Parliament Highlights - 9 January 2018
PUBLISHED ON 09 Jan 2018
Maintaining a balanced mix of ethnic groups in HDB estates

Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat owners who have difficulty finding a buyer from a particular ethnic group can request for a time extension, said Minister for National Development Mr Lawrence Wong.

Responding to a query on whether assistance will be given to sellers who face problems selling their flat due to the ethnic integration policy (EIP), Mr Wong said HDB may grant them an extension and will advise them to be realistic with the asking prices.

Mr Wong said that most sellers are able to secure buyers from the eligible ethnic groups. He also stated that prospective buyers and sellers can check the ethnic eligibility through the HDB InfoWEB.

“The ethnic proportions are updated on the first day of every month, and they apply to all completed resale applications received during that month,” he explained.

Under HDB rules, sellers must dispose their old flat within six months of getting the keys to their new flat. Introduced in 1989, the EIP ensured aim to promote racial integration and harmony within HDB estates.

Opportunities in primary school for all children

Parents of children not in the Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergarten schools need not worry because there will be sufficient access for them to primary schools, assured Minister for Education, Mr Ng Chee Meng.

Responding to questions relating to MOE kindergartens, Mr Ng explained that the K1 intake of MOE kindergartens will be lower than the planned Primary 1 intake of the school they are co-located in, to ensure spaces for other children.

Mr Ng said, "From data, we have also seen that parents do exercise choices other than progressing their children from the kindergarten to the primary school... With a combination of such factors, we think that the likelihood of the children progressing to P1 in the same locality will be quite high."

Noting that there are several developmental benefits for children to remain in familiar physical, social and educational environment, Mr Ng added, "From the MOE kindergarten pilot experience, school-based kindergartens have greater synergies with primary schools, which in turn better support the children’s transition from K2 to P1."

Mr Ng assured that there is enough space for different pre-school operators as MOE kindergartens will only make up 20% of the early childhood education (ECE) market.

He also said that MOE has incorporated its best practices from its kindergartens to the Nurturing Early Learners portal which is available to the ECE community, ensuring that it is able to uplift the quality of pre-school education as a whole.

“Parents will still have sufficient choice, and good pre-schools that are able to provide quality services that meet the needs and preferences of families will continue to play an important role in this sector," said Mr Ng. 

Keeping serious crimes under control

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has proposed an extension of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA) for another five years, with effect from 21 October 2019.

Introduced for First Reading in Parliament, MHA noted that the Act allows for the detention of suspected criminals without trial.

“The Act remains an essential and effective legal instrument in our fight against secret societies, drug traffickers and syndicated crimes, and continues to be relevant for the maintenance of public safety, peace and good order in Singapore,” the Ministry said in a statement.

In addition, the proposed amendments will also spell out a list on the types of criminal activities which the Minister for Home Affairs can order for detention or police supervision.

The list of activities includes unlicensed moneylending, drug trafficking, kidnapping and offences related to organised criminal group activities.

Review of Singapore’s Penal Code to be completed in 2018: Shamugam

A review of the Penal Code is expected to conclude later this year, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law Mr K Shanmugam.

Giving an update in Parliament, Mr Shanmugam shared that the review covers areas such as laws that criminalise attempted suicide, marital immunity for rape, punishment for sexual offenders and the need to introduce new criminal offences to cope with the changing crime environment.

“The feedback on these issues, both from members of the House and outside, have been noted and are being considered in the review,” he added.

Mr Shanmugam also added that members of the public will be invited to provide feedback on the recommendations after the review is completed. 

Look out for the vulnerable in the community

The public should step forward and inform the authorities if they suspect something is happening to others, especially vulnerable people such as children and those with intellectual disabilities, said Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Desmond Lee.

Responding to queries on how the Ministry closely supervises cases of intellectually disabled persons and what can be done to prevent vulnerable persons from being taken advantage of or abused, Mr Lee pointed out that the upcoming Vulnerable Adults Bill will allow the authorities to intervene.

"But none of this would be effectual unless family members, colleagues, neighbours, passers-by, people who interact and suspect something amiss happening to not just persons with intellectual disability but to persons with disability, to children, to vulnerable adults, step forward, raise the alarm bells and bring the suspicion to the attention of the authorities," he added.

Mr Lee also shared that the Ministry works with community partners such as the Singapore Police Force, social service officers, Family Service Centres and disability service providers to identify and help those with no family support or are estranged from their families. 

Safeguarding Singaporean workers from unfair discrimination

Most employers in Singapore do not discriminate against employees with medical conditions, said Minister of State for Manpower Mr Sam Tan.

Mr Tan shared that there were three reported cases of such discrimination, out of 2,100 complaints on unfair employment practices in the past four years. He added that the complaints were investigated by the Manpower Ministry and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

Mr Tan urged Singaporeans to report such cases of suspected discrimination to the authorities. “If really the discrimination is found to be justified, MOM will take strong actions to make sure that the employers will adopt proper recruitment and employment practices,” he assured.

Mr Tan added that MOM and TAFEP will continue to monitor the situation closely and actively encourage employers to take up fair and progressive employment practices.

Singapore’s vote for peace on the status of Jerusalem

The Republic does not take sides and continues to support a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

Speaking in Parliament, Dr Balakrishnan explained why Singapore chose to vote in favour of the recent United Nations General Assembly resolution on the status of Jerusalem.

He said Singapore’s vote is consistent with its longstanding policy position, and in support of a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side, in peace and security. He added that the future status of Jerusalem should be determined through direct negotiations between both sides.

Dr Balakrishnan also explained that Singapore made a principled decision when it voted in favour of the resolution, and it is not Singapore’s style to abstain from voting.

“We therefore hope the parties involved will work towards the resumption of direct peace negotiations,” he said.  

Strenthening public sector governance

The Public Sector (Governance) Bill will now strengthen the governance of statutory boards and introduce a data sharing regime in the Government.
Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said that the Bill achieve three objectives – Standardise key governance requirements among statutory boards; ensure stat boards comply with key corporate policies particularly in human resources, finance, office administration and IT; and also improve the data sharing scheme.
Mr Ong emphasised that the Bill was to ensure that, “Cross-agency data-sharing initiatives are already happening today, because technology has made it possible. But we need to strengthen the rules, which were written before we could envisage how we can leverage data to improve our work and deliver services better.”
He also noted that sensitive information, will be protected in a database with limited access.