A CITIZEN'S EYE OPENING EXPERIENCE IN PARLIAMENT

Dear A.S.S. Editor

It was an eye-opening experience for me on 3rd July in the Parliament, as a voting citizen. I could personally notice the involvement of the MPs, the people’s representatives.

The 3rd July session started at 11am when the Speaker of Parliament entered the Parliament, with her staff. This parliamentary sitting was scheduled weeks in advance and all our well-paid MPs have been informed of the date and time, with reminders by both PM and Speaker of Parliament to participate.

Guess how many MPs were present at 11:05am?
A) 1/3 of MPs were present
B) ½ of MPs were present
C) 2/3 of MPs were present
D) ¾ of MPs were present

The answer is none of the above. Less than 1/3 of the MPs were present when the parliamentary session started at 11am. Some started streaming in after 11:30. Maybe they needed to get their lunch first. Many, including our “full-time” MP in white heels, arrived by 12:20 as PM was scheduled to speak at 12:30. PM arrived at about 12:25.

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During the first hour and half, important education issues were raised but a significant number of MPs were not present. During the parliamentary sitting, some of the MPs, especially the ones sitting behind the front row, were using the mobile devices- tablets, iPads and mobile phones. Some were surfing, reading, replying to emails…in full view from the public gallery of citizens or members of the public who are not allowed to bring in their devices. What standards for our busy MPs!

For example, one ex-minister of state was reading a ST article about himself and the online “Economist” magazine on his device during the speeches. A senior minister of state was reading the online Chinese news. Another senior parliamentary secretary was reviewing her hard copies of PPT slides. I certainly hope that they were multi-tasking well and thinking of ways of improving the economy, trade and industry, while DPM was speaking. One full minister arrived at about 3pm, after PM and DPM finished speaking. Important questions related to his ministry were raised before PM’s speech
but he was absent.

As highly paid MPs and ministers, how seriously do they take their attendance and participation in Parliament, especially for a session where the PM calls for the MPs to actively debate about the possible abuses of organs of state? The MPs bow in the direction of the Speaker of Parliament when they enter and leave the chambers. Some will say what is more important is how they actually contribute in Parliament and represent the people.

Civil service has its dress code. One minister was wearing his Levi jeans. Wow, has the civil service dress code changed or are ministers exempted from it? Or does Parliament have a Monday “dress down” dress code or a dress code that allows MPs to come in jeans? Maybe this minister in jeans is trying to innovate or lead by example?

Leading by example- our MPs are supposed to be the representatives of the people and leaders of our nation. We certainly hope that they will be responsible leaders who will be more punctual and positively participate in the parliamentary sessions and other matters, beyond the moments captured by Channel News Asia. Our very busy DPMs and some MPs were listening intently during the speeches, unlike a number of other MPs busy with their devices. There were a small number of MPs who were punctual from the beginning and appeared attentive during this session. However, certain MPs left much to be desired. Maybe it’s just the form and not the substance. At the same time, form is part of substance.

Some members of the public can actually see what’s happening. A friendly tip for our people’s representatives: do take care when you key in your passwords on your mobile devices and use them in Parliament. Eyes opened!

A Singaporean Citizen

A.S.S. Contributor

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