Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A good Speaker gained but a good Minister lost?

Tan Chuan-Jin Is Elected As New Parliament Speaker In Yet Another Walkover

While most Singaporeans were focused on the Mdm Halimah’s walkover in the reserved presidential election, there was a walkover for another public office which slid under the radar.

In a parliamentary sitting on 11 Sept, ex-Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin was elected as the new Speaker of Parliament via a walkover as no other candidates were proposed.

Although there were no objections from the floor, it seems that there was at least one person did not approve of the appointment.

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Ex-minister Tan Chuan-Jin becomes 10th Speaker of Parliament

Tan Chuan-Jin became Speaker of Parliament on Monday (11 September) after he stepped down as Minister for Social and Family Development.

Tan, 48, was nominated for the role by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Previous Speaker Halimah Yacob resigned from her political and party posts on 7 August to contest in the upcoming Presidential Election this month. A Speaker of Parliament cannot be elected from members who are office holders.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Tan said, “In a Parliamentary democracy, the legitimacy of the laws we enact rests on the scrupulous attention we – on both sides of this House – pay to the reasoned debate which accompanies the passing of each law. No one doubts that our goal in these sittings must be to advance the interests of all Singaporeans.

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Tan Chuan-Jin becomes Singapore’s 10th Speaker of Parliament

Parliament has elected Mr Tan Chuan-Jin as Singapore’s 10th Speaker, as the House convened on Monday (Sep 11).

Mr Tan, who had his last day as Minister of Social and Family Development on Sunday (Sep 10), was nominated to be Speaker of Parliament by PM Lee Hsien Loong, following the vacation of the post by Mdm Halimah Yacob, who resigned last month to contest the Presidential Election.

The Speaker presides over the sittings of the House & enforces the rules prescribed in the Standing Orders of Parliament for the orderly conduct of parliamentary business.

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Tan Chuan-Jin will be new Speaker tomorrow – his reaction, what happens next and who came before

The Speaker is not able to debate issues in the House, due to his being in charge of administration for the Parliament and its Secretariat. Tan will however retain his position as MP for Marine Parade GRC, and can vote for or against motions as an elected Member.

The assignment will take effect at the next Parliament session tomorrow; Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s nomination will require MPs to second and formally elect his choice.

The public concern has also elicited a response from the Government Whip and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Chan Chun Sing, whose role is to ensure “that there are sufficient party members in the Chamber to support the party’s position and that MPs vote according to the party’s line.”

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Former minister formally elected as Singapore's new parliament speaker

Singapore's former Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin was formally elected as the 10th Speaker of Parliament on Monday.

Tan said in his first speech as the speaker that the parliament needs to be the institution that channels and reflects the voices of the people, so that the members of parliament (MP) can query, answer and debate in a manner that provides hope and clarity.

"We need to be a beacon from where Singaporeans can take reference, with confidence, when addressing and understanding issues that will matter greatly for our collective well-being," he said.

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Chuan-Jin praises ‘passionate, dedicated’ MSF staff in farewell note
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When he entered politics in 2011, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin harboured hopes of joining the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and was delighted that he received the posting as its minister in 2015.

He disclosed this in a farewell message posted on the ministry's blog, MSF Conversations, as he marked his last day in office on Sunday (Sept 10).

Mr Tan, 48, the Prime Minister's nominee for Speaker of Parliament after Mdm Halimah Yacob vacated the post last month to stand for President, is up for election by the House when it sits on Monday.

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Why Cabinet to Speaker-Plus can be an upgrade
Madam Halimah Yacob with Mr Tan Chuan-Jin at a 7th Month auction dinner at the Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple Association on Sep 5, 2017. ST FOTO: JAMIE KOH

There's the old economy, business-as-usual way of looking at the move of Mr Tan Chuan-Jin from Cabinet to that of Speaker of Parliament.

And then there's the disruption-friendly, start-up way.

First, the old, hierarchical way of analysis. This says that Mr Tan, 48, has been given a demotion. From being a full Cabinet minister in the Ministry of Social &d Family Development (MSF), with hundreds of staff, important policies to make, & reportedly an annual 7-figure salary, he is being put up for the role of Speaker, with sway over a tiny staff, & salary reportedly in the mid-6 figures.

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TAN CHUAN-JIN’S DEMOTION – “FROM CABINET TO SPEAKER-PLUS CAN BE AN UPGRADE”?
Tan Chuan-jin’s demotion – “from Cabinet to Speaker-Plus can be an upgrade”?

Ms Chua, in a piece published in the newspaper on Saturday, argued – curiously – that Mr Tan’s removal from Cabinet could be seen “from the lens of a society in the throes of disruption.” So, let’s not spin this into something it is not.

Mr Tan, by all accounts, was a dedicated minister who has a heart for the less fortunate. It is unfortunate that he is being removed from the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Only the Prime Minister and those in Cabinet will know the real reason (if any) why he is being reassigned elsewhere, out of the nerve centre of government.

Having said that, Mr Tan does have an opportunity – as indeed he had as minister – to shine a spotlight on the less fortunate. Let’s hope that he will not next be shut up in continuing to do so.

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What’s Really Behind The Tan Chuan-Jin Move

Is Tan Chuan-Jin’s appointment as Speaker of Parliament a downgrade? The Straits Times Opinion Editor Chua Mui Hoong thinks not. She sees it as an upgrade, that is, if the outgoing Social and Family Development Minister carves out a role as a Speaker-Plus.

Interesting thought. Speaker-Plus. Let there a more fluid political landscape, more in tune with a “disruption-friendly, startup way”, where different pathways for contributions become the norm. Tan said so himself: “There are many different roles and many different pathways that we all have to take…I would say we are all in the same race.”

Tan’s fellow 4G clubmember Chan Chun Sing agreed. He gave possibly one of the most politically correct and non sequitur answers in the annals of local politics, given that he has been widely touted as a fellow PM-post contender: “All of us in Government do different things, perform different roles, each according to our own strengths.” Don’t we all know that?

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Losing a good Minister but gaining a good Speaker?

Following PM Lee’s announcement, netizens took to Facebook to voice their disappointment and sadness at losing an honest and down to earth minister.

However, they did admit that Mr Tan would make a good Speaker of Parliament.

With the chance of striking Toto higher than Mr Tan’s failing to get Parliament’s mandate, Mr Tan is resigned to the path set out for him. We’d like to wish Mr Tan all the best in his new role!

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