Debate In 2 Minutes

On the third day of the debate on the President's Address, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took the floor to suggest changes to the Non-Constituency MP and Elected Presidency schemes.

This followed parliamentary questions on security and public health, and MPs' speeches on topics such as education and ageing.


Fingerprint scans for all arriving visitors

Starting from June, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will capture the fingerprints of anyone who enters Singapore at its air, land and sea checkpoints, to beef up border security, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee.

He was replying to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) and Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC), who asked what the Government was doing to ensure Singapore's security, given the recent terrorist incidents elsewhere.


Steps against dengue also guard against Zika

Dengue prevention measures can also guard against the Zika virus which is spreading through the Americas, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in response to Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC).

The virus - which has not been detected here - is spread by the same type of mosquito that transmits dengue.


Three worrying trends in education

Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) noted three "unhealthy" trends in Singapore's education system which, she said, must be reversed. They are: a preoccupation with academic scores; affluence affecting chances of academic success; and the segregation of students based on learning abilities. She suggested changes such as dropping the Primary School Leaving Examination, to change the mindset of chasing scores.

Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) of the Workers' Party asked if the "teach less, learn more" model could have "merely shifted more of the learning from the classroom to the private tutors". A study of the tuition culture is needed to determine this, he said.


Reframe ageing issue

Singapore should see its ageing population not as a problem, but an opportunity for innovation, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor. Agreeing, Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC) suggested four improvements to eldercare. He called for the faster development of alternatives to nursing homes and more funding for R&D in mobility aides, monitoring devices and robotics.


NCMPs to have full voting rights

PM Lee said he intends to amend the Constitution to give Non-Constituency MPs the same voting rights as regular MPs, leaving no reason to perceive them as second class. He also mooted raising the minimum number of opposition MPs in Parliament - including NCMPs - from nine to 12.


Making changes to Elected Presidency

A Constitutional Commission will be appointed to study changes to the Elected Presidency and is expected to deliver its findings by the third quarter of this year, announced PM Lee. The panel will look at how to update the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates, strengthen the Council of Presidential Advisers, and ensure presidents are elected from the minorities periodically.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Debate In 2 Minutes'. Print Edition | Subscribe