WP MPs not stopped from speaking up in Parliament

The Workers' Party (WP) has not been stopped from speaking on its adjournment motion, nor is Singapore heading down the slippery slope of filibustering (An appeal against filibustering, by Mr Francis Cheng; Sept 30).

First, the WP's adjournment motion was not selected in a ballot for the Parliament sitting; it was not deliberately blocked.

It is significant that the WP itself has not suggested that its adjournment motion was blocked, and has instead participated in two rounds of balloting for its latest adjournment motion on the issue of the elected presidency.

Furthermore, filibustering in our parliamentary system refers to the deliberate waste of time by MPs during a debate by making overly long speeches or raising unnecessary procedural points. There are no signs of this happening in Singapore.

Second, should there be more than one adjournment motion raised for a Parliament sitting, balloting is the fair solution.

In a balloting system, each adjournment motion, regardless of its party of origin, stands a chance of being picked.

An alternative system that depends on the goodwill of the other MPs to postpone or withdraw their adjournment motions is one that is not transparent and might, ironically, breed partisanship in our Parliament, whereby the opposition could be deliberately prevented from raising any adjournment motion because the ruling party MPs disagree with the topic and refuse to give way.

Third, there are various ways for MPs to speak up in Parliament, and the opposition is not unaware of them.

While the WP had failed in its last two attempts to raise its adjournment motion, nothing stops it from trying again for the next Parliament sitting.

The option of raising a normal parliamentary motion for any topic of public importance is also available to the WP.

In that case, Parliament could even have a debate on the issue at hand.

Moreover, the WP MPs have also been filing their fair share of parliamentary questions at each sitting. It is wrong to suggest that they have been stopped from speaking up in Parliament.

It is crucial that Singaporeans understand the workings of Parliament so that our confidence in and respect for the highest lawmaking body of the country are upheld and not diminished.

Teo Jun Jie

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2017, with the headline 'WP MPs not stopped from speaking up in Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe