People’s Voice founding leader Lim Tean took to his Facebook on Monday (18 November) to pen his agreement with veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon who stated that the role of a Member of Parliament (MP) is to be a “legislator in Parliament to enact laws” and not exactly “be the manager of the everyday municipal affairs of his constituency”.
“We agree totally with Tay Kheng Soon that an MP is not an estate manager! I said this during the television debate in GE 2015. If you want an estate manager as MP, then make sure your MP has professional qualification to be an estate manager,” Lim Tean wrote in his post.
He also noted that even if the MPs are expected to be estate managers, People’s Action Party (PAP) MPs “fare poorly compared to the Opposition ones”.
“Was very impressed with how squeaky clean Jalan Damai under Pritam Singh is, whereas parts of Woodlands under PAP are the slums Lee Kuan Yew said Opposition wards would turn into. That has not happened!” Lim Tean explained.
Tay Kheng Soon calls for a separate full-time manager to handle daily tasks of a constituency
In a separate post earlier that day, Mr Tay pointed out that a role of an MP in his designated constituency is “to learn and reflect the views of his constituents regarding the laws of the land”.
However, the MPs should not be required to the manager in charge of the daily tasks of a constituency as this “should be done by full time managers employed for this”, said the architect, who is also the Adjunct Professor at the Department of Architect at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
“As legislator he will of course want to seek out the views of his constituents on the laws and regulations that affect the country and also his constituents. Laws such as disallowing PMDs on footpaths or CECA or foreign policy relations with China and USA. His meet the people sessions us for this,” he said.
As such, Mr Tay asserted that demanding Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai to take responsibility of a locked firehouse in a fire is “totally wrong”.
On 9 November, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) issued two Fire Hazard Abatement Notices to the Jurong-Clementi Town Council after firefighters who were attending to a fire at Bukit Batok found that there is no water supply from the fire hose reels at the block. In addition, several hose reel cabinets were also padlocked causing difficulties for firefighters to access it.
Following that, Bukit Batok SMC MP Murali Pillai claimed accountability for lapses in fire safety at the affected block, last Friday.
“I am clear in my mind that, as your elected representative, I am accountable to you for both issues. These incidents should not have happened and, for that, I must apologise,” said Mr Murali.
The MP assured that he will be working with his elected and appointed Town Councillors on a review of the present case, in addition to ensuring that the fire safety system is strengthened to ensure its reliability.
Mr Tay also cited another recent incident involving Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Lam Pin Min at his latest Meet-the-People (MPS) session which changed the role of an MP.
On 12 November, over 300 food-delivery riders turned up at Dr Lam’s MPS session to talk about the recent ban on personal mobility devices being used on footpaths which has affected the livelihood of many people.
However, Dr Lam said a member of an opposition party attended the session “to politicise the issue and stoke the emotions of those present”.
The member of the opposition present was Mr Goh Men Seng, Secretary-General of the People’s Power Party. According to TOC’s correspondent on the scene, Mr Goh had shouted at Lam and the exchange between the two distracted the dialogue from its original purpose.
Mr Goh had asked Dr Lam why the government did not ban cars given that there were many car accidents, prompting Dr Lam to rebut his remarks.
Responding to this, Mr Tay highlighted that it is unfortunate that MPS sessions “which were intended to get political and law feedback turned into micro-management sessions and for the MP to serve as the intercessor on behalf of citizen with the bureaucracy”.
He added, “While this may serve useful feedback that can ultimately serve to improve legislation and administrative rules and procedures, it is not the key function of an MP.”
As such, the veteran architect believes that a separate role must be created to perform the “role of a citizens’ representative council”.
“It may well be that the perceived weakness of this legislative performance of MPs in Parliament may be due to their misplaced role in practice,” Mr Tay concluded.
Town councils provide strong incentive for voters to vote carefully for the candidate depend on to manage their constituency
In June 1988, then-first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Goh Chok Tong explained in Parliament about the philosophy behind the Bill.
“First, it transfers some power from the HDB to the MPs and grassroots leaders. It gives them, and the residents, greater power and responsibility to manage their own affairs and to participate in their estate’s development.
Second, because MPs will have increased authority and responsibility, voters will be more likely to vote carefully and sincerely, and to choose honest and effective MPs.
Town Councils will make it harder for weaker candidates to win, whichever political party they come from. But it will not prevent the stronger ones from winning. They will, in fact, help opposition parties if they are able to assemble strong candidates. By getting voters to vote according to their true preferences, Town Councils will add ballast and stability to our political system.
This Bill gives more power and responsibility to MPs, and also to the grassroots leaders who become Town Councillors. After the Bill is passed, they, and not the HDB, will be responsible for managing the social and physical environment of their constituencies.”
Mr Goh went on to say:
“With Town Councils, it will matter more to the voter who his MP is. His MP will head the Town Council which looks after his living environment. Because of this, voters will have a stronger incentive to vote carefully and sincerely, ie, for the person and the party who they think they can depend on to manage their constituency and look after the country as well, whether it is the PAP, the SDP or the Workers’ Party.
If they have confidence that the candidate can look after their constituency, they are more likely to have confidence that the candidate’s party can form the next government of Singapore. Certainly, if the voters cannot even trust a party to run their constituency, they will surely not want that party to form the government. They may be right or wrong in their choice, but at least they will vote in accordance with their belief that their constituency and national interests are better served with a particular candidate or a particular party.”