PM Lee Tells PAP MPs To Attend All Parliament Sittings, Expect Sharper Questioning From Opposition
Now that the 2020 General Election is over and the Cabinet’s been sworn in, the real work has started.
Parliament opens later this month, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is expecting high standards from every single one of his Members of Parliament (MPs).
So much so that he’s written a letter to them, telling them to attend all Parliament sittings, and they’re expected to speak up at them.
For the first time, Mr Lee also told MPs to be mindful of their use of social media.
PM Lee writes letter to PAP MPs
PM Lee is so serious about this that he’s written an 8-page letter to all People’s Action Party (PAP) MPs, and released it to the media on Saturday (1 Aug) for everyone to see.
As the head of the PAP, Mr Lee is again keeping with this tradition this time round, he said in a Facebook post on Saturday (1 Aug).
As with previous years, the letter was titled “Rules of Prudence”.
Guidelines for Parliament
In the letter, Mr Lee advised MPs on what’s expected of them in Parliament, similar to previous years.
He also specifically told MPs to attend all sittings of Parliament.
If they have to be absent, permission must be sought. If they have to leave Parliament during a sitting, permission must also be sought.
As with most jobs, MPs must apply for leave if they want to travel aboard or be absent from Parliament. They must also provide details of how they can be contacted overseas.
All MPs will have a chance to speak
That’s not all. Not only to do MPs have to attend all sittings, they’re expected to speak too.
They’ve no excuse, for Mr Lee has already asked the Speaker to give all MPs “ample opportunity and latitude to speak in Parliament”.
And this goes especially for the new MPs – of which there will be 25 of them from the PAP – as this will be their first time speaking in Parliament and all eyes will be on their performance.
Chances to speak up coming soon
The new MPs will get a chance to speak very soon.
Parliament will open as soon as this month (Aug), and there will be a debate on the President’s Address.
Mr Lee also expects all MPs to speak up during the Budget Debate and the Committee of Supply.
He advised them to be prepared by writing out a script, or listing out key points.
He also emphasised how MPs should deliver their speeches clearly so people can understand what they’re trying to say.
Be prepared to engage opposition
A new part that Mr Lee added to his letter relates to the opposition.
He told MPs to “expect sharper questioning and debate in Parliament” since there will be more opposition MPs and a Leader of the Opposition, adding,
Be prepared to engage the opposition, to clarify their interventions and scrutinise their ideas.
However, he told MPs to exercise judgement even as they express their views freely, as they shouldn’t “get carried away playing to the gallery”.
If PAP MPs perform well, the public will eventually see that “PAP backbenchers are as effective as opposition MPs, if not better” at providing checks to the Cabinet and debating issues so policies can be improved, Mr Lee said.
Be mindful over social media
Another new advisory was on the use of social media.
Mr Lee said MPs can use the medium to engage people by talking about their work and eliciting views.
He even encouraged them to “have some fun”.
However, he reminded MPs to be mindful as “every social media post will be permanently associated with you and the Party”.
Thus, MPs must observe decorum and be factually accurate, and don’t attack others, Mr Lee said.
He also added that MPs must be sensitive, saying,
Be honest, empathetic, positive and affirming in all your messages.
He advised MPs that the personal touch is still needed, so they should interact with residents in person instead of taking part in “long and extended engagement online”.
MPs are servants of the people
As a general reminder on behaviour, Mr Lee called on MPs not to forget that they are “servants of the people”, hence they should be humble.
That means listening closely to Singaporeans and carrying out duties responsibly.
He also emphasised that honesty and integrity is important, and that’s why the PAP has always won elections. This time round, the PAP won a supermajority of 83 out of 93 seats.
The PM urged MPs to keep up these high standards even in their personal lives — including not being arrogant and indifferent — so as not to embarrass the PAP and erode citizens’ confidence in the Government.
Mr Lee summed up by saying,
You must win respect, not popularity, to stay the course.
Time for MPs to show their worth
Such a letter to MPs is a timely reminder after the election that we’ve put our trust in the MPs we’ve elected and it’s time for them to show their worth.
We thank PM Lee for the letter, and for letting the public read it.