Mr Speaker, Sir,
I thank the Members Vikram Nair, Member Raj Joshua Thomas, Member Assoc Prof Jamus Lim, Member Lim Biow Chuan and the Minister for their contributions to this debate that I have raised together with my colleague, Ms Hazel Poa. It has allowed us to cover a little bit more ground than in the clarifications after a Ministerial Statement.
I will not rebut individually the points raised by some of the Members, but I would like to condense the thing in two points.
One, we are here today – just now with the Ministerial Statement and now with this Motion – because something has happened. And that something is a very well-meaning speech and policy proposal put up by the Assoc Prof Jamus Lim was just written-off in this House, in a very dismissive manner – although it is just a quiet comment. But nevertheless, it is an indication that we need to remind ourselves what is impartiality of the Speaker. Without that we would not be debating today.
The second point I like to make is, some of the Members who have spoken have talked about our Parliament, that we have an untainted record, track record of the Speaker being impartial, but here is an example that we have to remind ourselves that we need to reaffirm the impartiality of the Speaker.
As a result of that, PSP had decided to put forward this Motion to suggest a gradual process whereby we can enhance the independence and impartiality of the Speaker, that this House remember in May this year, I actually have spoken about the rules and procedures of this House already, in my Adjournment Motion to make Parliament a fairer arena for all.
At that time, I did not take up the issue of the independence and impartiality of the Speaker. But today, the situation is different.
So, the Motion is meant to propose a gradual process. As a result, we brought out the historical examples. And at the same time, we have just proposed that for the time being, Government, please ensure that the Speaker does not belong to the central committee of the ruling party. That is a small step. Of course, as our democracy develops, more and more members from different parties come into Parliament, then we can think of reverting to a situation whereby we have a totally independent Speaker. That is an ideal idea that PSP is trying to put forward with this Motion.
Parliament sits at the apex of our system of democracy. For it to function properly, the Members, processes and proceedings must all work towards promoting an environment where open, substantive and thorough debates can take place.
Well, I do not wish to go too much on Speaker Tan’s case, actually, but just now I think what we have seen is just that there are certain rules that this House has that has just prevented this Motion to be debated in a more open, substantive and thorough debate because of a technical point, that the Motion statement was not done in the way that allows me to have a more thorough debate. I accept that. That is the current Standing Orders of the Singapore Parliament.
In order to promote the debate, as I have said, more debate, I have put up seven recommendations in my Adjournment Motion making Parliament a fairer arena for all, at the May Sitting this year, including bigger research budgets for MPs from alternative parties, more flexible time-keeping during clarifications and debates, and appointing MPs from alternative parties to chair the Public Accounts and Public Petitions Committees. These are all just incremental changes and the Government can actually consider this and allow our Parliament to move closer to a fairer arena for all.
Hence, my Motion is meant to be a first step towards an independent and impartial Speaker and for Parliament to be a fairer arena for all.
The amended Motion on the other hand is re-affirming the status quo and just sticking to what is more of the same. And I have been debating in this House for the last three years that we cannot be just having the status quo. We have to move on. Times have changed; the environment in the world has changed. So, why are we just sticking on to the old rules, in many aspects of our Government?
So, I view the two Motions as one. My Motion as a Motion with a dream, an objective that in the future, we can have a have a better Parliament. So, I hope this House will support my Motion.
Ultimately, the best solution to making our Parliament a fairer arena for all is to have at least one-third or 33% alternative MPs in this House, commensurate with the percentage of votes that alternative parties have already won among Singaporeans.
The PAP Government does not need a super majority of about 90% to govern effectively, but such a super majority prevents the views and opinions of tens of thousands of loyal Singaporeans from being adequately represented in this House.
Mr Speaker, in Chinese, please.
在 1970 年之前，我国的议长清一色由法官或律师担任。除1963 年至 1964 年 E.W. Barker 巴克先生担任议长的短暂时间外，所有议长也无一例外的是无党派人士。
然而，在 1970 年，人民行动党议员、非律师身份的杨锦成医生当选为议长后，这一历史惯例发生了变化。我也想指出，这与人民行动党于1968 年大选赢得 100%议会席位的时间点完全吻合。
Mr Speaker, Sir, under your leadership, we look forward to this House being a fairer arena for all.
We have spent much Parliamentary time debating the issues and concerns of Singaporeans. They have arisen from the recent spate of unfortunate events. It is my hope that in the coming months, there will be no more such events and this House can refocus our attention to the more important issues faced by Singaporeans, such as the rising cost of living, price and availability of public housing, economic uncertainty and job insecurity.