Newly elected Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday called on MPs to work with him to make Parliament the institution that "reflects the voices of the people so that we can query, answer and debate in a manner that provides hope and clarity''.
He also urged them to be accessible and relevant as they play an important role in upholding parliamentary democracy.
Giving his first speech as Speaker, Mr Tan pledged that he will be impartial and fair as well as firm. "I want to facilitate good, free-flowing debate where the desired outcome is better policies and laws," he said, reminding MPs to debate vigorously and maintain mutual respect.
Mr Tan was elected Singapore's 10th Speaker, a week since his name was put forth by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loongafter Madam Halimah Yacob resigned to stand in the presidential election.
His first sitting as Speaker was marked by light-hearted moments that drew chuckles, such as when he gave MPs a short, 10-minute break and when Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam pleaded for more time to answer several questions.
Leader of the House Grace Fu, who nominated him, said that in his time as Manpower Minister and later, as Social and Family Development Minister, Mr Tan earned the trust of people who had different views and convictions. This quality will be valuable in ensuring productive debates in the House.
Five other MPs spoke of his fairness and sincerity, saying the traits would serve him well as Speaker.
Mr Tan, in thanking his former Cabinet colleagues and fellow MPs, noted the crucial role of Parliament in a parliamentary democracy.
He said: "The legitimacy of the laws we enact rests on the scrupulous attention we - on both sides of this House - pay to the reasoned debate which accompanies the passing of each law.
"No one doubts that our goal in these sittings must be to advance the interests of all Singaporeans."
He also said the presence of opposition colleagues in the House is "a strength and positive step towards constructive contestation of ideas".
With such contestation set to be more complex, and the proliferation of new ways for people to get across their views, MPs also need to "engage beyond this House, to tap the collective wisdom that lies without", said Mr Tan. "We need to present the voices and needs of our individual constituents, but we need also to stand for a united Singapore, to speak with one voice in a fissiparous world."
Sharing Mr Tan's speech in a Facebook post after the sitting, PM Lee said: "I am confident Chuan-Jin will be an outstanding Speaker, and more. I wish him all the best!"
Mr Tan had also addressed questions of whether or not he was "demoted" as his new position required him to resign as Minister for Social and Family Development.
He said it was "not a bad thing" that this sparked discussion, adding: "We do need fellow Singaporeans to be involved, and to gain a deeper understanding of not just the Speaker's role, but also that of Parliament, its proceedings and how all of us contribute to making Singapore a better home for our people."