Monday, 11 March 2013

It All Comes Down To The WHIP

Inderjit Singh and the Whip

People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament, Mr Inderjit Singh, made an impassioned speech in Parliament against the population White Paper on 5 February 2013. [See here.]

It was, and quite characteristic of the Ang Mo Kio GRC MP, a strongly-worded speech. “Our past decade of rapid population growth has already created too many problems which need to be solved first before we can take the next step,” he told the House. He used words and phrases such as “too steep” to describe Singapore’s population increase the last decade. He lambasted the government for having “failed to achieve the goal” of a promised Swiss standard of living for Singaporeans. Mr Singh said he has “a big issue with the number of PRs and new citizens” in our midst currently, that “it is just too much”, and how “things [had] started to fall apart” from this influx. Adding more people to the island “will be disastrous”, the MP warned. “We missed the mark in the last 10 years, and we are already paying a heavy price for that mistake… We already have too many of them,” Mr Singh said, referring to the number of permanent residents (PRs) here. Children of PRs who do not do National Service (NS) should be punished, he implored. “Send them to jail if we can.”

He called on the government to take a breather on population growth and to address existing problems first. “[We] cannot afford to make Singaporeans’ lives more difficult as a result,” he said. “I rather err on the side of caution when it comes to growing our population. We cannot keep paying a high price for any planning misjudgements in this area.”

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Lift party whip for major policies: MP Inderjit Singh

The party whip should be removed when Parliament votes on major policies, veteran PAP MP Inderjit Singh told Lianhe Zaobao in an interview published on Sunday.

More MPs from the ruling party might have joined in last month's debate on the Population White Paper if this had happened, he added.

Even if the whip was lifted, he felt the amended motion, which makes clear that the 6.9 million population figure in 2030 is not a target and the Government is not deciding now on any specific population size for beyond 2020, would still have been passed.

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I felt I had to speak up about the White Paper: Inderjit Singh

On March 3, 2013, Lianhe Zaobao published an exclusive interview with Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh.

An extract of the interview transcript in English was reproduced on their Facebook page for readers' interest. 

The extract is below:

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Inderjit Singh's Interview: Signs of the Polarisation of Singaporean Politics?

Recently, People’s Action Party (PAP) member of parliament (MP) Inderjit Singh had an interview with Lianhe Zaobao. During the interview, he expressed his reasons for opposing the Population White Paper and his subsequent vote of abstention. This interview was first published on the Lianhe Zaobao facebook page

Upon reading the transcript, I expected an overwhelmingly positive response from the public. Singh’s interview explored how PAP MPs do not mindlessly tow the party line, as they are often accused of, but can instead bring a diversity of views to the table. 

Unfortunately, I was to be proven wrong; the interview drew much vitriol across the internet. A small but significant number of people have asserted that this is all a big ‘wayang’ – a performance to deceive the public into thinking that there are genuine, alternative voices within the party where in fact there is none. Some have even gone so far as to say that if he was truly against the White Paper, he should have broken the party whip and voted “no”, instead of abstaining. One netizen even commented that to prove that his actions were not mere ‘wayang’, he should join the Worker’s Party.

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Lianhe Zaobao (via AsiaOne) reported over weekend that Inderjit Singh is feeling the heat because he didn’t vote against the White Paper in spite of his speech in parliament against it, and he’s not happy that he’s catching flak for the way he didn’t vote

He was quoted as saying: “A lot of people criticised me for not voting against the motion. I feel that this is an unreasonable criticism. Just because I didn’t do so, they say I say one thing but do another

“Moreover, the party whip wasn’t removed, so everyone should know the outcome of the vote.”

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This was what Inderjit Singh posted in his Facebook account: 

Nothing really spectacular, just an honest man speaking his honest mind. So why is he so squeamish about his critical vote on the Population White Paper? He also wrote that, “I also did not agree with the 6.9m, and especially the additional 500K to 800K new PRs and citizens.” Will the real Inderjit Singh please stand up?

Hounded by the many who wanted to know if he should check in at the Institute of Mental Health, he remains opaque about revealing his schizophrenic tendencies on that voting day. He now admits he was in Parliament on Black Friday, but still did not want to say if he had intentionally left the chamber before the vote.

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It boils down to this, after incorporating Holland-Bukit Timah Member of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa's proposal to replace the word "policy" with "roadmap", the final vote on the controversial Population White Paper was: 
77 approved (all PAP members of parliament); 

13 said no, including all 9 Workers' Party Parliamentarians, 1 Non-Constituency MP (Lina Chiam) and 3 Nominated MPs (Laurence Lien, Faizah Jamal, and Janice Koh);
1 abstained (Nominated MP Eugene Tan);
8 were absent, one ostensibly being Lee Kuan Yew.

Assuming the rest of the 5 NMPs absented themselves (Tan Su Shan, Dhinakaran, Mary Liew, Teo Siong Seng, Nicholas Fang), 2 PAP MPs are unaccounted for. Maybe they are planning ahead to join George Yeo in Hong Kong. Inderjit Singh must be glad hiswayang role in the good cop/bad cop episode is over, and he can safely vote according to party instructions, and not what's truly in his heart of hearts. Or did he? Singh will only admit, "All I want to say is I was not present for the vote." The exercise clearly demonstrates why the number of alternate party voices in parliament must increase.

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The Abstention

If you are a Member of Parliament (MP) from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), you can do no right! That seems to be the attitude of some people in Singapore if you look at the online reaction of some people to PAP MP, Mr. Inderjit Singh.

During the debate of the Population White Paper, several PAP MPs went up to talk of their opposition to the white paper but when push comes to shove, only one did not toe the party line and vote for it. The MP is question is Inderjit Singh who opposed the Population White Paper and walked out when the vote took place. His vote of abstention was noted and during an interview with the local newspaper, Lianhe Zaobao, he expressed the reasons for his non-vote.

Now the PAP is a party known for their strict party discipline. I can’t even remember the last time a PAP MP did not toe the party line, so I’m impressed with the courage and conviction shown by Mr. Singh. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people are not. Some people have posted online that Mr. Singh’s abstention was nothing but political theater. These people in Singapore seem to think that an abstention means nothing

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[FB] 精选早报 Zaobao

On 3 March, 2013, Lianhe Zaobao published an exclusive interview with Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh.

An extract of the interview transcript in English is reproduced here for readers' interest.

On the White Paper speech, on voting and PM's change in position 

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Stop the growth in PRs and new citizens: PAP’s Inderjit Singh

People’s Action Party’s deputy party whip Inderjit Singh on Tuesday urged the government to stop the growth in the number of permanent residents and new citizens, and focus on improving the lives of Singaporeans.

The call by the Ang Mo Kio parliament member was made Tuesday in response to the population white paper tabled for discussion in Parliament proceedings this past week. The paper’s estimate of a population of up to 6.9 million by 2030 -- of which nearly half would be made of foreigners -- has drawn heavy flak from Singaporeans, many of whom have been complaining about the rising cost of living and overcrowding in public transport.

Among the few MPs of the ruling party that have come out to criticise the white paper, Singh argued in Parliament that the government should “take a breather” from  population growth for five years and solve the problems created by past economic and population policies.

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Speech by Mr Inderjit Singh on Population White Paper

People's Action Party MP, Mr Inderjit Singh, debated on the Population White Paper and put up his point across that he is against his own party's 6.9m projected population. I applaud his courage to stand up against the party whip and for his fellow Singaporeans.

His key points are;
  1. Slow down immigration and focus on resolving all issue related to the past population boom.
  2. We can live with a slightly slower growth (not zero or slow growth) and hence moderate dependence on foreigners.
  3. Use the Dubai model to complement our local workforce with foreign workforce, but don’t grant them PRs – ie a transient workforce.
  4. Abandon the 6.9m figure by 2030, this will be another rapid growth which we cannot handle.
  5. Solve Singaporeans problems first and also don’t give PRs same privileges as citizens.
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