A debate in Parliament is not a debate but a put down, a talk down and a dress down

A debate in Parliament is not a debate but a put down, a talk down and a dress down

by Augustine Low

When they say let’s debate in Parliament, they are saying come to my House and I’ll show you who’s the boss.

They set the House rules and the Opposition has to follow.

Although you are welcome to ask questions, they can choose to answer any which way they like, they can choose to ignore questions they don’t like.

Although you are welcome to give proposals, they can say no to what you are proposing even before the words have left your mouth.

If they shout “outright falsehood” and “raiding our reserves”, it means you have to be careful. You can challenge them but it’s no use, they are the referee and they can give you the red card.

If they press you to say sorry, they mean it. If they ask you to admit you are wrong, they expect you to do so. It doesn’t matter that you are not wrong. They will still tell you there’s “no shame” in admitting you are wrong.

It is common knowledge that they resort to answering a question with a question. What’s even better is that they respond with a head scratcher to make you surrender.

When Sylvia Lim of the Workers’ Party proposed lowering the age for voting to 18, Minister Chan Chun Sing replied: “However, if you ask me, and if we take a step back, the evergreen challenges for any democracy is how do we deliver good governance and good government? And the key to that lies in two things. First, how do we have good people with the right values and right capabilities standing to serve? Second, how do we encourage every voter to not just think about his or her individual interests for the here and now, but also for the interests, the wider interests of our society and future generations?”

Just try and make head or tail of that response. You can’t and that’s the point – they reply in such a way that the other person puts the hands up and surrender.

The WP’s Pritam Singh advocated that an English test be applied before someone can be considered for permanent residency or citizenship. To which Minister Josephine Teo said: “I must admit to being quite surprised by his position.”

How easily and how often they are surprised and shocked by what the Opposition has to propose in Parliament! It’s as good as saying how come you come up with something so silly.

It’s their House and they call the shots so what can you do?

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