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Singapore GE2020: That 10 million figure – When facts get in the way

Falsehoods repeated often enough can be perceived as the truth, and there is a risk this is happening in the general election.

The latest example is the slew of statements on social media platforms and online forums, echoed by several political parties, saying that the Government plans to increase the population to 10 million by bringing in more foreigners.

Some online commentators point to a Straits Times report of a dialogue Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had with around 700 students at Nanyang Technological University last year.

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan cited the report at a televised debate on Wednesday night, claiming that Mr Heng had, in an interview, toyed with the idea of raising the population to 10 million – a charge that was refuted several times by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan of the People’s Action Party (PAP).

Dr Balakrishnan had categorically stated: “We will never have 10 million. We won’t even have 6.9 million. The Government doesn’t have a target for the population.”

Shortly after the debate ended, Dr Chee put up a Facebook post with a link to the ST article.

He highlighted two paragraphs: “Singapore’s population density is not excessive, he (DPM Heng) said, noting that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space. He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.”

No ordinary reader of the article – let alone these sentences – would think that Mr Heng wants Singapore to plan for 10 million people.

For good measure, ST’s report on the TV debate stated that Mr Heng did not say Singapore should plan for 10 million people – nor did he mention the figure.

Had he done so, it would have been the headline, and very likely on the front page.

Instead, the headline for the article was: “S’poreans must remain open to foreigners, says Heng”. It was on page 10 of ST’s print edition.​


SDP chief Chee Soon Juan said during a TV debate that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had toyed with the idea of raising the population to 10 million – a charge refuted by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. Mr Heng stated yesterday that he did not say Singapore should increase its population to 10 million, nor did he mention the figure. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

What was actually said

MARCH 29, 2019

A Straits Times report, headlined “Heng Swee Keat on keeping Singapore open: We don’t want a world where people build walls”, on a dialogue that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had with Nanyang Technological University students, reads: “On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government’s 2013 Population White Paper, Mr Heng said the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important. Singapore’s population density is not excessive, he said, noting that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.

“He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.”

Mr Heng neither said Singapore should plan for 10 million people – nor mentioned the figure.

JULY 1, 2020

The National Population and Talent Division, under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), issues a clarification saying recent statements on various online platforms that the Government proposes or plans to increase the population in Singapore to 10 million are untrue.

It adds that an update on the population outlook, provided in Parliament in March 2018, said given recent trends, the total population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030, and this outlook remains valid today.

In a televised general election debate, Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan says Mr Heng “toys with the idea of bringing our population up to 10 million”, and asks Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan if he would categorically tell Singaporeans that his party has no intention of raising the population to 10 million by continuing to bring in foreigners.

Dr Balakrishnan replies that the PMO has just issued a statement advising people like Dr Chee not to indulge in falsehoods, saying: “The Government doesn’t have a target for the population.” Shortly after the debate ends, Dr Chee puts up a Facebook post with a link to the March 29, 2019, ST article. He writes: “Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said at the debate that my claim that Mr Heng Swee Keat was toying with the idea of a 10m population was a falsehood. Here’s what ST reported on 29 Mar 2019…”

JULY 2 

Mr Heng makes a Facebook post noting that he did not say Singapore should plan to increase its population to 10 million, or mention the figure. “Let me be clear: The Government has never proposed or targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million. And if we look at today’s situation, our population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030,” he writes.

Mr Heng also posts a video of his response on the subject at the forum, which shows him saying: “On the population issue, the 6.9 million number that was put out earlier on. In fact, I met Mr Liu Thai Ker, our former chief planner, he had publicly said – it has been reported in the papers – that we should go for an even higher number and this little red dot can accommodate many more people.

“Now whether this little red dot can accommodate many more people, actually, is not strictly just a physical constraint. We cannot be thinking of 50 million people on this little red dot because it will just be so dense and unpleasant.

“But if you look at our population density as a city, it is not excessive. There are many cities which, if you look at the liveable space, it is actually a lot, a lot more crowded. But the population number is not just about physical space, it is also about the social space, it is about the sense of togetherness.”

The main point, captured in paragraphs preceding those cited above, reads: “The need for Singaporeans to have an open mindset and a multicultural outlook was one of his key messages at the two-hour forum, during which he was questioned on a raft of issues, including population growth, technological disruption and meritocracy.

“On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government’s 2013 Population White Paper, Mr Heng said the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important.”

Yet, as misperceptions about the matter continued to swirl on social media, Mr Heng had to come out to refute them strongly.

Yesterday morning, he made a Facebook post to state clearly that he did not say Singapore should plan to increase its population to 10 million, nor did he mention the figure.

He also released a brief video clip of this segment of the dialogue.

It is also worth noting the wider context in which the 10 million figure was first raised. The SDP noted that it is not an invention or something of the party’s imagination.

But neither has the Government put out plans or targets for a Singapore with 10 million. Rather, the figure was floated by a retired public servant as something to consider for the long term, out of concern about Singapore’s future and its ability to continue planning for the long term. It is a point worth thinking about as Singapore’s politics becomes more contested.

Three months after the Population White Paper drew negative reactions from many quarters – in particular, over its projection that Singapore’s total population could reach between 6.5 million and 6.9 million by 2030 – Mr Liu, former Housing Board chief executive, suggested that Singapore should actually plan for a more distant future if it is to remain a viable, liveable city.

At a public forum in April 2013 on the topic of planning for 2030, Mr Liu said: “The world doesn’t end in 2030, and population growth doesn’t end at 6.9 million.”

ST reported him suggesting that Singapore could do well to look ahead, perhaps to 2100, when it might have a population of 10 million. Since Singapore’s land area is essentially fixed, higher density is thus inevitable. But liveability can be preserved with adequate amenities and buffers of greenery.

Mr Liu repeated the figure in July 2014, saying Singapore should plan for a population of 10 million in the long term if it is to remain sustainable as a country. “The question is: How long do you want Singapore to exist as a sovereign state?” he said.

He also said that if projections were based on the upper limit of 6.9 million by 2030, Singapore could reach a population of 10 million by 2090. If it is based on the lower limit of 6.5 million, the population may reach 10 million by 2200.

We may never hit these numbers. And 2090 is 70 years away, while 2200 is 180 years away. In fact, recent trends ensure that Singapore’s population will be significantly below 6.9 million in 2030.

But for some, these facts get in the way of a campaign slogan to sway voters.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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U.S. Senator to block military promotions until assurances on former White House aide

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said on Thursday that she would put a hold on the confirmation of over 1,000 military promotions until Defense Secretary Mark Esper provided assurances on the promotion of a former White House aide who testified in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who provided some of the most damaging testimony during an investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, is up for a promotion to colonel. However, there is concern his promotion could be affected due to political reasons.

“Our military is supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy. It is simply unprecedented and wrong for any commander in chief to meddle in routine military matters at all,” said Duckworth, a former Army National Guard helicopter pilot who lost both legs when she was shot down in Iraq in 2004.

She is also reportedly under consideration by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to be his running mate.

Duckworth intended to place a hold on 1,123 senior military service members’ promotions until Esper “confirms in writing that he did not, or will not, block the expected and deserved promotion of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman to colonel,” a statement said.

Duckworth’s action would make it far more difficult and time-consuming to approve such promotions, especially given how little time the Senate has before the November elections.

Vindman and his twin brother were escorted from the White House in February.

“We sent him on his way to a much different location, and the military can handle him any way they want,” Trump said at the time.

Esper said in November that Vindman should not fear retaliation over his testimony.

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Kenney celebrates Trans Mountain court decision as ‘critical victory’ for Alberta, Canada

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the Supreme Court of Canada’s Thursday decision to reject an Indigenous challenge to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion approval a “critical victory.”

Speaking to media in Taber, Kenney took a moment to “celebrate” the “good news,” calling it “yet another critical victory for pipelines for our prosperity.”

“And let me say that this is a win for First Nations because the Federal Court of Appeal pointed out in its decision, today confirmed by the highest court in the land, that 120 of the 129 affected First Nations either support or do not oppose the Trans Mountain expansion,” Kenney said.

“This is an affirmation that reconciliation also means reconcili-action. It means economic opportunity, it means saying ‘Yes’ to the vast majority of First Nations and Indigenous people who want to move their communities from poverty to prosperity by being full participants in responsible resource development.”

Kenney added the decision is another “legal indication” the Trans Mountain expansion has been subject to “extensive and exhaustive consultation” with First Nations communities.

“The government of Alberta is continuing to advance conversations with First Nations about potentially… supporting a co-ownership bid by a consortium of first nations to purchase a portion of that from the government of Canada,” he added.

Kenney said TMX pipeline will soon start to be laid through the Enoch Cree First Nation near Edmonton.

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Frost bites back! UK issues angry retort to Barnier as Brexit trade deal talks on brink

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David Frost has confirmed “significant differences” remain between the UK and the EU after three days of intense discussions fizzled out during the fourth round of negotiations. Following the first face-to-face encounter since the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Barnier reiterated there would be no deal unless the UK accepted Brussels’ demands for a “level playing-field” on trade and access to British fishing waters.

Mr Frost stated the personal meeting had provided “extra depth and flexibility” to talks but insisted outstanding issued remained.

In a statement, Britain’s Brexit negotiator said: “We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days.

“Our talks were face to face for the first time since March and this has given extra depth and flexibility to our discussions.

“The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful.

“But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.”

The official deadline for an extension to the transition period officially expired on Tuesday.

Despite the lack of progress, Mr Frost has insisted the UK will still look to strike an agreement before the December 31 deadline.

The next round of talks will take place in London next week.

Mr Frost added: “We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement out of the intensified talks process during July.

“Talks will continue next week in London as agreed in the revised terms of reference published on 12 June.”

Following the discussions, Mr Barnier firmly pointed the blame towards the UK for the lack of progress.

The French europhile insisted the EU had engaged “constructively” and added officials needed to see an “equivalent engagement from the UK side”.

He said: “Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement.

“However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.”

The EU Head of Taskforce added Brussels had “listened carefully” to British concerns, but insisted the EU would not shift on its red lines on a so-called level playing field and access to the UK’s fishing territories.

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The 27 EU member states have given Mr Barnier a mandate to ensure a level playing field on trade – amid fears the UK leaving the single market and customs union could undercut the bloc in any future deals with nations around the world.

Mr Barnier said: “We will continue to insist on parallel progress on all areas.

“The EU expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement.

“We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom.”

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Sturgeon blow: Senior SNP politician turns on party saying IndyRef2 would be illegal

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Kenny MacAskill who served as a former justice secretary under Alex Salmond said that the issue could be decided by the next Scottish Parliament election in 2021. In a column in The Scotsman, he added: “For those for whom this nationalist debate is a mystery, it’s code for what’s to be done if Boris Johnson, or any other UK PM for that matter, simply says no to allowing a second vote.

“Of course, it has been ruled out by the Tories but that didn’t stop the mantra chant continuing from the SNP leadership of there being a referendum later this year. “

His comments come after a new poll showed more than half of Scots now back independence.

Think tank Business for Scotland commissioned the Panelbase survey, which questioned 1,070 Scots aged over 16 and found 54 percent back Scotland leaving the UK, while 46 percent oppose it.

But PM Boris Johnson has ruled out any independence referendum whilst he is Prime Minister.


But Mr MacAskill stressed: “As with the second coming of the Messiah, it was to mysteriously arrive, albeit at least specified as being this autumn, not future millennia.

“But now we’re in July and there’s no chance of one this year.

“Coronavirus can be blamed with other priorities and social distancing all impeding, but the truth of it is, there was never any chance of it being held.

“It wasn’t just that the necessary Section 30 order hadn’t been obtained, which is the magical bit of paper from Westminster needed to allow it.

READ MORE: Scottish border panic: Coronavirus infections surge 

“More importantly neither the organisational infrastructure nor the necessary policy platform had been laid.”

Joanna Cherry previously called on Nicola Sturgeon to consider the option if Boris Johnson decides to refuse a second vote.

The MP and lawyer, who is the party’s justice spokeswoman at Westminster said the proxy vote could be an alternative route and clear pathway independence as a “Plan B”.

But the East Lothian MP continued: “Running an illegal referendum is a red herring to frighten folk. It just can’t be done.

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“Either it needs to be signed off with an S30 or it needs to be conducted under an alternative approved method.

“It was simply a way of closing down debate by frightening folk with the spectre of anarchy, let alone Catalonia. Hopefully, this test case will offer some insight.

“But if you rule out an alternative method then you leave Johnson with a veto and that’s simply unacceptable.

“There’s a chance that yet another SNP victory next year would see him fold as Scotland being the final disengagement from an Empire that started unravelling a century ago with Ireland and that has seen the Union Jack lowered across the globe.”

 

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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson warns people not to ‘overdo it’ as pubs prepare to reopen on Saturday

Downing Street has warned people not to “overdo it” when the coronavirus lockdown in England is eased this weekend.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to welcome customers for the first time in more than three months on Saturday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

When he announced the major relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown, Boris Johnson said “our long, national hibernation is coming to an end” and “life is returning to our streets”.

But as the weekend nears, the prime minister’s spokesman has said: “We do want people to be able to enjoy themselves but at the same time, now we have got coronavirus under control we need to keep it under control.

“The guidance is there, we want people to follow it and then we can make more progress together in the fight against coronavirus.

“The PM has said that it is important that people don’t overdo it.”

Mr Johnson will appear at a Downing Street news conference on Friday ahead of the easing of the restrictions.

Hairdressers and barbers will also reopen on Saturday, as will hotels, leisure facilities and tourist attractions.

Asked if the PM would be visiting a pub or restaurant himself on Saturday, his spokesman said: “He’s talked about his enthusiasm for a haircut and pint previously but I don’t know exactly what he’s doing on Saturday yet.”

When asked if Mr Johnson would get a haircut, he responded: “It will be plain for all to see next week what he’s been doing at the weekend if that does happen.”

The two-metre social distancing rule will also be reduced.

From Saturday, people will be required to keep one-metre apart from others, while also taking measures to mitigate the risk of transmitting the virus.

This includes wearing a face mask on public transport, regular handwashing, being outside and limiting time spent with others.

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Scottish border panic: Coronavirus infections surge as incident team launched

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Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director said there was a new outbreak in the south-west of Scotland and north-west of England. Figures show five positive coronavirus cases were recorded in Dumfries and Galloway in Tuesday’s virus statistics whilst the others in the North West close to the border.


 

The cases were found around the Scottish Border towns of Gretna and Annan.

Mr Leitch said: “This is a complex but small cluster captured in different testing areas: in a hospital testing site, in a mobile testing unit and in a drive-through testing unit.”

A cross-border incident management team met yesterday afternoon to review action to be taken on both sides of the border after it was “decided these cases are connected”.

Mr Leitch stressed the new cross-border outbreak adds a “complexity because some of the testing will have been done in England and some of the testing will have been done in Scotland”.

He added: “They are going to put in place a cross-border incident management team which is exactly what Health Protection Scotland are meant to do with Public Health England, and make sure that we are managing everything we can around the family, the workplaces and everything else.”

The new figures are adding to Scottish government pressures to quarantine people who are visiting from other parts of the UK including England.

National Records of Scotland figures also show traffic in Gretna Green more than doubled since the peak of the virus.

This increased from around 6,000 vehicles a day in late March to around 14,000 in the last few weekdays.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Although everything associated with this virus is concerning and causes people anxiety – and I include myself in that – I do think people should also take some assurance from what Jason has just been outlining, because that shows that these systems are in place, and these systems are kicking in when they need to.”

Ms Sturgeon said her decisions on the pandemic are based on public health, not on politics or the constitution but stressed she would “not rule it out”.

But locals were worried at the figures with John Pagani, who runs the Café Royal in Annan, saying it was a worrying development.

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He told BBC Borders: “It is a very worrying development. I have noticed an increase in the number of customers from England over the last week or so and customers say Carlisle is pretty much business as usual now.

“We obviously don’t know where the outbreak started, and the last thing I want to say to any customer is you’re not welcome, but it shows you how complicated this is.”

Cllr Henry McClelland, who represents Annan on Dumfries and Galloway Council, said: “We are absolutely horrified, we have been doing so well here in Dumfries and Galloway keeping the numbers really low.

“I think it is a very timely reminder. We are so close to Carlisle and I am seeing so many notices on social media about people going to Carlisle this weekend for a drink, the pubs are reopening.

 

“This is surely a timely reminder that we have got to take this seriously – it hasn’t gone away.”

Data from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) also revealed from June 22-28, there were 20 fewer deaths (1,006) than the average over the last five years (1,026).

It is the first time since the week of March 23-29, the initial week of lockdown, that the total number of weekly deaths has fallen below the average.

But Professor Jason Leitch stressed: “It is not at the stage where we are worried about community transmission, we don’t think the virus is suddenly exposed and out in the wild, but we want to reach the end of the chains of transmission.

“It is important to keep it in perspective. It is not a national outbreak, it is not 300 national outbreaks. It is geographically limited and it is numerically limited.”

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Singapore GE2020: Workers' Party is not PAP-lite, says Pritam Singh

SINGAPORE – Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh on Thursday pushed back on the suggestions that the WP is just a lite version of the PAP, calling the claim made by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during a televised debate as an electoral ploy.

Asked during a walkabout in Kovan on Thursday about Dr Balakrishnan’s remarks that the WP manifesto outlined positions so similar to that of the PAP that the ruling party could have written it, Mr Singh said: “If that was the case, I hope the PAP takes up all our manifesto points and introduces them into their agenda, because that will really change the shape of Singapore, and we will have a more caring and compassionate society.”

During an exchange with WP Sengkang GRC candidate Jamus Lim at the debate, Dr Balakrishnan had said: “…It’s almost a position where whatever line or stand the PAP has taken, you basically use that as your reference point and take a half step to the left.”

Mr Singh on Thursday pointed to questions the WP parliamentarians had asked about the corruption scandal involving Keppel Corp and the fake news laws to draw the distinction between the parties.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Did any PAP MP file any question on the Keppel Marine scandal? I think voters should think about that. Did any of them step up to consider the other alternatives to Bills like Pofma (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)? I think these are the questions Singaporeans need to ask,” he said.

A key plank of the WP campaign at the election is the argument that checks and balances in Parliament remain important even as Singapore faces a crisis.

Mr Singh, alluding to the WP’s motto of being a responsible opposition party that will provide constructive criticism, said that even though Singaporeans want opposition politicians in Parliament to scrutinise the PAP, they are “very discerning as to the type of opposition they want”.

“We’ve tried very hard to take that perspective on board and we have created a sort of culture within the party of an opposition that is credible. Not just locally but internationally as well, we’re proud to stand as Singaporeans in spite of being the opposition,” he added.

Asked about the plaudits Assoc Prof Lim received from the performance at the debate, Mr Singh said the he “did credibly for the party”, but that there was still a loot of work to do for the upcoming polls.

He added: “All our candidates have to work hard to serve people on the ground and in Parliament, it’s more than just debates as well.”

The praise for the WP Sengkang candidate, who had participated in a debate on CNA against Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, representing the People’s Action Party, as well as Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and Progress Singapore Party candidate Francis Yuen came amid criticism for the party’s no show at the Mandarin debate.

Mr Singh apologised to voters and explained that the party did not have any candidate proficient enough to debate in the language.

He said that while the WP has members who are comfortable making speeches and communicating to residents in Mandarin, the “qualify of the proficiency required to participate in a live debate is of a higher order”.

He asked for the forbearance and understanding of the party’s Chinese-speaking supporters, adding that the party will continue to work hard to attract bicultural Singaporeans.

Party chairman Sylvia Lim later made similar remarks in Mandarin, asking voters to support the party so that more of such talented bicultural Singaporeans will step forward to join its ranks.

But they both emphasised that any candidates they field must also have a heart for public service.

Mr Singh also pointed out that former party chief Low Thia Khiang himself had joined the party in the early 1980s because he felt that the Mandarin translations in the party’s collaterals were not up to mark and had wanted to help improve the quality.

“Hee stepped forward, and contributed.” said Mr Singh. “We hope more bicultural Singaporeans do so as well. That’s really at the heart and soul of WP and we don’t want to change.”

The issue is a particularly sensitive one for the WP, which had gained a following among Chinese-speaking Singaporeans under Mr Low, a Teochew-speaking businessman who graduated from Nantah.

It is said that part of Mr Low’s appeal in Hougang constituency, where he was first elected into Parliament in 1991, was his ability to connect with the large population of Teochew Singaporeans who were relocated there after the Government decided to clear out the pig farms that once occupied the area.

Some viewers had wondered if the party’s decision signalled that it was pivoting away from its Chinese-speaking supporter base.

On Thursday, Mr Singh sought to dispel this notion, saying: “I’m very grateful for the support of our Mandarin-only speaking supporters, and I do have to apologise for the party not sending a representative to the Channel 8 debate yesterday.”

He added that the party would send a representative to a dialogue organised by Lianhe Zaobao on Thursday.

Mr Singh was also asked if the WP’s Aljunied GRC team would take up the NCMP spots if the team loses.

He said it was too speculative to answer the question before the polls.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Singapore GE2020: Ong Ye Kung takes down video showing young boy as it violates election rules

SINGAPORE – Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has removed a three-minute video from his Facebook page, featuring a young boy living in Sembawang, after he was informed the video violates election rules.

“I had a nice conversation with a boy Jony who lives in Sembawang about how it is a good place to grow up. Jony is a great sport, we had a good chat, and we put up a short (video),” said Mr Ong in a Facebook post on Thursday (July 2).

“However, we have been informed by authorities that this is not in line with electoral rules. We have therefore taken down the video. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

The Parliamentary Elections Act prohibits primary and secondary school students from taking part in election activities between Nomination Day and Polling Day.

This means they are not allowed to appear in a video or take part in activities to promote a political party during this period.

“While this prohibition does not apply outside of this period, political parties should refrain from inappropriate use of young children who will not fully understand what they may be promoting or subjecting themselves to,” the Elections Department website says.

Mr Ong is running for re-election in Sembawang GRC, where he has been overseeing the Gambas ward.

The video shows Mr Ong in conversation with Jony, a boy in school uniform who lives in Sembawang Crescent.

“What are the places in Sembawang that you like?” Mr Ong asks him in the video.

He replies he likes Canberra Park, the beach and the hot springs park. And Mr Ong responds that “there was nothing” in that area before Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak decided to “make this into a nice park”.

The minister also explains the concept of Build-to-Order (BTO) Housing Board flats to Jony.

“Sembawang is growing, with more and more people moving into Sembawang, because it is a happening place, it is a fun place,” Mr Ong says.

“I’m explaining all this to you so that you know, if you support us, these are all the things we will deliver and make life better for you.”

Jony then asks Mr Ong: “But what if you guys don’t get elected?”

This prompts Mr Ong to reply: “Good point.”

The video ends with the phrase “Sayang Sembawang” and “Make Sembawang Special” before the People’s Action Party (PAP) logo is shown.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Singapore GE2020: PAP will not have 'blank cheque' because of NCMP scheme, say Chan Chun Sing and Indranee

SINGAPORE – The People’s Action Party will never have a blank cheque to do as it wishes as it is accountable to Singaporeans, two ministers said on Thursday morning (July 2).

The Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme also guarantees that Parliament will have a diversity of views and opposing voices, regardless of whether opposition members are elected, they added.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah were responding to Workers’ Party candidate Jamus Lim, who urged Singaporeans to vote for the WP and deny the PAP “a blank cheque” during a televised debate on Wednesday night.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Mr Chan said this is not a “correct characterisation” of what the coming general election is about, adding that the PAP is accountable to the electorate and responsible for the people’s welfare.

“In governance, the PAP is accountable to the people always, whether it is election (time) or not,” he said.

” I don’t think there is anything such as a blank cheque as if the PAP can do anything without accountability. I don’t think that’s a correct characterisation. Everything that we do, at every step of the way, we have to be responsible to Singaporeans, their welfare, their well-being and we have to be responsible for the long-term survival of the country.”

Mr Chan was speaking on the sidelines of a walkabout at Pek Kio Market, where he was joined by his Tanjong Pagar GRC teammates, Ms Indranee and PAP new faces Alvin Tan and Eric Chua.

During the debate on Wednesday, Associate Professor Lim, who is in the WP’s Sengkang GRC team, said: “The PAP has argued that the election is really about giving them a mandate to bring the country out of this crisis and they need this mandate in order to do so.”

“The truth is the PAP in all likelihood will have this mandate by the end of this election… what we are trying to deny the PAP isn’t a mandate, what we are trying to deny them is a blank cheque.”

Rebutting Prof Lim, Ms Indranee pointed to the NCMP scheme: “The PAP will never have a blank cheque, because no matter what happens, the Constitution guarantees at least 12 opposition seats at the minimum.”

She added that NCMPs have equal voting rights as elected MPs. This means they can vote on matters such as constitutional amendments, supply and money bills, and votes of confidence.

The NCMP scheme was introduced in 1984 to ensure a minimum number of opposition members in Parliament. NCMP seats are offered to losing opposition candidates who garner the highest percentage of votes during the GE.

In 2016, the Constitution was amended to give NCMPs expanded rights and to increase the number of such MPs from nine to 12.

Mr Chan said the NCMP scheme was a “design feature” of Singapore’s parliamentary system, adding that “it’s quite rare for people to design it into the system”.

“So you think about it, there are not many systems in the world that have institutionalised this such that there will always be diversity of views in Parliament,” he said.

“We designed it as such because we want to make sure that any discussion about the future of the country and the policies that we are going to implement is done robustly – it is in our interest to do so as both the PAP and Government.”

During the walkabout, the PAP team handed out fliers and chatted with residents in the Moulmein-Cairnhill ward contested by the party’s new face, Mr Tan, 40, LinkedIn’s Asia-Pacific head of public policy and economics.

Resident and Pek Kio Market stallholder Ang Ah Moy, 74, said the ward’s previous MP Melvin Yong, who is standing in Radin Mas SMC for this election, comes by the market often.”I’m quite thankful for all the support the PAP has given us. It has helped us get through this period,” she said.

Mr Tan said residents in the area have been welcoming.

“We are not new here, they all know us, and we had very warm interactions,” he said

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