Parliament to debate changes to presidency

 President Tony Tan Keng Yam opening the first session of the 13th Parliament, flanked by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (left) and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, on Jan 15, 2016.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam opening the first session of the 13th Parliament, flanked by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (left) and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, on Jan 15, 2016.ST FILE PHOTO
Monday's sitting will start with a tribute to Singapore's Paralympians, including Rio Paralympic Games medallists Yip Pin Xiu (left) and Theresa Goh, for their best-ever showing at the Games in Brazil in September. SEE SPORT C15
Monday's sitting will start with a tribute to Singapore's Paralympians, including Rio Paralympic Games medallists Yip Pin Xiu (left) and Theresa Goh, for their best-ever showing at the Games in Brazil in September. SEE SPORT C15BH FILE PHOTO

It will also look at proposal for more NCMPs, as well as 7 other Bills next week

The proposed changes to the elected presidency and the Non-Constituency MP scheme will come up for debate when Parliament sits on Monday for the last sitting of the year.

The House, which is expected to sit for five days, will also scrutinise the year-end bumper crop of proposed amendments to various laws.

The sitting will begin with a tribute to Singapore's Paralympians and their medal haul at the Paralympics in Brazil in September.

Swimmers Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh won two golds and a bronze between them, giving Singapore its best-ever showing at the Games.

Said Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC): "Whenever a Singaporean achieves something on a global stage, it's to be celebrated.

"We had our first Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling lauded in Parliament in August, so having the Paralympians present on Monday will be wonderful, as we strive to be a more inclusive society."

But the issue set for a lengthy debate by MPs is the proposed changes to the elected presidency, which have been in the works since the start of the year.

These include reserving elections periodically for a particular race and changing the criteria for presidential candidates.

The constitutional amendment Bill will also raise the maximum number of NCMPs and give them voting rights, which will put them on a par with elected MPs.

The amendments have been called one of the biggest constitutional changes in recent years by political observers.

The slowing economy has also prompted MPs to ask for retrenchment figures here and how the Government will look out for the interests of workers who are laid off.

Some companies disguise layoffs by telling their workers to convert their contracts into agreements that lapse, which does not fall under the formal definition of retrenchment, said Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC).

"They do similar work, but without the benefits and norms of traditional employment," he said, adding that he has seen more such cases among his residents in recent months.

MPs such as Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) and Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson), whose constituencies have a higher proportion of older Housing Board flats, want to know how the structural integrity of the blocks is being safeguarded.

Their questions were prompted by at least three incidents in the past two months. Last month, for instance, part of the facade of a block in Circuit Road crashed to the ground after a storm, while earlier, a concrete sunshade in Tampines collapsed.

Online gambling worries two Workers' Party MPs, who will question the Government's decision to let two operators run gambling websites, exempting them from the ban on remote gambling.

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) filed an adjournment motion to talk for up to 20 minutes on preventing the ills of online gambling here. NCMP Leon Perera has asked for the Government's thoughts on the fallout in Norway and Hong Kong after they legalised gambling sites.

The House will also debate seven more Bills. One of them is the Credit Bureau Bill which will, for the first time, let the authorities suspend and revoke the licences of credit bureaus that do not safeguard customers' credit information.

The six others cover areas that include fire safety, parental leave and income tax.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Parliament to debate changes to presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe