Debate in 2 minutes: Paralympians honoured

The House yesterday began the three-day debate on the proposed changes to the elected presidency, with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean laying out the Government's reasons for wanting the amendments.

The sitting opened with a special move, during which MPs lauded the achievements of the national team at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this year.

Paralympians honoured

Parliament paid tribute to Singapore's Paralympic contingent, with two ministers and five MPs speaking of how they inspire and unify Singaporeans.

MPs gave them a standing ovation for winning two golds and a bronze in Singapore's best showing at the Paralympics in September.

Resignations among newer teachers

The annual rate at which teachers with fewer than five years in the service resign is around 3 to 4 per cent.

It is a tad higher than the overall resignation rate of 2 to 3 per cent a year in the past decade, said Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary.

Reasons for quitting range from family considerations like childcare to a desire for a change of job, said Dr Janil, adding that workload is not often given as a reason.

Few unfair layoffs

There is no clear evidence that irresponsible retrenchment is on the rise, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said.

Out of the 94 retrenchment- related cases from workers last year, 15 were complaints about unfair retrenchment or denial of retrenchment compensation.

The corresponding figures for the first nine months of this year are 63 and 14.

President's message

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, in his first comments on proposed changes to the elected presidency, said it is important that the Office of the Presidency maintains multiracialism, a core value of Singapore that underpins its social cohesion and harmony.

He also endorsed the need to enhance the eligibility criteria of presidential candidates to be good custodians of the national reserves.

EP changes explained

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean set out in a lengthy speech the reasons for the proposed changes to the elected presidency (EP).

The need for a five-term hiatus mechanism is to facilitate the periodic election of different races to the presidency, he said. The criteria need to be up-to-date to maintain a measure of assurance that the candidates have the necessary experience and expertise to be custodian of the national reserves.

DPM Teo also said the custodian role is important to safeguard the country's reserves.

No to tokenism

The qualifying criteria for the elected presidency must remain stringent for all candidates regardless of their race, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said.

The debate on providing a minority safeguard has put his community in the spotlight, he added, saying: "We do not want, and we cannot accept, tokenism."

Pearl Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2016, with the headline 'Debate In 2 Minutes'. Subscribe