Coronavirus: President designates four other locations for Parliament sittings

Besides Parliament House (above), The Treasury, the Civil Service College, Arts House and NTUC Centre can now hold Parliament sittings.
Besides Parliament House (above), The Treasury, the Civil Service College, Arts House and NTUC Centre can now hold Parliament sittings.PHOTO: GOV.SG

Parliament can sit at four other locations for the next six months, after President Halimah Yacob designated these places yesterday.

They are the Arts House in Old Parliament Lane, The Treasury in High Street, the Civil Service College in North Buona Vista Road and NTUC Centre in Marina Boulevard.

These places can now hold Parliament sittings until Nov 20, after the President made a proclamation in the Government Gazette yesterday.

The announcement comes after a Bill was passed earlier this month to amend the Constitution so that the House can meet in multiple locations, if needed, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Madam Halimah gave her assent to the amendment on May 15.

Before the change, parliamentarians could meet at only one physical location - Parliament House.

MPs who spoke to The Straits Times said the locations would not be used for the upcoming Parliament sitting next Tuesday.

Mr Yee Chia Hsing, an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said: "It hasn't been implemented yet, but (having multiple locations for Parliament) will help minimise any possible mixing between members."

Nominated MP Anthea Ong said the move did not come as a surprise, given the Bill and the fact that MPs were divided into smaller groups during break times at the last two sittings. "We don't know yet where we will be seated but will be notified by the Clerk of Parliament," she added.

When contacted, Workers' Party (WP) Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, and Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng also said no arrangements for MPs to sit at the new locations have been made.

 
 
 
 

In presenting the Bill for debate earlier this month, Leader of the House Grace Fu said details of continuity arrangements such as the mode of communication between the appointed places will be decided by the House or the Speaker.

When activated, the arrangements will mean MPs can take part in Parliament proceedings fully despite being in separate places, and their presence will count for attendance, quorum and voting. The powers, immunities and privileges of the House will also apply.

At next Tuesday's sitting, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will detail the fourth round of Covid-19 support measures in his ministerial statement.

Several MPs have filed questions on the pandemic's impact. NMP Terence Ho will ask about support for the arts, while WP chairman Sylvia Lim will ask if shorter rental periods for public flats can be allowed, to house families displaced by construction delays. Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo will ask about the regionalisation of supply chains.

Three Bills are also up for a second reading, including the Small Motorised Vehicles (Safety) Bill which aims to prevent non-compliant personal mobility devices from entering Singapore.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2020, with the headline 'President designates four other locations for Parliament sittings'. Print Edition | Subscribe