Leader of the Opposition role broadly in spirit of conventions in UK: Pritam

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin meeting over lunch yesterday. Mr Tan said they discussed the general election and politics, life in general, and also Mr Singh's role as Leader of the Opposition. PHOTO: TAN CH
Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin meeting over lunch yesterday. Mr Tan said they discussed the general election and politics, life in general, and also Mr Singh's role as Leader of the Opposition. PHOTO: TAN CHUAN-JIN/FACEBOOK

The broad scope of duties, privileges and remuneration he will get as Leader of the Opposition (LO) is largely in line with the conventions of the British Parliament, said Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh.

He added that he would speak more about his party's approach in Parliament for the coming term after the House reopens on Aug 24.

His remarks, made in a Facebook post yesterday, came after a joint press statement by the Offices of the Speaker of Parliament and Leader of the House set out the duties and privileges of the LO.

Mr Singh, a lawyer, said he had met Leader of the House Grace Fu and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday about his appointment.

Posting a photo of Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, he noted on Facebook that many Commonwealth Parliaments recognise it as the "bible" of parliamentary practice.

"The broad scope of duties, privileges and remuneration extended to Singapore's Leader of the Opposition as outlined in the joint press release largely follows the spirit of the convention towards the Leader of the Opposition as practised by the UK Parliament," he said.

He added: "Members of the public would be aware that the formal designation of an LO is a new one in Singapore's political history."

He also said he would extend his support to the Progress Singapore Party's two Non-Constituency MPs, given the staff and resources he will have.

Parliament will reopen on Aug 24 with the President's Address, and the debate on it will start a week later, on Aug 31.

Mr Singh was appointed to the role after the WP made historic gains in the July 10 polls, winning 10 parliamentary seats and its second group representation constituency.

NEW DESIGNATION

Members of the public would be aware that the formal designation of an LO is a new one in Singapore's political history.

WORKERS' PARTY CHIEF PRITAM SINGH

In a subsequent post last night, he said he would allocate 50 per cent of his $385,000 annual salary, after taxes, for four purposes - the first of which is to help low-income residents in Hougang SMC, Aljunied GRC and Sengkang GRC through the WP Community Fund or the WP Grassroots Committee.

His salary will also go towards funding community programmes in WP-held constituencies, charitable or worthy causes, as well as WP specific needs, he added.

Mr Singh wrote on Facebook that it is a privilege to be appointed as the Leader of the Opposition.

"While I am grateful to receive the additional support and remuneration that comes with the title of Leader of the Opposition, the appointment will require more investment of my time and longer hours away from my family," he said.

After putting his daughters to bed, he said he discussed the appointment with his wife, inclu-ding what the salary increase would mean to their family, among other things.

"Both of us felt strongly that a percentage of the salary should be used for a greater purpose," he said.

The LO appointment carries with it many additional responsibilities, he added.

"The road ahead will not be easy, but I thank Singaporeans for their support and encouragement."

Tham Yuen-C

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2020, with the headline 'Leader of the Opposition role broadly in spirit of conventions in UK: Pritam'. Print Edition | Subscribe