Parliament Highlights – 7 October 2019

07 Oct 2019 3 min read


No misuse of academic institutions for political advocacy: Ong Ye Kung

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is concerned that institutes of higher learning (IHLs) may be used to conduct partisan political activities to sow dissent against the Government.

Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung told Parliament on 7 October that MOE had this concern when it looked at the itinerary of a proposed Yale-NUS College module titled Dissent and Resistance. He said the ministry fully supported the college’s decision to cancel the module.

The module, which would have been run by Singaporean poet and playwright Alfian Sa’at, was cancelled by the college on Sept 13, about two weeks before it was scheduled to begin.

“MOE’s stand is we cannot have such activity in our schools or institutes of higher learning. Political conscientisation is not the taxpayer’s idea of what education means,” he added.

Mr Ong reassured the House that the ministry values academic freedom but he cautioned that there will be people who want to misuse it to advance their hidden agendas.

To preserve what we cherish, he stressed that we must be ready to protect it when the situation calls for it.

“Academic freedom cannot be carte blanche for anyone to misuse an academic institution for political advocacy, for this would undermine the institution’s academic standards and public standing,” he added.

In response to how students can be assured of their right to take part in causes here responsibly and within the law, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that young people need to know how to identify charlatans so that they can act responsibly and legally when pursuing political and social causes.

As to whether the Ministry of Home Affairs regulates or monitors political activities of student groups in these universities, Mr Shanmugam said his ministry’s agencies focus on those who engage in activities that endanger national security.

“We do not and we cannot, and we are unable to monitor all of them. The agencies have their own ways of identifying security threats, and they will take appropriate action, in context.”

Amendments to Women’s Charter to help police act against online vice

Harsher penalties for prostitution-related offences and new laws allowing “more decisive action” against online vice were among the proposed amendments to the Women’s Charter. 

The Bill was introduced for its first reading in Parliament and seeks to “strengthen the laws against online vice” and “enhance the police’s levers” against vice syndicates, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a press release.

The proposed amendments include enhanced penalties against vice syndicates that “exploit and profit off women and girls”. 

Maximum jail terms will be raised from three years to five years – and from five years to seven years in more severe cases – for a first-time offender. 

Fines will also be raised to S$100,000 for a first conviction and S$150,000 for repeat offenders. The current maximum fines range from S$2,000 to S$10,000 for a first conviction and S$10,000 to S$15,000 for repeat offenders. 

Another proposed change is the introduction of extra-territorial jurisdiction to a section of the Charter that will allow the police to better deal with anyone using “remote communication services” to offer or facilitate the provision of sexual services in Singapore, even if the services are hosted overseas.

75 per cent of industrial emissions from petrochemicals sector

Singapore generated 52.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2017, with industries contributing about 60 per cent of the amount, said Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry.

The 52.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases generated by Singapore represents about 0.11 per cent of global emissions, according to the National Climate Change Secretariat.

In response to a parliamentary question, Dr Koh said that the majority of emissions from the industrial sector is from the combustion of fossil fuels by the refining and petrochemicals sector, with the latter contributing about three-quarters of industries’ emissions.

On how the Government is urging existing industries to cut their emissions, Dr Koh said that it is encouraging companies to adopt energy-efficient technologies.

Saudi oil attacks:Limited impact on Singapore

Given the stabilisation in global oil prices and oil production capacity in Saudi Arabia returning to normal, the drone attacks on two Saudi oil facilities last month will likely have “limited” impact on the Singapore economy, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon.

Dr Koh told the Parliament that Singapore’s oil supply remained sufficient throughout the period of outage and the impact on consumer prices is likely to be small.

Two major oil installations in Saudi Arabia were attacked by drones on 14 September 2019. The attack knocked out 5.7 million barrels per day off production, equivalent to more than half of the OPEC kingpin’s output and 5 per cent of the world’s production.

Dr Koh said the incident is a “useful reminder” about the importance of energy security, especially given ongoing tensions in the Middle East.

He noted that the Government adopts several strategies to secure the country’s energy supply and keep energy prices competitive, for example diversifying the country’s sources of crude oil and gas to ensure continuous supply even in face of disruptions, and promoting competition in the electricity market to ensure that Singaporeans enjoy competitive electricity prices.