The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) will seek “further information” on foreign employment policies and the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) from the Government at the Parliament sitting in July, said Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai on Tuesday (22 June).
Earlier in May, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam challenged Mr Leong to file a motion to debate the CECA in Parliament, to which he responded that PSP is interested in taking up the issue of CECA at “some point in time”.
Following that, Mr Leong wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the PSP has accepted the challenge to have “a thorough debate” on Singapore’s employment policies and the CECA, in the spirit of “protecting our domestic economy and our people”.
“We are confident that Singaporeans will benefit from the disclosure of more information from the Government during the parliamentary debate and call on the Government to engage in the debate with grace, openness, transparency and trust that we all have Singapore’s interests at heart.
“Hence we are pleased to share that we will be seeking further information from the Government at the Parliamentary sitting in July in preparation for the coming debate.
“Subsequently, the PSP will decide on a suitable time to file a motion. It will be then up to the Speaker’s discretion to confirm the date of the debate,” he noted.
In his post, Mr Leong highlighted that foreign PMETs and Singapore’s free trade agreement with India – particularly the CECA – were the main policies that have affected the jobs and livelihoods of Singaporeans.
He pointed out that foreign PMETs and Permanent Residents (PRs) account for 25 per cent and 15 per cent of the nation’s 1.7 million PMET workforce, respectively, and that the ratio has “increased rapidly” since the year of 2000.
“The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) feels strongly that the time to rebalance the interests of the Singaporeans vis-à-vis Foreign PMETs (defined as all the work pass holders) in the job market is long overdue.
“This rebalancing may involve the recouping of tens of thousands of jobs from work pass holders through tighter enforcement of our employment rules, amongst other measures,” said the PSP’s member.
Mr Leong believes that this would be necessary to create a win-win situation for both Singaporeans and foreign nationals.
“The first step in achieving this is obtaining prompt and complete information so as to promote transparency and to eliminate prejudices. All of which is in the spirit against xenophobia and racism,” he remarked.
Minister K Shanmugam challenges Leong Mun Wai to debate CECA in Parliament, he accepts
Earlier on 11 May, Mr Shanmugam said in Parliament that certain “parties” have been purposely inducing fears of foreigners as well as “encouraging racism and xenophobia” in Singapore, warning that such behaviours are “dangerous”.
CECA has been heavily criticised as it is supposedly said to provide Indian nationals special immigration privileges and allows them to compete for jobs in Singapore.
However, the Government has argued that the free trade agreement does now automatically grant employment passes (EPs) to Indian nationals, and that they must fulfil the EP criteria first before being employed here.
Mr Shanmugam told the House that he invites Mr Leong to file a motion about CECA so a debate can be done on it to find out if Singaporeans are benefiting or losing from the free trade agreement.
“There have been several canards about CECA promoted by whispering campaign. If anyone here believes that CECA is a problem, put it up for a motion, debate it openly, and let’s hear if Singaporeans benefit or lose from it,” said the Minister.
He added, “I’m looking at you, Mr Leong. I invite you to put up a motion to debate CECA. You know that most of what is said about CECA is false.”
Mr Shanmugam went on to note that racism comments targeting Indians are “getting into the ground and being repeated”, adding that if Singapore is not careful, such a thing will soon become normalise.
“I hope responsible opposition parties would take a stand on this, notwithstanding that many of these sites that promote xenophobia support you,” he remarked.
In response to Mr Shanmugam’s challenge, Mr Leong said that PSP is interested in taking up the issue of CECA at “some point in time”.
“We are very interested to take up the CECA issue at some point in time. I think we still need to understand the situation more,” he said.
Mr Leong also emphasised that he and his party are not xenophobic, and their interest in the CECA issue is purely on economic grounds.
“However, I must state at the outset that PSP and myself are not being xenophobic. We are just stating the economic effects of some of these free trade agreements have had on the economy.
“We are definitely not xenophobic and definitely racism has no place in our overall thinking. It is all about economics and livelihoods,” he concluded.