A motion has been tabled by Mr Leong Mun Wai to the Parliament on Tuesday (31 Aug) to debate on S’pore’s Foreign Talent Policy and provisions in some Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), following his acceptance to a challenge filed by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in May earlier this year to file a motion to debate on the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (CECA) in Parliament.
The Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from Progress Singapore Party announced this in an update today on his Facebook page and noted that the private member’s motion should take place either on 13 or 14 September’s sitting according to normal procedure.
The Motion that he submitted is:
“That this Parliament calls upon the Government to take urgent and concrete action to address the widespread anxiety among Singaporeans on jobs and livelihood caused by the Foreign Talent Policy and the “movement of natural persons” provisions in some free trade agreements like CECA.”
He wrote, “As we have highlighted again and again, the main focus of the “PSPJobsDebate” is on how to improve the jobs and livelihood of Singaporeans. CECA is not our main concern and has been thrust upon us by the Government.”
Mr Leong noted that while Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has addressed the anxieties of Singaporeans over foreign work pass holders (or PMETs) during his National Day Rally Speech on 29 August, he did not announce new concrete policies that would resolve the problem fundamentally.
“The other policies announced in recent days by the Government also did not show its full appreciation of the severity of the problems faced by Singaporean workers.” said Mr Leong.
We will continue to urge the Government to take the issues of the displacement and discrimination of Singaporeans seriously and implement concrete policies to address the problems urgently.
He also pointed that the party will be entering the debate with incomplete information as the Government has not answered most of the 23 parliamentary questions that the PSP has filed.
“However, the overwhelming feedback from thousands of Singaporeans have given us a good picture of their lived experiences and the actual situation on the ground. That coupled with your continued encouragement and support will be our greatest weapon for the debate.”
Accepts challenge by Law Minister K Shanmugam to file a motion on CECA to debate in Parliament
Mr Shanmugam had earlier thrown down a challenge to Mr Leong on 11 May to file a motion to debate CECA in Parliament.
This was raised while Mr Shanmugam was providing details on the recent alleged racist attack made on a 55-year-old Indian woman in response to questions raised by Bukit Batok MP, Murali Pillai
In recent times, 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.
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 went on to emphasise that he and his party are not xenophobic, and their interest in CECA issue is purely on the 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.
Ministerial Statements issued over CECA
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Manpower Minister Dr Tan See Leng delivered ministerial statements on CECA at July’s Parliament sitting. This was prompted by PSP’s NCMP Leong Mun Wai accepting Law Minister K Shanmugam’s challenge to seek “further clarification” on foreign employment policies and CECA.
In a Facebook post on 1 July, the Health Minister noted that the duo will explain how important FTAs are to Singaporeans and how they work. They will also address the “false allegations” that FTAs permit foreign professionals a free hand to live and work in Singapore.
“We will also move to open our Ministerial Statements for debate. This will allow members of the PSP to respond to our statements if they wish to,” he added.
Mr Ong claimed that the unhappiness towards Indian immigrants in Singapore is fuelled largely by false allegations made by PSP on how the CECA has allowed Indian professionals to come here easily for work.
He went on to note that while there are concerns about racist behaviours in Singapore that need to be addressed, PSP’s “false allegations” on CECA had made it worse here.
Not long after Mr Ong made the announcement, PSP’s secretary-general Francis Yuen issued a statement on the party’s Facebook page saying that PSP refutes the “false allegations” put forth by the Minister.
“We are bewildered by Mr Ong’s baseless allegations that we have contributed in no small part to the undercurrent of sentiment against immigrant Indians through PSP that CECA has given Indian PMETs a free hand to work here,” the statement read.
NCMP Leong Mun Wai: No credibility to a narrative without comprehensive data to support it
Mr Leong took to Facebook on 20 July to highlight that the ministerial statements delivered by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng in July failed to provide all the data that PSP filed in its parliamentary questions.
Mr Leong said that PSP had filed seven questions which required the Government to disclose hundreds of data points from different nationalities and work pass categories over the last 20 years. However, he noted that only two ministerial statements regarding this was delivered by the Government, with only “a few scattered point of data”.
“Besides the lack of data, we also found the presentation of data to be problematic. E.g. data points were presented in convoluted and confusing ways, we requested for data on PMETs but the data given only covered PMEs, and so on,” he added.
Earlier on 6 July, Mr Ong and Dr Tan delivered two ministerial statements regarding the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) that PSP had filed for.
Mr Ong wrote in a Facebook post prior to that saying that the ministerial statements will address the “false allegations” that FTAs permit foreign professionals a free hand to live and work in Singapore.
Coming back to Mr Leong’s Facebook post yesterday, the NCMP expressed that he is “greatly encouraged” by the enormous interest shown by Singaporeans on the issues raised by the ministerial statements.
He noted that Dr Tan had pointed out that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and tripartite partners are looking into the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices so as to “to strengthen measures to tackle workplace discrimination”, adding that “it will not be long” before the relevant parties come back with a recommendation.
Besides that, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director Ravi Menon had also suggested to tighten the qualifying salaries for Employment Pass and S Pass foreign PMETs, in addition to “targeting individuals in firms found to be guilty of discriminatory hiring in favour of foreigners”.
Mr Ravi spoke about this during a lecture at the Institute of Policy Studies, said Mr Leong.
“It is motivating to feel the winds of change and heartening to see the effect of PSP raising the right questions in parliament,” he expressed.
In the subsequent questions filed by PSP’s NCMPs in end July and early Aug, the Ministers pointed the NCMPs to published data without stating what is the answer to the question, gave incomplete answers or excuses of why the questions cannot be answered.