks and whether they actually have any ideas for Singapore’s future! Let’s see what their “outstanding” candidates are really made of,” said Mr Lim.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) for the next GE has yet to be convened, as revealed by Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing earlier this month.

The Committee’s specific tasks include splitting or shrinking GRCs, and to absorb or create more SMCs, based mainly on population shifts.

Responding to a question raised by WP chief Pritam Singh to PM Lee on 8 Jul, who wanted to know if PM Lee has established the committee, and if not, when he intends to do so, Mr Chan, in his written response on behalf of PM Lee, wrote: “The Prime Minister has not yet appointed the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee.”

This is the second time that Mr Singh had raised the question as to when PM Lee will form the committee.

He had earlier posed a similar question back in Feb: “It would be a waste of Parliament’s time, and bordering on an abuse of process, if an MP had to file the same parliamentary question to the Prime Minister when rumours of an imminent election are in the air.”

The Prime Minister is in charge of appointing the members of the review committee, typically comprising five civil servants, while the Secretary to the Prime Minister chairs the Committee.

In the 2006 and 2011 elections, the EBRC had taken four months to complete its work before submitting its report, while the formation of the EBRC was only revealed two months after its formation in 2015 due to a question filed by the Workers’ Party MP.

Although there is no exact deadline for the election date to be announced after the ERBC’s report is made public, the time taken in previous elections has ranged from one day to a month and 26 days.