MPs all set for opening of 13th Parliament

President Tony Tan Keng Yam will address the 13th Parliament at 8.30pm today at Parliament House (above), and outline the Government's goals and directions for its new five-year term.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam will address the 13th Parliament at 8.30pm today at Parliament House (above), and outline the Government's goals and directions for its new five-year term.ST FILE PHOTO

Swearing-in today marks start of new Govt for five years; line-up includes 21 first-timers

Four months after the hurly-burly of the hustings, 91 MPs will stride into Parliament this afternoon for a solemn ceremony that will mark the start of a new Singapore Government for five years.

They will be sworn in, taking an oath of allegiance to the country.

The line-up includes 21 first-timers, five of whom are office-holders. Two are already in Cabinet: Acting Education Ministers Ng Chee Meng, 47, and Ong Ye Kung, 46.

This pool of fresh faces is smaller than in the Parliament of 2011, when 30, or one-third, of the MPs were newcomers.

But all of Singapore's major ethnic groups are well represented among the 21, as are many of the leading professions and interest groups.

The range of private- and public-sector experience in the pool is also significant.

 

Together, these MPs will give voice to people's hopes and fears in an increasingly diverse society as well as ensure policies are inclusive.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam is expected to touch on these issues, among others, when he addresses the 13th Parliament at 8.30pm, in a speech that will outline the Government's goals and directions for its new five-year term.

In the following week, various ministries will lay out their plans in public statements, known as the Addenda to the President's Address.

MPs will debate the speech over five days, starting on Jan 25.

Meanwhile, new MPs interviewed said they are busy crafting and editing their maiden speeches, to reflect the various views they have collected after Singapore went to the polls on Sept 11.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira, 48, who was overseeing active ageing issues at the People's Association, said she will focus on caring for the elderly. Her Henderson-Dawson ward is largely a mature residential estate with a disproportionate number of elderly folk.

Across the island, in Tampines GRC, Mr Desmond Choo, 37, will focus on the young. Said the father of one, whose daughter Sarah was born two weeks after Polling Day: "Many younger residents, especially young parents, have given me feedback and ideas on how the Government can support them."

More infant and childcare facilities are on their wish list, he added.

 

The new MPs have also attended briefing sessions on parliamentary procedures. Still, several confess to first-time jitters.

Said Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Saktiandi Supaat, 42: "Of course, I'm nervous about my first speech... I'm not sure what the reception will be. But the senior party members have been supportive, and that helps."

Some also acknowledged that they are still pondering what to wear for the swearing-in, which will be shown live on television.

Said Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam, 35: "I'm deciding between a pantsuit and a baju kurung."

Ms Pereira will wear a pantsuit to take the oath and a cheongsam for the President's address in the evening. "It's a formal event. My attire will suit the occasion," she said.

Mr Choo will don the suit he wore on his wedding day five years ago: "I'm glad I can still fit into it."

Among the 91 MPs are two Non-Constituency MPs, who are the opposition candidates with the best showing at the polls, to ensure the House has a minimum of nine opposition MPs at any one time.

Both are from the Workers' Party: Mr Leon Perera, a consultant, and Mr Dennis Tan, a lawyer, both 45.

Mr Perera said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that he had spent some time reflecting at his father's columbarium niche earlier in the day.

When asked about it yesterday, he told The Straits Times his thoughts were "on how much I owe to both my parents, who instilled in me such values as discipline, curiosity, humility and an interest in the wider society".

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Who's who in the new Parliament http://str.sg/ZHCn

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'MPs all set for opening of 13th Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe