All About The Singapore Parliament You Need To Know To Seem Smart
Democracy isn’t always infused with drama. In fact, politics is actually really boring most of the time.
Still, as citizens of Singapore it’s kinda our job to understand how laws are implemented here because you know, they affect us and stuff.
Which is why a group of students from Yale-NUS College and NUS Law, and MP Louis Ng’s legislative assistants have come together to create CAPE – a Community for Advocacy and Political Education – and educate us more about the Parliament.
So sit back and relax as they take us on a political education on how the Parliament actually works — in the form of a PowerPoint Presentation nonetheless.
Without further ado, let’s check out some interesting things about Singapore’s Parliament.
1. What does the Parliament do?
The Parliament basically does three things:
- Make laws
- Discuss Government actions
- Plan Singapore’s budget
Here are the following parties involved in the Parliament:
In turn, the elected MPs are merely part of the system that actually make laws laws. Three entities are responsible for making laws, due to a concept known as separation of power:
- Members of Parliament
- President, Ministers, Attorney-General, Civil Service
This ensures no one party is able to create and pass laws by itself.
Held during every month except June and December, Parliamentary sessions usually lasts for 1 to 2 days.
2. Fixed seating arrangement
In case you’re wondering, the sessions aren’t free seating or on a first come first serve basis — everyone has an allocated seating arrangement in Parliament.
Except for the Nominated Members of Parliament, apparently.
But it does paint an interesting picture of the hierarchy of the Government.
3. Meeting agenda available online
Despite what Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat has said, Singaporeans generally are still interested in what goes on during Parliamentary sessions.
Unfortunately, while live streaming of the session isn’t exactly available, there’s the next best thing — their meeting agenda, which is made available a day before the sitting.
Official post-event reports of Parliamentary debates can also be found here. However, they’re only available one week after a sitting.
4. How laws are made in Singapore
Let’s now take a look at how laws are made before they become well, laws in Singapore.
Bills – proposed amendments to existing laws or new proposed laws – are presented by the Ministers where they will embark on a 7-stage journey.
Here’s a summary of what happen throughout the process:
- Step 1: The Bill is introduced
- Step 2: A general debate occurs
- Step 3: A Committee will discuss and amend it in further detail
- Step 4: The Parliament debates the amended Bill
- Step 5: The Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR) ensures that the Bill is fair
- Step 6: The Bill is sent to our President for approval
- Step 7: The Bill becomes the law
Furthermore, Bill speeches will also be drafted with civil societies – such as AWARE on the Women’s Charter Bill – before being raised.
Simple enough, right? But wait, there’s more!
5. You have a say too
You – our humble reader – can actually get involved in the decision making process too!
Primarily via REACH, the official portal for public consultations on draft legislation and policies by the Ministries and Government agencies.
Alternatively, you can either:
- Write in or speak to local MPs during meet-the-people sessions, or
- Comment on their Facebook pages when they ask for suggestions
6. What happens if there are too many Motions?
Additionally, there are motions which can be passed on as well — and it’s definitely not what you’re thinking of right now.
Motions are either proposals for the House to take action on a matter or for one to express their opinion on said matter. They can come in the form of Adjournment Motions and Private Member’s motions.
As we all know, Parliamentary sessions run on a really tight schedule. So what happens then, if there is an abundance of motions being raised during any particular session? How do they decide on which gets the spotlight and which gets the boot?
Via random balloting.
Alternatively, there are also Public Petitions. However, they’re generally rare and have not led to any legislative change thus far.
7. Ministries don’t actually decide
Finally, you would think that the Ministries get to decide on whether said petitions get approved or not, right?
Check out the following slide which says otherwise.
Isn’t it weird that the Committee gets to make the decision instead of the ones supposedly in charge of implementing them?
We wonder why.
Parliament 101 adjourned
Did you learn something new about the Parliament? At the very least, you should now be able to understand the process of how laws are made here in Singapore.
Stay tuned to our next article where we discuss “Parliament 102: The Art Of Political Tai Chi”.
See you guys then.
Featured image from Facebook