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Parliament Highlights – 4 September 2019

04 Sep 2019 4 min read

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School teachers trained to manage LGBT bullying 

Teachers and counsellors are given “very extensive training” to handle bullying targeting gender identity or sexual orientation, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling in Parliament.

Responding to a parliamentary question on measures to combat bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression at educational institutions towards LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youths, Ms Low emphasised that MOE does not tolerate bullying of any form at any time in Singapore’s schools and post-secondary educational institutions (PSEIs).

“When working with students with sexuality-related issues, our school counsellor understands the sensitivity and they adopt an objective approach to ensure the overall best interest of the students,” she explained.

She added that school counsellors will facilitate continued family support “where relevant, and when the timing is right” to prevent students from being ostracised and developing mental health issues. In addition, the counsellors will also share suggestions to help the parents talk to and better support their children.

“The Ministry of Education will continue to look at how we can improve our systems and measure to make sure that we provide a safe and secure conducive environment for all our students,” Ms Low said.

More protection for abused and neglected children

Children who may be neglected or abused by their caregivers will now receive better protection following amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA).

The Act also seeks to provide greater support to youth offenders to reintegrate into society. 

To better protect abused or neglected children, the age limit for what’s considered a young person has been raised from 16 to 18. This would allow the authorities to intervene in cases of abuse involving older children.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee assured Members of Parliament (MPs) on 4 September 2019 that the ministry has been preparing for the ability to manage the larger number of children who will be covered under the Act. He said the implementation will be staggered, and the intention is to bring into force amendments to expand care and protection for children first in 2020.

Another change to the CYPA is the new Enhanced Care and Protection Order (ECPO).  ECPO allows the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and designated caregivers to children who are in out-of-home care to make day-to-day as well as more substantive decisions such as overseas travel – just as what parents would do in normal family settings, said Mr Lee.

He did note that sensitive decisions out of these parameters can only be made with parental consent or court authorisation. 

Under the CYPA amendments, youths who may have strayed are also given a helping hand. For one, the Youth Court will have expanded jurisdiction to hear cases of offenders who are below 18, up from 16 previously. This will be the default for most youth offenders, Mr Lee said. 

That said, there will be exceptions for these youths who commit serious offences such as gang or drug-related activities and unlicensed moneylending, or who are repeat offenders. 

Turning Pulau Semakau into a ‘treasure island’

A new Bill to tackle Singapore’s growing mountain of trash was read for the second time in Parliament as Singapore ramps up its drive to go zero-waste.

Speaking in Parliament, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor said that figuratively, Pulau Semakau can be regarded not as a landfill for trash but “a treasure island right in our very own backyard”.

Dr Khor said that the Resource Sustainability Bill will, for the first time, put in place a systems-level approach that mandates key responsibilities to enable reuse and recycling nationwide.

The idea is to use less and make recycling mandatory for some major manufacturers and retailers, as well as squeeze more value out of every bit of waste. This could happen through turning incineration ash into construction material, extracting gold and precious metals from discarded electronics as well as producing energy from food waste.

Dr Khor said turning trash to treasure will not only ensure a ready supply of resources for Singapore, buffering the country against global supply shocks, but it will also create new economic and job opportunities.

“Preliminary studies have estimated that if Singapore recovers and reuses materials from electronic waste, we can reap a net benefit of $40 million. This includes indirect benefits such as helping our companies export overseas and creating jobs.”

The Bill will also give regulatory teeth to waste-reducing measures in three priority streams – electronic waste (e-waste), food waste and packaging waste including plastics.

Measures in place to support local video gaming, e-sports industries: Chan Chun Sing

Singapore has several measures in place supporting start-ups and companies in the burgeoning video gaming and e-sports industry, which has seen success stories such as Razer, Sea and Secretlab, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Responding to a question on measures taken to nurture local start-ups and talent in the two industries, Mr Chan said in Parliament that there are both financial and non-financial support measures aimed at helping companies grow and the Government has plans to foster a robust talent pool and vibrant ecosystem in Singapore. 

The Government is working to build “international mindshare” as well, by playing host to the first Asian edition of gamescom – the world’s largest gaming festival – next year, he added.

Limited metadata on NAS portal

About two million government records over 25 years old are held by the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) as public archives but only 160,000 of them have metadata that is publicly accessible.

Responding to a parliamentary question, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann said that the number will grow as the Government works with various agencies to progressively declassify records.

“We hope to make as many documents and records publicly viewable and also searchable as possible. So all this is ongoing work,” she added.

Currently, records are considered for declassification when they are 25 years old.

Image: Screengrab from CNA