Debate In 2 Minutes

Parliament yesterday passed the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Amendment) Bill, after a heated debate between MPs of the Workers' Party (WP) and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

This was one of three Bills passed yesterday.Issues on lift upgrading and record coffee shop sales were also raised.

Renaming Iseas

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) will be renamed the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute on Aug 12 - the 105th anniversary of the birth of Singapore's first president.

The name change was given the nod in Parliament yesterday but the Bill, which provided for other changes as well, got a chorus of "No" from WP MPs.

Why WP voted against the Iseas Bill

The WP MPs said the party supports the move to honour the late Mr Yusof Ishak. But they could not support the change that gives the minister of education - rather than the president as it is now - the powers to appoint Iseas' chairman and deputy chairman, among other board members.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang questioned the Government's motives, saying what amounted to a "fundamental change of the character" of the board was being "disguised" as a name change.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat called the WP's objection a "red herring". He said the move brings Iseas in line with most statutory bodies whose members are appointed by their respective ministers.

Lift upgrading

Some 200 old blocks of Housing Board flats cannot have lifts that stop on every floor owing to technical constraints or prohibitively high costs, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan.

But his ministry is looking into two other lift systems - a pneumatic vacuum elevator and a vertical platform lift - to fix the problem. It will decide in six months to a year whether to put them on trial in HDB blocks.

Coffee shop resale prices 'outliers'

The recent sale of a Bukit Batok coffee shop for $31 million, and a $23.8 million transaction in 2013 for a Hougang coffee shop are "outliers", said Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan.

He dismissed claims of speculation, saying the previous owners operated their respective coffee shops for 20 and 10 years before selling.

Since January 2010, there were 32 resale transactions involving eating houses of comparable sizes: 10 were below $5 million, 12 were between $5 million and $10 million, and eight between $10 million and $15 million.

Bankruptcy changes

Bankrupts will have a clear time frame to meet specific repayment goals so as to be discharged from bankruptcy, with Parliament voting or changes to the Bankruptcy Act.

The Bill strikes a balance between the need to hold the bankrupt accountable and ensuring they have the opportunity to make a fresh start after a reasonable period of time, said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2015, with the headline 'DebateIn 2Minutes'. Print Edition | Subscribe