Three newcomer MPs named deputies in line-up of GPCs

(From left) Mr Amrin Amin, Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Ms Sun Xueling.
(From left) Mr Amrin Amin, Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Ms Sun Xueling. PHOTO: ST FILE

Also, four MPs take on leadership roles in govt parliamentary committees for the first time

The new line-up of committees made up of backbenchers that will scrutinise government legislation was announced yesterday, with three newcomer MPs named as deputies.

All 12 of these government parliamentary committees (GPCs), however, will continue to be led by experienced MPs. GPCs were introduced in 1987 by the People's Action Party (PAP) to act as a form of shadow opposition by scrutinising the legislation and programmes of ministries.

The new line-up, unveiled in a statement by the PAP yesterday, shows four MPs getting leadership positions for the first time.

  • Leaders of GPCs

  • Communications and Information Chairman: Mr Zaqy Mohamad

    Deputy chairman: Ms Sun Xueling

    Culture, Community and Youth Chairman: Mr David Ong

    Deputy chairman: Dr Lim Wee Kiak

    Defence and Foreign Affairs Chairman: Mr Vikram Nair

    Deputy chairman: Mr Amrin Amin

    Education Chairman: Ms Denise Phua

    Deputy chairman: Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar

    Environment and Water Resources Chairman: Ms Lee Bee Wah

    Deputy chairman: Mr Gan Thiam Poh

    Finance plus Trade and Industry Chairman: Mr Liang Eng Hwa

    Deputy chairman: Mr Cedric Foo

    Health Chairman: Dr Chia Shi-Lu

    Deputy chairman: Dr Lily Neo

    Home Affairs plus Law Chairman: Mr Christopher de Souza

    Deputy chairman: Mr Edwin Tong

    Manpower Chairman: Mr Patrick Tay

    Deputy chairman: Mr Zainal Sapari

    National Development Chairman: Mr Alex Yam

    Deputy chairman: Mr Chong Kee Hiong

    Social and Family Development Chairman: Mr Seah Kian Peng

    Deputy chairman: Ms Tin Pei Ling

    Transport Chairman: Mr Sitoh Yih Pin

    Deputy chairman: Mr Ang Hin Kee

These new chairmen are: Mr Vikram Nair for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Mr Christopher de Souza for Home Affairs and Law, Mr Patrick Tay for Manpower and Mr Seah Kian Peng for Social and Family Development.

Mr Nair, an international arbitration lawyer, said his legal background would be helpful in looking at treaties and treaty obligations.

"The legislation in this area usually doesn't get a great deal of attention in Parliament," he said. "As for foreign affairs, it helps to keep our relationships with other countries strong, while defence is essential to our existence."

Mr Tay, a unionist, wants to focus on the challenges faced by the rapidly changing labour pool - specifically, the growing number of professionals, managers and executives, and the ageing workforce.

Three former deputy chairmen have also moved up to be chairmen: Mr Alex Yam for National Development, Mr David Ong for Culture, Community and Youth, and Ms Denise Phua for Education.

The three first-term MPs who are deputy chairmen were nominated by their fellow GPC members.

They are Mr Amrin Amin for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Mr Chong Kee Hiong for National Development, and Ms Sun Xueling for Communications and Information.

Mr Chong, chief executive of OUE Hospitality Trust, said: "The most important thing is to listen to as many views as possible, be able to gather feedback for current policies and anticipate future needs."

GPCs also serve as an additional channel of feedback on government policies. Typically, they are for two years. The GPCs begin their duties when the 13th Parliament opens on Jan 15, four months after the September general election this year.

Two ministries, once combined, now have their own GPCs: National Development plus Environment and Water Resources ministries.

Ms Lee Bee Wah, who led the old GPC, now heads the GPC for the Environment and Water Resources.

Said Mr Amrin: "GPCs act as an extra pair of eyes for legislation. MPs, with their areas to focus on, will meet ministry officials to find out their plans and priorities.

"This keeps Parliament debates focused and informed, and the Government accountable to the people."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'Three newcomer MPs named deputies in line-up of GPCs'. Print Edition | Subscribe