After six hours of debate on Nov. 6, the parliament passed the motion on the Israel-Hamas conflict, condemning the violence against innocent civilians in the conflict and stressing that all Singaporeans to safeguard a multiracial and multi-religious peace and harmony in Singapore.
21 members of the House spoke in support of the motion, including Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Faishal Ibrahim, and non constituency member of parliament Leong Mun Wai.
The motion to discuss the conflict was filed by People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Vikram Nair, who described the situation in Gaza as "grave".
Tabling the parliamentary sitting on Monday (Nov. 6), Nair called for Singaporeans to stand in solidarity to support the cause for peace and security in the Middle East, and to safeguard the racial and religious harmony that Singapore has built over the course of many years.
The filed motion
In the parliamentary session on Nov. 6, Nair reiterated the issues he had outlined in his filed motion, which was sponsored by two other PAP MPs, Alex Yam and Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim.
In the motion, Nair called that the House:
- Expresses its deepest condolences to all innocent victims and civilian casualties.
- Advocates the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in Gaza.
- Condemns those responsible for the terrorist attacks and violations of international law.
- Calls for all parties to ensure the safety and security of civilians including the release of all hostages and
- Reiterates Singapore's long-standing commitment to a negotiated two-state solution consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
- Urges all Singaporeans to safeguard and uphold a multiracial and multi-religious peace and harmony.
Development since the motion was filed
However, Nair pointed out that important developments had occurred since the motion was filed.
"The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and since the motion was filed has gotten worse," said Nair.
The PAP MP specifically pointed out the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip which poses difficulties for international organisations who wish to provide aid and support to the people in Gaza.
The blockade has spurred the United Nations (UN) to pass a resolution on Oct. 27 calling for an immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip.
In the same resolution, the General Assembly of the UN reiterated that unhindered access should be given to the United Nations humanitarian agencies.
The non-binding resolution was approved by the 193-member world body through a vote of 120 in favour, 14 against, and 45 abstentions.
Singapore was among the 120 countries that voted in favour of this resolution.
"As these are important developments, I had wanted to amend the motion to include a specific limb for this house to support the UN resolution," Nair said.
However, as he is unable to amend his own motion, which would change the scope of the debate, Nair said PAP MP Alex Yam will be helping to address these points of amendment in his speech.
Finding common ground & tolerance
"Now in Singapore, our racial and religious harmony is one that we have worked hard over the years to develop. people of different faiths live together, work together, and even take steps to understand each other," said Nair.
"In order to maintain this peace, we need to find common ground and tolerance. We need to look for things that bring us together, rather than differences that divide us. I think many of us share an understanding that both the Palestinians and Jewish people have a right to a peaceful existence and a nation of their own. Let us come together in solidarity to support the cause for peace and security in the Middle East," Nair said as he ended his speech.
Amendment to the motion
In his speech, Yam proposed the following changes to be made to the motion:
- Express its deepest condolences to all innocent victims and civilian casualties, and support United Nations (UN) resolution ES-10/21 which calls for an immediate durable and sustained humanitarian truce, leading to a cessation of hostilities.
- Advocate for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in Gaza and unhindered access to United Nations humanitarian agencies, the International Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations.
- Condemn those responsible for the terrorist acts and violations of international law.
- Call on all parties to comply fully with international humanitarian law, including to ensure the safety and security of civilians, including the release of all hostages and minimise the effects of combat on the civilian population.
- Reiterate Singapore’s longstanding commitment to a negotiated two-state solution consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
- Urges all Singaporeans to safeguard and uphold our multiracial and multi-religious peace and harmony.
Unite our voices in a collective call
Ending his speech, Yam reminded the House of the complexity of the conflict.
"While we do not have a simple, quick-fix solution to it, we can play our part by not complicating it even further," Yam said.
"Let us unite our voices in a collective call for a safer and more harmonious world and for resolution to the current conflict in Israel and Gaza," Yam said, concluding his speech.
Solidarity for peace & security
A total of twenty-one MPs, including those from PAP, WP, and PSP, spoke in the debate on the motion on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
With unanimous support from MPs, the motion was passed, along with its amendments.
"I'm heartened by the significant agreement on important matters by all parties concerned," Nair said as he concluded the motion, noting that there are many common grounds amongst the speakers.
"I'm grateful to this house and all its members were standing in solidarity for peace and security in the Middle East," said Nair.
Background to what has happened so far
The Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants launched an attack throughout southern Israel, beginning with a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip and a terror attack by Hamas militants that killed over 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
The war has since entered its one-month mark, with no end in sight.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) made statements on Oct. 7 and Oct. 16 characterising Hamas' attack as an unjustifiable "abhorrent act of terror", calling for the release of all hostages while acknowledging Israel's right to self-defence.
At the same time, MFA urged Israel to oblige and comply with international law and "do its utmost" to protect the safety and security of civilians.
The letter to the Palestinian leaders on Oct. 18 reiterates Singapore's long-standing position that the conflict could only end through a negotiated two-state solution consistent with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
On Oct. 18, the Workers' Party (WP) released a statement which was critical of Israel's military actions and expressed support for Singapore's “long-held position that a two-state solution consistent with UN Security Council resolutions is the only viable path to a durable, just and comprehensive resolution to the long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine”.
On Oct. 23, Nair said that he had filed a motion on the Israel-Hamas conflict for the parliamentary sitting on Nov. 6.
On Oct. 27, Singapore voted in favour of a UN resolution calling for a humanitarian truce and a ceasefire though it noted two "glaring and significant omissions"— the first being the failure to mention Hamas' role in the Oct. 7 terror attacks, the second being the lack of acknowledgement for Israel's legitimate right to self-defence.
On Oct. 31, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) released a statement condemning the violence against both Israeli and Palestinian civilians. It also urged Israel to comply with international law and expressed support for Singapore's position on the two-state solution.
Top image via