Newly re-elected Speaker of Parliament, Tan Chuan-Jin has sounded the warning bell against members of parliament (MP) being fractious. He further added that robust and passionate debate on issues can take place without MPs being needlessly quarrelsome. While Tan’s words are, at face value, true, one wonders if he is saying this because this newly sworn in Parliament contains more alternative politicians than before?
Is the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) afraid of being asked questions despite holding 83 out of 93 elected seats?
However, has it been the alternative politicians that have been fractious in the past? Or is it the PAP MPs who have taken on an arguably bullying attitude towards the minority alternative politicians?
In a time not so long ago, the Workers’ Party’s (WP) Pritam Singh had raised questions in relation to the state of the national reserves in Singapore only to be roundly told off by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. Heng said : “It is neither in the interest of Singapore, or Singaporeans, to repeatedly ask about the size of our reserves. We are in the middle of a storm, and I’m very disappointed that Mr Pritam Singh has used this occasion to raise this question again.”
For some reason, this has always seemed to be a closely guarded secret amid the top brass of the PAP government. While happy to consistently remind Singaporeans of our healthy reserves and praising its own apparent stewardship of the same, the Government remains tight lipped whenever any questions are asked. A tad strange considering that state reserves collectively belong to all of us and we should have a right to know. In this Parliamentary exchange, who is the one being factious?
Should the PAP not get its own house in order and lead by example before implying that it is the presence of alternative politicians that could cause fractiousness?
What about the time when Singh queried Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing on the number of jobs that went to Singaporeans and permanent residents respectively from 2015-2018. Not only did Chan refuse to directly answer the question, he attempted to deflect it by implying that Singh was asking pointless questions. He said : “We can get you the numbers. But let me say this: What is the point behind the question? First, has local unemployment increased with all these efforts?”
Amid growing concerns about Singaporeans losing out on jobs, what’s wrong with getting data on the subject? Arguably, it is Chan that is being deliberately obtuse and disruptive.
There is also the time when Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmuggam appeared to attempt to intimidate the WP’s Syvia Lim when she raised questions in relation to the Government’s proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike. In what seemed like a personal attack on Lim, Shanmuggam accused Lim of being hypocritical and dishonest in the statements she makes in Parliament.
A bit of an overreaction over a just question is it not?
Given that the GST affects everyone, what is wrong with Lim asking about it in Parliament? To apparently attack Lim personally for asking a fair question does seem bullying. Again, is it not the majority PAP that is being fractious?
Perhaps Tan should ask his own party to behave first.