Parliament Highlights – 5 August 2019

05 Aug 2019 5 min read


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15 town councils to ban use of PMDs at void decks

Personal mobility devices (PMDs) will be banned from void decks and common corridors of Housing Board blocks under the 15 town councils run by the People’s Action Party. This is being done to increase the safety of public paths and users must dismount and push their devices at these areas.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min made the announcement in a ministerial statement in Parliament on 5 August 2019.

Separately, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will start a three-month trial of pedestrian-only zones, where PMD riders will be required to dismount and push their devices at town centres.

This will be tested at the town centres of Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Batok and Khatib, and a neighbourhood centre in Tampines.

Dr Lam said that town councils had highlighted the high accident risk in these areas, where paths are lined with shops and pedestrians “walk in all directions”, hence a “potentially higher risk of accidents, compared to a linear footpath”.

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council is still deliberating the move. No timeline has been set for the ban.

The pedestrian-only zones are part of a $50 million initiative to improve the infrastructure in hot spots where such accidents often occur. Other improvements include:

  • Widening footpaths
  • Installing clear warning signs; and
  • Fixing speed regulating strips on the paths to slow down PMD users 

“We will work with local MPs and residents to identify the infrastructure improvements to tackle specific hot spots in each constituency,” Dr Lam added.

Dr Lam also announced that the deadline to ban PMD without the UL2272 safety certification* from public paths has been brought forward by six months to July 2020. 

This comes after LTA announced last month that it was reviewing its end-2020 deadline for UL2272 compliance, following a recent spate of PMD-related fires.

There have been 49 PMD-related fires reported in the first half of this year, compared to 52 for the whole of last year.

LTA will also schedule all e-scooters – both new and currently registered – for inspections from April 2020. The inspection will be free of charge.

On the issue of enforcement, Dr Lam said LTA will continue to ramp up enforcement and since May 2018, LTA’s officers have detected over 4,9000 active mobility offences, impounded more than 2,100 non-compliant devices, and taken action against 12 PMD retailers.

*What the UL2272 standard means:

  • Require PMDs to pass a stringent set of tests conducted by accredited testing centres under extreme physical conditions
  • Automatically cuts off battery charging once the battery is fully charged
  • Improves safety against fire and electrical hazards significantly

Crisis management system in place to handle civil unrest

Singapore Government has a crisis management system in place should multiple concurrent civil unrest incidents occur, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Amrin Amin.

He said the primary strategy to deal with such incidents happening at the same time must be to put in place measures to prevent any assembly or procession from escalating into civil unrest in the first place.

Responding to a Parliamentary question, he replied that public assemblies in Singapore are regulated under the Public Order Act and a police permit is needed to hold such assemblies. Clear guidelines are also given to organisers.

Additionally, the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act (POSSPA) enacted last year give the police powers to deal effectively with serious threats to public security and order, reiterated Mr Amrin.

“While police resources could be stretched in managing multiple civil unrests, they remain committed to maintain law and order without compromising on response to urgent incidents,” he emphasised.

Singapore takes treaty obligations seriously

Singapore abstained from voting for a new global treaty against violence and harassment in the workplace due to “concerns about overreach,” said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Singapore voted against the treaty, that has since been adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), as Singapore takes its treaty obligations seriously and has a longstanding policy to “only consider adopting or ratifying conventions which are in Singapore’s interests, and with which (its) laws and policies can fully comply,” she said in Parliament.

“This (new treaty) would expand workplace safety and health well beyond the workplace remit,” she added.

Singapore was one of the six governments — along with Russia, El Salvador, Malaysia, Paraguay and Kyrgyzstan — to abstain when the vote was held during the ILO’s annual conference of governments, employer groups and workers on Jun 21.

Mrs Teo emphasised that the Government will continue to study the terms of the convention and “make improvements to our policies and measures that are aligned with the spirit of the convention, if they also meet our objectives.”

Singapore voted in favour of a non-legally binding ILO recommendation accompanying the convention that is aligned with its commitment to eliminate workplace violence and harassment. Singapore has also put in place practical measures to eliminate workplace violence and harassment such as how employers must meet the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices which covers grievance handling.

No plans to lower voting age

The Government does not plan to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing said. 

Responding to a question on whether the Government will review the voting age, Mr Chan noted that Singapore has adopted a graduated approach in setting the various legal ages at which a person can undertake different responsibilities.

“A person’s rights and responsibilities gradually increase as one matures, until the common law age of majority of 21, when a person comes of age to make decisions as an adult and engages in activities that involve significant personal responsibility,” said Mr Chan.  

He added: “Voting in elections involves making serious choices, which requires experience and maturity.”

Acknowledging that many youths want a voice in national matters and would like to make a difference, he said the Government will continue to maintain platforms and channels, such as the SG Youth Action Plan, where youths can express their views and contribute ideas to nation-building.

New public entertainment licences for Orchard Towers: “Unlikely”

Orchard Towers, notorious for its violent and salacious activities, is “unlikely” to have new public entertainment licences granted to it.

Taking into consideration the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s planning intent, feedback from the community and prevailing law and order considerations, police have included Orchard Towers in its list of locations where Public Entertainment licences are unlikely to be granted.

According to the police website, 11 locations including Orchard Towers fall under this category. The others include Boat Quay, Chinatown, Cuppage Plaza, Geylang, Joo Chiat, Blair Plan, Kampong Glam, Little India, Orchard Plaza and Parklane Shopping Mall.

Announcing this Parliament, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said more resources have been deployed such as Special Operations Command troops.

“This enhanced presence is supplemented with increased deployment in CCTV cameras to deter streetwalking and other illegal activities” He added: “Police will continue to keep a close watch on the law and order situation at Orchard Towers and ensure the safety of the public.”

Mr Amrin also shared details on the enforcement actions carried out at Orchard Towers.

Last year,18 anti-vice operations were conducted, resulting in the arrest of 76 vice workers.  The number of illegal massage parlours at Orchard Towers has decreased over the past three years, Seven illegal massage parlours were detected in 2018 and these have been shuttered, he said. Of these, four were fined and one was issued a stern warning while the other two are still being investigated, said Mr Amrin.

‘No fraud involved’ in waivers: Grace Fu

There was no fraud involved in the waivers of contractual provisions,  amounting to S$13 million, for the National Gallery development project, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in Parliament on Monday (Aug 5).

Responding to a Parliamentary question, Ms Fu reiterated that the S$13 million refers primarily to “waivers of penalties for additional time taken by the contractor to complete construction works”, and was not an overpayment.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) has reviewed the AGO’s findings and “is satisfied that there was no fraud involved” in the waivers, she said.

Image: The Straits Times