PSP files motion to debate jobs, trade agreements like CECA & 'widespread anxiety' in next Parliament sitting

Minister Shamugam challenged Leong Mun Wai to a debate in May.

Sulaiman Daud | August 31, 2021, 04:05 PM

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) announced that it has filed a Private Member's Motion for Debate in the next Parliament sitting, which is scheduled for Sep. 13.

The debate's official title focuses on the "widespread anxiety" among Singaporeans about their jobs and livelihoods, caused by the government's policies on foreign talent, according to a Facebook post by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai.

Shanmugam challenged Leong to debate CECA

Back in May, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam was speaking in Parliament about an incident where a Singaporean Indian woman in her 50s was allegedly the victim of a racist attack by a younger man.

Shanmugam stressed the need to condemn such actions, and said that certain parties and websites have been deliberately stoking fears and encouraging racist and xenophobic sentiments in the name of economic anxiety.

Then he addressed Leong directly, saying:

"There have been several canards about CECA, promoted by a whispering campaign. If anyone here believes that CECA is a problem, put it up for a motion, debate it openly, and let's hear whether Singaporeans benefit or lose from it.

I'm looking at you Mr. Leong. I invite you to put up a motion to debate CECA. You know that most of what is said about CECA is false."

CECA refers to the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

The initials of the trade agreement are frequently used as an epithet, often negatively, in online discussions about Indian nationals.

Leong accepted the challenge, and denied that he or his party are xenophobic or racist. PSP's central executive committee later released a statement saying:

"PSP is categorically against racism and does not stoke or incite racism to gain political mileage and advantage. The recent cases of hate crime and violence against Indians are unacceptable and deplorable."

Ministerial statements on CECA

Leong had not filed a motion by the time July rolled around. In end-June, Leong said he would "seek more information" from the government before having the debate.

Despite this, the government decided to address the claims about CECA in Parliament.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who was a former trade negotiator, gave a ministerial statement on CECA where he debunked falsehoods about it.

In particular, Ong made clear that CECA does not allow for the "free movement" of workers, and Singapore retains full rights on deciding who can enter the country to live or work here, or become permanent residents or Singaporeans.

"I emphasise and underline and highlight, and bold in bigger font, to colour it, that nothing in the agreement implies that Singapore must unconditionally let in PMEs from India. Contrary to PSP’s claim, our ability to impose requirements for immigration and work pass, has never been in question in CECA or any other FTA that we have signed."

He pointed out that it was "hard to miss" for anyone reading the document, which is available online.

Ong also said while local PMEs had legitimate concerns over their jobs, both Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and CECA have been made into "political scapegoats" by the PSP.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng also pointed out that there were more PME jobs created for Singaporeans than EP pass holders.

PSP did not withdraw allegations

Leong was pressed to state that CECA does not allow the free movement of people into Singapore, but did not withdraw the claims, saying that he "needs time" to study the information.

Hazel Poa, another PSP NCMP, asked Ong to clarify which "false allegations" he was referring to, and Ong provided four examples.

Following the sitting, Ong said it is a "shame" that the PSP members did not withdraw their wrongful allegations about CECA, and only said they would study the matter further.

Leong: PSP moving forward with debate despite "incomplete information"

In his Facebook post on Aug. 31, Leong said CECA is not the party's main concern.

"As we have highlighted again and again, the main focus of the “PSPJobsDebate” is on how to improve the jobs and livelihood of Singaporeans. CECA is not our main concern and has been thrust upon us by the Government."

Leong also referred to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent National Day Rally speech, and said the policies announced by him and the government in recent days "did not show its full appreciation of the severity of the problems faced by Singaporean workers".

In response to Mothership's query on whether PSP has obtained the information it says it needs from the government, Leong said there is still a "severe information asymmetry" because the government has "chosen not to answer the PSP's questions fully".

Nevertheless, Leong said, PSP are moving forward with the debate to discuss jobs and livelihoods.

You can see his post below:

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Top image from YouTube MCI.