Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Parliamentary Foot Fetish (PFF)

Or what people get excited over

SO MANY people have said so many things in Parliament, sometimes illuminating, sometimes downright boring. But what is more interesting is what catches the public’s eye and gets talked about. They are the throwaway lines. The gaffes. The unclear statements. Sometimes, they are a result of bad speech-making, lack of language skills or, as some people suggest, reflect the speaker’s true feelings. And sometimes, a mischievous gloss is daubed on the regrettable line, making it worse than it is.

So what have people picked up from the Budget debate so far?
  • That MP Denise Phua thinks foreign workers are walking time-bombs and wants her constituents in Little India ring-fenced from them. (She had foot-in-mouth disease?)
  • That Minister Chan Chun Sing’s description of the Singapore core – or is it Singaporean core? – includes foreigners. (His feet are planted apart?)
  • That not having halal kitchens on board naval ships is simply an excuse not to allow Muslims to serve in the navy. (Muslim feet should stay grounded?)
  • That the HDB is not a bank, which it really isn’t. (What are feet?)
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FEET planted apart?

What’s all this about a Singapore core? Or is it a Singaporean core? Is there a difference? Some people have been highlighting Minister Chan Chun Sing’s speech in Parliament about how the core is not exclusive. That is, it can include foreigners.

Some background on this.

The term surfaced a few years ago when the foreigners-versus-locals debate was at its height with the overwhelming presence of foreign workers in the pre-2011 days. People wanted to know what it meant to be a Singapore citizen and asked for measures to make this status distinctive. There was a unanimity over building and strengthening a Singaporean core in the economy, so much so that moves were made to ensure that companies make attempts to hire Singaporeans first if positions fell vacant. One MP even brought an apple into Parliament chambers to illustrate his point.

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Feet firmly grounded?

MUSLIM feet firmly grounded?

Are there many restaurants in Singapore with halal kitchens? It’s probably a must for those which serve Muslim food. But what about, say, restaurants in hotels, which serve breakfast or tea or buffets of all kinds? Would a Muslim eat in such a place so long as pork is not served – nor cooked in the kitchen?

So the Workers’ Party (WP) is making a point about having halal-certified kitchens on naval vessels so that Muslims can serve in the navy. It’s picking up from what Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had said at a university forum in February last year about the lack of space on navy ships for such a separate kitchen.

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WHAT are feet?

What’s with some people’s obsession with Dr Koh Poh Koon? He seems to be a favorite football in some quarters to be kicked around. So he says that the HDB is not a bank, and people jump on him. They stamp their feet and kick up dust. Why? Because he was defeated in the Punggol East by-election and entered Parliament via a GRC? Because he once put both feet in his mouth by talking about how every household has a car and he has two? Because it’s just too good to pass up puns about a colorectal surgeon?

So what’s the story with him now? It has to do with a question he answered in his capacity as Minister of State for National Development. It was about HDB measures to help households that had fallen on hard times with their HDB mortgage payments. His answer was pretty standard, such as restructuring or deferring HDB mortgage payments, helping them to downsize or move into a public rental flat.

Then comes this question from MP Joan Pereira, and it has to do with people who did not take an HDB loan but a bank loan: Would HDB consider providing such financial help to HDB owners who have taken loans from the banks?

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