Progress Singapore Party (PSP) members who were reported to have raised concerns about the party’s stance on the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), failed to turn up at the party’s close door meeting on Sunday (18 July).
It was reported by TODAY last week that some PSP members have raised concerns about the party’s stance on CECA, following the brief exchanges between the Ministers and its Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) in Parliament on 9 July.
TODAY had quoted several PSP members in its report, who said that the emphasis on CECA, a bilateral free trade deal, during recent parliamentary debates could give the impression that PSP was singling out a certain race and nationality.
TODAY also reported that some members whom it spoke to, agreed that the issue of CECA should not have been the focus whenever the topic of PMET jobs surfaced.
Mr Abhijit Dass who was quoted by the media outlet, saying that there are “racial undertones” with how CECA has been raised in Parliament by PSP.
Mr Dass said that “the real problem in Singapore is not about Ceca”, as India nationals are important to the functioning of the economy due to the skills they bring to the workforce.
“It is totally a racial undertone, but (the party) doesn’t realise it,” Mr Abhijit, who is a former pilot, said.
According to TODAY, these members had planned to take up with the party’s leadership yesterday (18 July).
However, TOC understands these members who had such thoughts did not turn up for the meeting, neither did Mr Dass.
Why are “some PSP members” raising concerns about party’s stance about CECA only now?
PSP’s secretary-general Francis Yuen was quoted by TODAY to have said that the party’s concerns about the jobs of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) have nothing to do with race, but are solely focused on the livelihoods of Singaporeans.
And that’s have always been the stance of the party since its official launch.
While the TODAY article focused on the statements made by Mr Leong Mun Wai and Ms Hazel Poa, PSP’s two NCMPs on CECA. Their positions on CECA have been well articulated by the party since its launch and during the General Election 2020 campaign.
Dr Tan in the party’s official launch back in 2019 had already made the party’s position on CECA clear.
He said that the party will ask the government to come up with a balance sheet to account for how Singapore has benefited from CECA in regards to employment.
“How many local jobs have gone to Indian professionals and how many Singaporeans have gone to India” asked Dr Tan.
CECA was also specifically mentioned in its manifesto for GE2020 as one of the Free Trade Agreements that it sought to review.
Taking the above into consideration, the timing of TODAY’s report and the members’ complaint are indeed questionable.
These members’ complaint of the party’s position on CECA, is made so belatedly to an extent where it can be said as bewildering.
So why are the members reported to be having an issue with the party’s position on CECA now and not during the GE campaign, after or even during the last Central Executive Committee election to make it an issue with the potential candidates?
And if they are so concerned about the position, why didn’t they turn up for the party’s meeting yesterday to have their concerns addressed by the party leadership?
Is this yet another attempt by the powers that be to smear PSP with claims of racism to prevent them from filing a motion on CECA?
Something that the People’s Action Party had tried to do earlier with the two Ministerial Statements that were delivered earlier this month with little to no answers to PSP’s filed questions?
CECA concerns “nothing to do with race”, PSP reiterates
Denying speculation regarding fragmented views within the party on the issue of CECA, PSP in a statement on Monday (19 July) said in response to the TODAY report that the party’s leaders have reiterated PSP’s stance that the CECA debate “has nothing to do with race”.
The debate, said the party in a Facebook post on Monday, is about the jobs of Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMET).
“The focus is on the fair treatment of Singaporeans and protection of Singaporeans’ jobs and wages,” said PSP.
This stance was “re-emphasised” in an 18 July closed-door meeting among PSP chief Francis Yuen Kin Pheng, party chairman Dr Tan Cheng Bock, and several party members, said the party.
“The discussion and exchange of candid views between party leadership and members concluded with a unified stand of commitment and support for the party’s leaders and two Parliamentarians Mr Leong Mun Wai 梁文辉 and Ms Hazel Poa Koon Koon 潘群勤,” said PSP.
Reaffirming its commitment to “stand up for and speak up for all citizens’ concerns and livelihoods”, PSP said that it will continue to push forward “the importance of protecting, growing and developing our Singapore core, the foundation of our economy and future of our country”.