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Uniquely Singapore, F1 or F9: Parliamentary debate, then self-rebuttal?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on October 15, 2007

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “S’pore has an edge in grooming leaders: MM – A robust system is in place here to groom a new generation of leaders” (ST, Oct 6).

So, what has grooming the next generation of leaders got to do with members of Parliament (MPs) writing to the Straits Times forum?

Well, MP for Tampines GRC, Sin Boon Ann, wrote to the Straits Times forum on 3 October, “MP now convinced CPF funds don’t come cheap” (link) and said that:

“… it was reported that I used the word ‘cheap’ to describe CPF monies as a source of funds for the Government, in the debate in Parliament on CPF reforms.

I wish to clarify that my choice of the word was motivated by a comparison between the cost of CPF monies to the Government and the returns that the Government is able to get in the longer term through careful fund management…

I should emphasise that the word was not chosen, as some may have suggested, to imply that the Government was making money at the people’s expense.

I am glad to note that your newspaper had accurately reported my remark that any income derived from such investments has been applied for the benefit of the people of Singapore.

Having considered carefully the explanation of the Second Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, I am now satisfied and have come to the conclusion that the CPF monies, with risk-free interest guaranteed, do not represent a cheap source of funds to the Government, particularly now that the interest rate on the CPF balances has been pushed higher by the recent changes.”

In this connection, another MP’s (Ong Kian Min) speech in the Parliamentary debate on CPF changes, was the “talk of the town” amongst Singaporeans.

He had made a strong rebuttal to the proposed CPF changes, particularly on the issue of why the returns on CPF are so low.

On 27 September, Mr Ong wrote to the Straits Times forum, to clarify the remarks he had made in Parliament.

From rarely refreshing speeches from the heart for the people by the MPs, to the (27 September) “apology like” letters in the Straits Times by the same MPs themselves – is it any wonder why some Singaporeans say that Parliamentary debate in Singapore is kind of docile, and not very lively?

The letters sounded almost like “self rebuttals” of the MPs’ own remarks in Parliament!

This I believe is unprecedented in Parliamentary history.

Just when we thought a new era of more open debate had arrived …. alas …..

It may indeed be a sad day for Singapore – who else will ever dare to speak up in the future?

What message are we sending to MPs and Singaporeans?

With reference to the articles “PAP wary of those too eager to please” and “In search of 4th-generation leaders” (ST, Oct 6), what kind of leaders are we grooming when they have to write to the Straits Times forum to clarify their own rebuttals in Parliament in debating national issues?

The fact that the whip is seldom lifted, may be a stumbling block to diversity and alternative view points in Parliamentary sessions.

As for the issue of CPF changes itself, since it has been said that the CPF system is flawed, and that’s why there is a need for a major reform of the CPF system now, how can we be so sure that the current proposals to fix the “flaw” are perfect ?

The past policies were not perfect (flawed), how can we be sure that the new policies are perfect (not flawed too) ?

Only a free and unfettered debate in Parliament can ensure that policies are subject to comprehensive and diverse review, on a continuing basis.

Visit Sze Hian’s website for more of his writings.


13 Responses to “Uniquely Singapore, F1 or F9: Parliamentary debate, then self-rebuttal?”

  1. truth said

    The message sent out is loud and clear:

    All PAP MP’s are free to speak their mind ….. as long as it agrees with the government policies.

    It’s no wonder that the PAP is finding it harder and harder to persuade good men to join them.

  2. returner said

    Either they really spoke for the people and asked to stay in line after that OR they are part of the TV script to ease the pressure from the ground.

  3. Robert HO said


    My MSN Live Messenger Tag Lines past, today and future

    *Comments edited and most part deleted by moderator.

    **Dear Robert, we have asked you not to include your NRIC number when posting. You have refused to do that. As such, we have no choice but to disallow your comments. Until you abstain from posting your personal particulars, your comments will not be allowed to be posted.

    As for the editing of this latest comment of yours, your comment is totally irrelevant to the article. You do not have to keep posting the same comments about how you saw “Lee Kuan Yew rigged the elections”. And your almost 100 points from your msn tag lines are completely irrelevant to the article as well.

    You are under moderation from now on.

  4. They still can get scholars to do NS in parliament.
    See how the BGs are given jobs, some even before retirement age of 45.

  5. Allan said

    What does it say of the Govt’s credibility when their MPs are backtracking on what they have said ?
    All that is said in parliament are just hot air

  6. My CPF said

    Simple – refute their allegations, or they lose their seat in the next round, and the $11,000 part time income per month 🙂
    I also want!

  7. macabresg said

    I agree our parliamentary debates are pretty docile. It’s more like a presentation. That’s why we need more thorns(opposition MPs) to jab the PAP MPs’ butts to make them work harder for their part-time income and for the benefit of all Singaporeans.

  8. David said

    It is a kangooru court at its best. When MP says something bad about the establishment, they suddenly realize it is pointless to pinpoint their very own ‘company’ that pay them to work for them, and that it is better to play obedient to keep their job and privileges.

    The question I have to ask everyone. If the gov parliament is running as a ‘Singapore Inc’ and act as executive of Company, what is the chance of someone jeopardise his own position against the CEO (PM,MM etc) ? The salary of these ‘executive’ is not less or comparable than those getting from private company.

    Or rather, will you go against or complain someone, pinpoint your boss mistake if you are hired to do the work of your boss ?

    The parliament is smart to realize that it is a parliament and therefore need some maverick ‘action’ to make itself credible and not too much of a joke. So you have debate and debate, but in the end, a show is still a show, and the policy still carry on at the end of day. Sometimes, the show last a few months or few days.

    And when thing get too personal, they shake their hand backstage and promise not to screw each other backside again. Therefore, after a maverick in parliament say something against their own ‘company’, they realize it and promise never to repeat it. Am I joking ? Look at those MP, Minister that used to be maverick but now been tamed to submission to the binding of the dark lord.

    It really remind me of those professional wrestling. The guy can keep fighting each other and pretend that there is feud between them, but the script and decision is already been predetermined on who the winner. You just know it is fake because it is part of the show. You see the same thing happen in Singapore parliament because they are actually belong to one same big ‘acting’ company just like wrestling company.

  9. Zheng Xi said

    Hi Sze Hian,

    Excellent article I really like this one =)

  10. Ned Stark said

    leaving all that talk about whether they are genuine or not, this goes to show that if there is to be any “check”, it definitely won’t come from within. And it can’t. Imagine a party where eveyrthing goes…that will really be chaos.

  11. Dear Sze Hian,

    Thanks again for highlighting another uniquely sad Singaporean episode.

    With that 2 Tampines GRC MP’s, I thought: Time, they are a-changing for the better.

    Alas . . . another charade.

    Another ‘good-cop-bad-cop’ wayang.

    If I lose my wealth, I lose nothing.
    If I lose my health, I lose something.
    If I lose my integrity, I lose everything.

    Why throw it all away after such a spirited argument on what makes sense?

    What does it take to change the essence of a man?

    Why build it up just to let us down?

    I wonder . . .


  12. family man said

    Feed me to the fish…

    Simple answer

    $$$$$ changes the essence of a man. Unless he is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    I had hoped that change will come from within the PAP, but the temptation of $11,000 is just too great, and the likelihood of being promoted to minister of state, visiting Myanmar, promotion to minister with million $ pay – why risk it? Let us hope the NMPs will not let us down next.

  13. Simon Ng said

    Minister George Yeo claimed in parliament that cumulative investment by Singapore in Myanmar till end 2005 was only S$742 million.

    He must be wrong,and ex-trade & industry minister and a President scholar,SAF scholar,it is sad that his mastery of details is relly not up to the mark!

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