People’s Voice founding leader Lim Tean has called out Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing to debate the merits of the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), countering the minister’s assertion that the agreement hasn’t robbed Singaporeans of jobs.
On Saturday, Mr Chan had said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia that CECA does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access into Singapore or immigration privileges. Mr Chan also said that any claim about how the agreement has cost Singaporeans’ job opportunities is merely a move to stoke fear in times of economic uncertainties.
These claims are false, asserted Mr Chan.
Mr Chan said, “Indian professionals, like any other professionals from other countries, have to meet MOM’s (Ministry of Manpower’s) existing qualifying criteria to work in Singapore. This applies to Employment Pass, S Pass, and work permit.
“Second, CECA does not give Indian nationals privileged immigration access. Anyone applying for Singapore citizenship must qualify according to our existing criteria.”
He continued, “We understand, and we share Singaporeans’ concerns with competition and job prospects in the current uncertain economic environment. But the way to help Singaporeans is not to mislead them and create fear and anger.”
However, Mr Lim Tean said in a response video posted on his Facebook page calling Mr Chan’s statements ‘ridiculous’ and said that it was an “insult” to Singaporeans who have actually lost jobs to Indian nationals.
In the video, which was recorded on the sides of People’s Voice’s Bread for All program at Kreta Ayer in Jalan Besar GRC, Mr Lim Tean said, “Yesterday, Chan Chun Sing gave an interview to the mainstream media and said that the government took seriously the falsehoods that were being propagated online about CECA, this agreement that India and SG signed in 2005.
Now I take that as a threat by him to take action against what he deems to be alleged falsehoods. So what? He’s going to use POFMA again? Mr Chan, let me advise you. Instead of this ridiculous statement, come out openly and debunk what you consider to be false statements about CECA, false facts about CECA.”
Mr Lim Tean then pointed out that Mr Chan and Mr Heng Sweet Keat, one of the chief architects of the CECA, will have a chance to debate the matter.
Pointing to Article 9.3 of CECA, Mr Lim says the agreement provides that neither Singapore nor India “shall require labour market testing, economic needs testing, or other procedures of similar effects, as a condition of temporary entry in respect of natural persons upon whom the benefits of this chapter are conferred”.
He said, “And we all know, ladies and gentlemen, under CECA there is free movement of labour in 127 professions. Those professions include medicine, nursing, accounting.”
Mr Lim goes on to illustrate how other countries are “not so stupid as to allow the interest of their own workers and nationals to be threatened.”
Highlighting the Regional and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RECP) conceived in 2012 between India, Australia, China, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, Mr Lim explained that Indian’s demand for free movement of professionals is the reason why the agreement has yet to be signed by all parties.
Mr Lim Tean concluded, “So ladies and gentlemen, we are going to keep asking serious questions about CECA and we need to. Because we cannot continue to have a policy, a labour policy, or we cannot continue to have immigration policies that make it easier for foreigners than the Singaporeans. Charity begins at home and it is time that we start looking after the interest of our own Singaporeans.
He then said, “People’s Voice will never allow the Singaporeans bread to be stolen. And I ask you, I ask the many thousands of Singaporeans out there who are passionate about the interest of our country, come and join us because we believe in putting people first. We believe in making Singapore our home again. And we need to regain our country, our dignity, our future.”