According to reports in the Straits Times, six members of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) have had their personal details taken by two men (one identified himself as a safe distancing ambassador while the other identified himself as an officer from the National Environment Agency (NEA)).
In addition to having to give their details, the PSP politicians were also told that they would be fined for allegedly breaking safe distancing rules.
In another article, the Straits Times said that “besides police officers, enforcement officers are the only officers who can take enforcement action by issuing composition fines against the public for breaches of safe distancing measures, while ambassadors help to guide businesses and individuals to comply with safe distancing measures.”
Was the NEA officer an enforcement officer? If not, it might well be that the two men have exceeded their authority.
Secondly, what about the various Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) members of parliament (MP) who might also have breached social distancing rules?
There have been quite a number of PAP MPs who have walked the ground since Circuit Breaker measures were implemented. Were they also fined? If not, is this fair? Surely, such rules have to be applied evenly across the board. It cannot be one rule for the PAP and another for alternative politicians?
This whole debacle brings to light the crux of the issue – why are we even having an election now?
According to the rules for Phase 2 of the Circuit Breaker, gatherings up to five people are permitted. For example, households can receive up to five visitors, social gatherings of up to five people can resume and at eateries, there cannot be more than five people per table.
This would mean that MPs can walk the ground as long as there are not more than five people in the group. However, judging from how crowded certain areas (such as markets) have been in the last few days since we entered Phase 2, is the five person rule really realistic?
As election candidates talk to members of the public, it may not always be possible to ensure that the five person rule is complied with despite their best intentions.
For example, they may not have control over members of the public who might come close to them. This makes the realities of ground engagement complicated. It would also disproportionately hamper the efforts of the alternative politicians because they have far less coverage than their PAP counterparts. For example, the PAP cabinet ministers just had prime time TV coverage for COVID-19 speeches that have been criticised as covert election campaigns.
Given that there are still active cases within the community, why are we even in Phase 2 anyway? Shouldn’t we still be in Phase 1? Was Phase 2 implemented earlier to enable the general election to go ahead and if so, is this the responsible thing for a government to do?