S’poreans need & deserve honest, constructive debates in Parliament

It’s no stretch to say that the sitting of Parliament is the most important institution and forum in Singapore.

Members of Parliament make laws, scrutinise the State’s finances and check the Government in a responsible, honest and constructive manner.

In Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s words: “Parliament sits at the apex of our system of democracy.”  To ensure a healthy functioning democracy, all the members of our Parliament must practise and demonstrate constructive and healthy politics, including in the way parliamentary debates are being conducted.

The matters concerning Singapore and her survival in this increasingly disruptive and unpredictable world are plenty; laws passed not only affect Singaporeans today but also future generations.

With infinite issues to be debated within a finite amount of time, the job of the Speaker of Parliament is unenviable as he has to keep track of time, while making sure members from both side of the aisle have the proportionate share of air time.

That is why debates should always be intellectually honest and constructive — a brand of politics and governance that Singaporeans fully deserve.

“To fulfil its vital role, Parliament must be respected, and its members, processes and proceedings must be trusted,” PM Lee reminded the House in his speech on the Raeesah Khan issue last February.

Members should present arguments based on facts and with clarity — not with confusing rhetoric that deliberately stokes discontent, peddles falsehood and misleads Singaporeans.

This brings to mind Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) NCMP Mr Leong Mun Wai’s most recent debates in Parliament this year.

In his adjournment motion on the Ang Mo Kio Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) exercise, he, despite repeated clarifications from Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann and HDB, continued to confuse Singaporeans with misleading falsehoods.

A day later, in his reply to Workers’ Party’s Gerald Giam question on the land valuation for building HDB flats, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee also replied at length to Mr Leong’s comments on social media about by valuing HDB land at its historical cost of acquisition.

His suggestion, in all honesty, means diminishing the size of our national savings and such a position is fine, if Mr Leong puts it plainly and not using confusing, conflating narrative to cover up his true intention.

Dirt cheap housing without having to pay more taxes or cut back on say defence or healthcare spending?

“I think most people will recognise that this deal sounds too good to be true,” said Minister Lee.

One should ask: to what end does Mr Leong want to mislead Singaporeans? Is this part of his strategy of “speaking up” for Singaporeans?

Singaporeans need and deserve honest and constructive Parliamentary debates.

And by extension, Singaporeans too deserve MPs who put country above everything else.

“MPs must be people with integrity at their core, who speak and act in an upright manner, always putting duty before self, and country before party. And our highest duty – our ultimate loyalty – is not to our party, but to Singapore,” said PM Lee in the same February 2022 speech.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned examples are nothing new in Mr Leong’s playbook of How to Grandstand in Parliament.

If the Raeesah Khan episode cannot serve as a deterrent to such conduct, perhaps the welfare of Singapore and Singaporeans can.

Mr Leong likes to sign off his speeches or social media posts with his Party’s slogan “For Country, For People”. Judging from his modus operandi, it should not be a statement but a question instead. 

We call on all Singaporeans to reject such sloganeering masking as political leadership. It must not play any part of Singapore’s political contestation and leadership.