Parliament Highlights – 9 January 2017

09 Jan 2017 3 min read

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Singapore asks for immediate return of Terrexes
 
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying for the immediate return of the military vehicles, which have been detained in Hong Kong since November, said Minister of Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on 9 January 2017.
 
Dr Ng shared that Mr Lee wrote to Mr Leung to reiterate Singapore’s sovereign rights over the Terrexes and request the immediate return of the vehicles.
 
Giving updates in Parliament, Dr Ng explained that the vehicles are the property of the Singapore Government and protected by international law. Under the principle of sovereign immunity, property belonging to a country cannot be seized or forfeited. This principle is well established under international law and also the law of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, Dr Ng added.
 
In response, Dr Ng noted that the Hong Kong authorities shared that investigations are ongoing and will take some time to be completed. He added that Singapore  “welcomed”this response.
 
The nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles were seized by Hong Kong Customs in November 2016 when they were in transit on their way back from a military exercise in Taiwan.
 
In the wake of this incident, Dr Ng shared that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has taken steps to review its shipping procedures “comprehensively” to reduce the risk of its equipment being detained.
 
Dr Ng also highlighted that existing commercial shipping arrangements have allowed the SAF to ship equipment safely and economically without any significant incidents over the last 30 years,
 
In response to questions from Members of Parliament (MPs), Dr Ng confirmed that Singapore would consider commercial claims against the carrier – APL – in the event of losses which may arise from the Terrexes not being returned or delayed in their return.
 
Revealing that the cost of the nine Terrexes, as listed in the shipping manifest was S$30 million, Dr Ng reiterated that no military secrets have been compromised as the Terrexes were being used for training and did not contain sensitive equipment.
 
In conclusion, Dr Ng said Singapore and Hong Kong have long enjoyed good and friendly relations. “We hope the matter will be resolved satisfactorily and our friendly relations will endure,” he said.
 
Proposed changes to Presidential Elections Act tabled
 
Prospective Presidential Election candidates will have more time to submit their papers, and a committee tasked to decide if they qualify to run for office will also have more time to evaluate the applications.
 
These are some of the changes to the Presidential Elections Act which were tabled in Parliament on 9 January 2017.
 
Under the proposed changes, the candidates will be given five days, instead of just three, to apply for a certificate of eligibility. This would give them more time to prepare their applications, since the new eligibility criteria require them to submit more information.
 
It is also proposed that the minimum interval between the issue of the writ of election and nomination day be raised to 10 days from the current five, allowing the Presidential Elections Committee more time to assess the applications.
 
The Bill also proposes that a committee be set up to ascertain which race a candidate belongs to. It will comprise of a chairman and three sub-committees with five members each, and all 16 members will be appointed by the Prime Minister.
 
The changes are intended to effect amendments to the Constitution which were passed in November last year, and to improve the processes and procedures of the upcoming Presidential Election.
 
More Singaporeans staying employed beyond 62
 
Minister for Manpower Mr Lim Swee Say said that the local employment rate has increased, with 98 per cent of local residents offered re-employment at the age of 62 in 2015.
 
Local employment rate for residents aged 55 to 64 years old has also increased to 67. 3 per cent in June last year.
 
Nonetheless, the Government will continue to provide support for older workers with schemes such as the Special Employment Credit, and the Adapt and Grow initiative. Mr Lim said, “MOM will continue to work closely with our tripartite partners to extend support to all local jobseekers as we go through this period of economic transition.”
 
He added that special attention is also being paid to people who are long-term unemployed, referring to those being unemployed for over six months.
 
In the same vein, amendments to the Retirement and Re-Employment Act was also passed in Parliament.
 
Employers will be legally obliged to offer re-employment to all eligible Singaporean workers up to the age of 67 years old.
 
The voluntary employment of employees is currently encouraged through a scheme which offsets up to three per cent of the monthly salary.
 
This scheme has benefitted 120,000 local workers aged 65 years and above annually. Additionally, the amendments also allow for eligible employees to be re-employed by another employer; and removing the option for employers to cut employees’ wages at 60 years of age.