SINGAPORE - Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh on Monday (Aug 24) congratulated Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on his re-election, and said that he had given WP MPs appropriate time to engage the Government on the issues that matter.
"We trust that you will continue in the same vein," Mr Singh added in his first speech in Parliament as Leader of the Opposition.
Speaking on behalf of the nine other WP MPs and two Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency MPs, he pledged to continue to support Mr Tan's efforts in raising the esteem of Parliament and Singapore.
He also urged Mr Tan to lend support to a suggestion he made in 2016, for the Government to consider setting up more parliamentary select committees, such as on key issues like ageing and population.
This would demystify the work of Parliament, a central pillar of Singapore's system of government, and make politics more accountable and policies better, he said.
In turn, it would help Singaporeans to better appreciate lawmaking and debates on policy imperatives and trade-offs, he added.
"Parliament's direct and indirect impact on each and every Singaporean and our businesses is massive, and it is only appropriate that we amplify the choices and the reasons behind the decisions made or not made in Parliament more widely," he said.
"In doing so, I hope Singaporeans are in turn driven to understand the issues we debate deeply, but always in the context of a small and multiracial society which has to balance and accommodate many different viewpoints and shifting norms."
Mr Singh said Mr Tan had sought to increase public awareness about the work of Parliament since assuming the role of Speaker in 2017, such as through increased used of social media, in step with the changing norms of society but without compromising on the formality and serious purpose of Parliament.
"In doing so, you have encouraged Singaporeans to take an active interest in Parliament as an organ of state that is fundamental to our democracy," he added.
Another thing Mr Tan had done was take an active interest in engaging the parliamentarians of Singapore's closest neighbours, taking delegations on visits to the Parliaments of Malaysia and Indonesia, said Mr Singh.
"Indeed, as this generation of Singaporeans traverses a more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world than before, we would be remiss to ignore our closest neighbours and the context of Singapore's place in our neighbourhood and the wider world," he added.
He recounted how during a courtesy visit to the Dewan Rakyat - Malaysia's Lower House of Parliament - in March last year, a Malaysian MP had asked Mr Tan for his advice on the removal of an MP, which was being fiercely debated at that sitting.
"I do not think it was a coincidence that another Malaysian MP stood up and invited the Dewan Rakyat to seek your advice from the visitor's gallery as to whether such a removal of an MP was proper," said Mr Singh.
"Though we have not experienced such an episode ourselves in the Singapore Parliament in recent memory, it is clear that your views on how such a matter should be handled are valued in the region."
He added: "I am sure the House will continue to look forward to your leadership in such official functions which also includes meeting Singaporeans overseas and flying the Singapore flag high."