SINGAPORE — With a greater diversity of views in Parliament, more robust debate and sharper exchanges can be expected, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah on Monday (31 August).
But parliamentarians should work to ensure that diversity does not lead to polarity of country or people, she told the House.
“Experience elsewhere shows that unity in diversity is not an assured outcome. Our goal should be to harness this diversity of views in a constructive manner so that we can as a Parliament better serve the interests of Singaporeans and Singapore,” she said.
In her Ministerial Statement laying out the duties and privileges of the Leader of the Opposition, Indranee said that the role will evolve along with Singapore politics. “It must always be the ambition of this House to live up to the expectations of our people and create a political system that is focused on serving Singapore and Singaporeans, to the best of our abilities.”
As the Leader of the Opposition, the Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh will be given an office in Parliament. He will also be provided with staff support and resources, and extra allowance.
Singh will also generally be given the right of first response among MPs, to ask the lead question of ministers on policies, Bills and motions in Parliament. He will also be given a longer speaking duration for speeches than other MPs.
“We hope the Opposition will play a bigger role in putting up alternative views and proposals for debate,” said Indranee.
Singh may also be asked to attend official state functions and take part in visits and meetings alongside members of the government and public service.
“To ensure a better understanding across both sides of the House on important national issues such as security and external relations, especially in the event of a national crisis or emergency, the Leader of the Opposition will from time to time receive confidential briefings by the government. The matters to be briefed will be determined by the government,” added Indranee.
There are 10 WP MPs and two non-constituency MPs from the Progress Singapore Party. The People’s Action Party won 61.24 per cent of the votes cast and 83 seats out of 93 at the July 2020 General Election – its worst electoral performance since independence in terms of the number of seats lost to the opposition.
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