Parliament

Five highlights

Day 4 of debate on the President's Address saw 15 MPs deliver speeches and several lively exchanges between People's Action Party and Workers' Party MPs. Rei Kurohi reports.

Korean boy band BTS' successful virtual concert in June offers lessons for the Government, said Mr Baey Yam Keng.
Korean boy band BTS' successful virtual concert in June offers lessons for the Government, said Mr Baey Yam Keng.PHOTO: BTS/FACEBOOK

1 The Lego blocks of society

New MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC) said his maiden speech was inspired by his six-year-old son's love for Lego.

Like the blocks that make up a Lego structure, each family that makes up society is important, he added.

"These blocks may come in different shapes or colours, just like our multiracial and religious society. But when connected together, they are stronger and more beautiful."

He further said that to build a more cohesive society, Singapore must support families, which are akin to building blocks.

It must also strengthen the connections between these blocks and provide space for creative rebuilding, he added.

"Let us continue to play our part to rebuild creatively a more resilient, more inclusive and more vibrant society than ever before.

"Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. But if one part is defective, then everything may fall apart."

2 WP's Sylvia Lim responds to two ministers on race

Singapore has not yet arrived at a post-racial state, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman said yesterday.

Both stressed it is important to maintain awareness of and respect for differences.

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim, who had called for a review of race-based policies on Tuesday, responded, saying Singapore must continually refresh its conversations on race to avoid becoming ossified. Nobody is "pretending... there are no racial differences".

She then asked if there could be an open discussion on whether Singaporeans would prefer a race-blind pooled fund to race-based self-help groups.

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran, the first chief executive of the Singapore Indian Development Association, asked if she was proposing to dissolve such groups.

"An amalgamation is an effective dissolution of the existing entity... Your proposition is we should have an ongoing dialogue in terms of how we can work closer together. That has been happening all along."

3 BTS and Blackpink in the House

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) invoked Korean pop (K-pop) boy band BTS in his parliamentary speech yesterday, saying the Government could learn a thing or two from the group's wildly successful virtual concert.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, BTS hosted a ticketed 100-minute live online concert in June that saw a peak of 756,000 concurrent viewers in 107 countries and territories, and raked in a cool $26 million.

"The BTS concert's paid viewership of three-quarters of a million was the equivalent of 15 shows at a 50,000-seat stadium, but the concert was streamed from a much smaller venue," said Mr Baey.

He compared the concert venue to the infrastructure provided by the Government, and urged businesses and individuals to find innovative ways to thrive in a post-Covid-19 world. "The Government will have to be nimbler in offering different 'venues' so that virtual concerts and other new formats could be staged," he added.

Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who spoke next, could not resist declaring he was more of a fan of K-pop girl band Blackpink.

4 'OK boomer' and the strawberry generation

First-time MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin (Ang Mo Kio GRC) succinctly summarised the differences in Singaporeans' lived experiences over different generations in her maiden speech yesterday.

Some of these differences have led to inevitable clashes among baby boomers and generations X, Y, Z and Alpha, she added.

"OK boomer" - a dismissive phrase used by younger people as a retort to older people - and the "strawberry generation" label used to describe the younger generation as overly sensitive and easily bruised are examples of reductionist caricatures that "obfuscate the path to finding common ground", she said, adding that this can lead to tension in workplaces and homes.

"If we truly want to harness the potential of youth and tap into the experiences of seniors, then we must not be dismissive of their thoughts, dreams and fears," said Ms Nadia.

She added that the middle ground, which has been carefully built up over the years, should be enlarged, not shrunk.

5 The heated debate after Jamus Lim's speech

WP's economist Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) sparked a protracted debate with his maiden speech, which focused on minimum wage and "compassionate policymaking".

Several suggestions he made prompted questions and comments from seven PAP MPs, including Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Associate Professor Lim's fellow WP MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) also joined the fray to respond to comments made by Ms Gan Siow Huang (Marymount), Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) and Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC).

Prof Lim agreed, after the quizzing, that it was not the right time to implement a minimum wage, but suggested it could be rolled out "after the storm has passed".

He said he did not know what level of minimum wage would be appropriate for Singapore, and suggested an independent panel be formed to study this.

The exchanges lasted 35 minutes before Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin called on the House to move on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2020, with the headline 'Five highlights'. Print Edition | Subscribe