The new line-up of committees made up of backbenchers that will scrutinise government legislation was announced yesterday, with three newcomer MPs named as deputies.
All 12 of these government parliamentary committees (GPCs), however, will continue to be led by experienced MPs. GPCs were introduced in 1987 by the People's Action Party (PAP) to act as a form of shadow opposition by scrutinising the legislation and programmes of ministries.
The new line-up, unveiled in a statement by the PAP yesterday, shows four MPs getting leadership positions for the first time.
Leaders of GPCs
Communications and Information Chairman: Mr Zaqy Mohamad
Deputy chairman: Ms Sun Xueling
Culture, Community and Youth Chairman: Mr David Ong
Deputy chairman: Dr Lim Wee Kiak
Defence and Foreign Affairs Chairman: Mr Vikram Nair
Deputy chairman: Mr Amrin Amin
Education Chairman: Ms Denise Phua
Deputy chairman: Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar
Environment and Water Resources Chairman: Ms Lee Bee Wah
Deputy chairman: Mr Gan Thiam Poh
Finance plus Trade and Industry Chairman: Mr Liang Eng Hwa
Deputy chairman: Mr Cedric Foo
Health Chairman: Dr Chia Shi-Lu
Deputy chairman: Dr Lily Neo
Home Affairs plus Law Chairman: Mr Christopher de Souza
Deputy chairman: Mr Edwin Tong
Manpower Chairman: Mr Patrick Tay
Deputy chairman: Mr Zainal Sapari
National Development Chairman: Mr Alex Yam
Deputy chairman: Mr Chong Kee Hiong
Social and Family Development Chairman: Mr Seah Kian Peng
Deputy chairman: Ms Tin Pei Ling
Transport Chairman: Mr Sitoh Yih Pin
Deputy chairman: Mr Ang Hin Kee
These new chairmen are: Mr Vikram Nair for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Mr Christopher de Souza for Home Affairs and Law, Mr Patrick Tay for Manpower and Mr Seah Kian Peng for Social and Family Development.
Mr Nair, an international arbitration lawyer, said his legal background would be helpful in looking at treaties and treaty obligations.
"The legislation in this area usually doesn't get a great deal of attention in Parliament," he said. "As for foreign affairs, it helps to keep our relationships with other countries strong, while defence is essential to our existence."
Mr Tay, a unionist, wants to focus on the challenges faced by the rapidly changing labour pool - specifically, the growing number of professionals, managers and executives, and the ageing workforce.
Three former deputy chairmen have also moved up to be chairmen: Mr Alex Yam for National Development, Mr David Ong for Culture, Community and Youth, and Ms Denise Phua for Education.
The three first-term MPs who are deputy chairmen were nominated by their fellow GPC members.
They are Mr Amrin Amin for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Mr Chong Kee Hiong for National Development, and Ms Sun Xueling for Communications and Information.
Mr Chong, chief executive of OUE Hospitality Trust, said: "The most important thing is to listen to as many views as possible, be able to gather feedback for current policies and anticipate future needs."
GPCs also serve as an additional channel of feedback on government policies. Typically, they are for two years. The GPCs begin their duties when the 13th Parliament opens on Jan 15, four months after the September general election this year.
Two ministries, once combined, now have their own GPCs: National Development plus Environment and Water Resources ministries.
Ms Lee Bee Wah, who led the old GPC, now heads the GPC for the Environment and Water Resources.
Said Mr Amrin: "GPCs act as an extra pair of eyes for legislation. MPs, with their areas to focus on, will meet ministry officials to find out their plans and priorities.
"This keeps Parliament debates focused and informed, and the Government accountable to the people."