20140327 From farce world to first world parliament – will WP be keeping its promise?

The WP’s response to bullying tactics by the PAP has been measured and impressive. WP’s questions raised in parliament have benefitted Singaporeans more than all the questions by 80 PAP MPs.

However, the WP seems to have not kept its election promise to deliver a First World Parliament (FWP).

According to MP Pritam Singh, a FWP is one which ensures good governance, has a significant number of opposition MPs to ensure “the government is held to account, to explain and justify to Singaporeans their decisions and policies in a meaningful way”. The WP appears to be rather laid back in parliament when its questions were not answered by ministers. One example:

20 Jan – MP Png’s question (c) to Minister Heng, “what is the number of international students who default on their agreement to work….”. Heng did not answer the question. link

21 Feb – MP Png’s question (a) to Minister Heng, “…total amount of tuition grants given to international students…..who defaulted on their agreement….” Heng again did not answer the question. link

7 Mar – MP Png again reiterated the issue and stated “MOE is currently unable to provide a definitive answer to this question.” link

A parliamentary question still begging for an answer after more than 2 months – is this not a farce-world parliament? The tuition grant scheme started 34 years ago. Perhaps the PAP had reckoned it would not be questioned in the past and did not monitor all the schemes it implemented. Citizens have the right to know if hundreds of millions in tax dollars were lost. If the WP is willing to accept a non answer, then it might as well not waste tax dollars by not filing the question.

(The most recent case not involving the WP was highlighted on TRE – Chan Chun Sing, Social and Family Development minister refusing to answer a PAP MP’s question. link)

Pritam also mentioned “transparency”, “accountability”, “inclusion and representation”, etc. How are these issues supposed to be addressed without the WP asking the really inconvenient questions? Will the WP be able to get such questions answered when a simple question on default numbers remains unanswered?

WP has not not delivered on its campaign promise as reflected by the many disappointed voices on social media. Questions paving the way for a FWP which the WP somehow missed in parliament:

CPF – CPF policies were implemented decades ago and judging from its inability to meet its objectives, our national savings scheme is an abject failure. All the tweaks were merely to meet short term objectives of generating stellar economic figures and making profits for the PAP. The failure of our CPF scheme has caused much unhappiness and suffering. A successful policy does not.

Temasek and GIC – Temasek and GIC are totally opaque and have refused to publish the multi million pay package of their CEOs, management and fund managers. The assets belong to citizens but we do not have the right to know how or where they are invested. WP has been a total disappointment in ignoring the issue of opacity concerning hundreds of billions in our reserves. Specific figures on remuneration may not be required, just remuneration bands ie $20 to $25 million, $15 to $20 million, $10 to $15 million, etc. (it appears the WP is weak in the area of finance and we need a more qualified opposition MP like Kenneth Jeyaretnam in parliament)

HDB – The government has refused to disclose the per unit construction cost of public housing. WP has remained as silent as the PAP has been on this issue. Singaporeans deserve an answer.

Accountability – Repeated failures by top civil servants must not be trivialised and covered up by punishing only the rank and file. Leaders are not leaders when they are allowed to shirk their responsibilities. Respect of civil servants must be earned and as far as citizens are concerned, most have lost their trust and respect.

Injustice – The lives of Singaporeans detained under the ISA have been ruined and tens of thousands of family members and friends have also been affected. Not a whisper from the WP on the abuse of power.

Transparency – PM Lee: “For your own protection, every MP should disclose to me, in confidence, your business and professional interests, your present employment and monthly pay, all retainers and fees that you are receiving, and whether your job requires you to get in touch with officers of Government Ministries or statutory boards on behalf of employers or clients.” link How is an MP protected by disclosing personal financial information only to the PM? Are MPs serving the PM or their constituents? It’s about time for public disclosure or perhaps the PAP is worried that individual assets of tens/hundreds of millions will cause its ‘popularity’ to drop?

NCMP Lina Chiam’s question on the reserves really brought shame to all the PAP and WP MPs. link However, Lina failed to press on the issue and demand that the government disclose:
– the total amount of reserves used.
– the amount used on individual occasions.
– the individual projects undertaken and their market values.
etc.

In summary, issues on accountability and transparency are walkovers for the PAP in parliament. As has been shown, hey need not answer. The really inconvenient questions have also not been raised by the WP after almost 3 years. As such, we appear to have only a ‘farce-world’ parliament and not the first-world parliament which the WP has promised.

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