On Monday (18 November), the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan took to his Facebook to voice his disagreement with a statement uttered by Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai in 2016.
Dr Chee recalls the 2016 by-election which he contested in, where he said that Members of Parliament (MPs) “should serve their constituents on a full-time basis and give them undivided attention”, which Mr Murali disagreed with.
“Mr Murali countered that there was no need for this because it would mean MPs having to ‘give up their day jobs’. This unfortunate description gives us an insight into his thinking – than an MP’s role is only a part-time gig,” Dr Chee wrote.
He continued, “Back then, few saw the importance of the issue. After all, according to Mr Murali, PAP MPs ‘have not faced any problems going about their duties’. MPs may have gotten away with it all this time but when a situation as horrendous as the fire that nearly consumed the live of its victims happens, things get very real very quickly.
And all because the fire safety equipment whose crucial maintenance was the responsibility of the MP and his town council was rendered useless during the fire.”
Dr Chee explained in the case of Mr Murali who is a partner at Rajah & Tann LLP law firm, it’s difficult for him, or anyone as the matter of fact, to “extend their full attention and tend to the people’s business” after working for 10 hours at a psychologically and emotionally taxing job.
“You cannot serve two masters at the same time,” Dr Chee noted.
Although the SDP’s chief asserted that he did not mean that Mr Murali has to check the fire hose reel himself, but “there is a difference between spending 50 hours a week versus in the estate when it comes to tending to its affairs.”
As such, he suggested that Mr Pillai spends his day at the Town Council first before heading to the law firm in the evening.
“Why doesn’t Mr Murali spend his weekdays at the Town Council? After he’s done, he can go to his practice in the evening to take care of his cases. If he recoils such an arrangement, why should residents accept the alternative and less desirable one?” Dr Chee noted.
This is because Dr Chee stated that Singaporeans, who are regarded as MPs’ employer did not pay them a full-time salary of S$16,000 a month, just to have them “work for a couple of hours during the weekends and once a week during weekdays”.
“Not only do MPs work part-time, they use residents’ money to outsource to managing agents the work they are supposed to do. Managing agents are private, profit-making agencies. They add another layer of expenses for residents,” Dr Chee said.
He added, “This is why PAP-run town councils keep on raising S&CC, the last round of increase (by as much as $17/month/unit) came in the last couple of years.”
Therefore, he noted that this results to residents being in the losing end – “they don’t get the full attention of their MPs and have to pay extra for their estates to be run”.
SDP lays out its plans
Based on this situation, Dr Chee explained that if SDP is elected, the members of the party will dedicate themselves to full-time work.
“In BB (Bukit Batok), I will personally recruit the town council staff and oversee its daily operations. There will be no managing agents,” he pointed out.
He went on further to note that he will also always be in the town council office on a daily basis, except when he has to be in Parliament.
“I will be available whenever my staff and the residents need me to not only resolve problems but to anticipate events and plan for them. Also, meet-the-people’s sessions need not be confined to a couple of hours in the evenings once a week,” he said.
“In addition, I will conduct regular town hall meetings with residents to make transparent town council work, plan with them the running of their estates and discuss PAP policies. On top of this, I will be in parliament tabling motions, proposing bills and making sure no one yawns.”
With everything mentioned above, Dr Chee highlighted that he don’t see “how an MP’s job can be a part-time one”.