Screenshot of Parliament on July 17 from Facebook

According to a screenshot of a Parliament session on Tuesday (Jan 9), an estimated of more than 70 PAP MPs did not attend Parliament. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was the only senior Minister present, and none of the three Prime Minister runner-ups – Minister Chan Chun Sing, Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister Ong Ye Kung – was present.

The ruling party PAP-dominated Parliament recently opposed having live recording or allowing the public to access video records of Parliament sessions. According to a PAP MP, most MPs would attend Parliament only when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is present.

All PAP MPs performed their S$192,500/year MP work part-time and work full-time as company directors or high-level executives with government-linked companies.

A Singaporean posted on his Facebook page expressing his disappointment at the ruling party:

“As I understand, one of a Member of Parliament’s (MP) primary duties is to attend the sittings of the House whenever it is in session.

I am of the view that for an MP attending the Parliament is a crucial part of parliamentary democracy as they exercise the duties and responsibility of legislature in whole. As an individual, they are accountable to the constituency they represent and to the constituents or citizens that elected them in the first place.

Hence, from the recent Parliament Session on 9 January 2018 (see the screen grab below from MediaCorp Channel 8 News), I am highly disturbed to see the lack of presence of MPs during a Parliament session, unless of course, the MPs (including the political office holders including PM and his Cabinet) has other parliamentary or official commitments or constituency work or parliamentary functions to attend to.

It is commendable that DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam is the only senior Cabinet Member present in that session (apart from Minister Grace Fu who was likely in attendance as the Leader of the House or in response to the Q & A session for that day pertaining to issues related to her ministerial portfolio).

The current MP Annual Allowance is S$192,500 as stated on the website of the Public Service Division (PSD) of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO):http://www.ifaq.gov.sg/PSD/apps/fcd_faqmain.aspx#FAQ_34329.

Perhaps it time for the Consitution to be amended to provide for deductions for non-attendance from the MP’s allowance as it is currently in place in Canada.

The Clerks of Parliament could take the attendance of the MPs in each sitting and published the record on Parliament website. I also believe through the use of a roster system and other controls, the respective Party Whips (be it PAP or WP) should be able to regulate the attendance of Members in the House, in Parliamentary Committees and in other Parliamentary functions.

As I understand, in India, the Constitution specifies that a Member of Parliament will lose his seat if he is absent from the House (without permission) for a continuous period of 60 days.

I believe it would be time for Parliament of Singapore to have LIVE Streaming of its proceedings. If cost is of concern then the parliamentary debates streaming on Youtube Live or other platforms. I am sure this would enhance the engagement of the younger electorate especially the millennials who are savvier with the new media.

 — feeling disappointed at Parliament of Singapore.

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