Singapore government sets out duties, privileges for opposition leader

Singapore government sets out duties, privileges for opposition leader

SINGAPORE: The Singapore government has decided on the duties and privileges for Leader of the Opposition (LO) in the 14th Parliament which, among others, will see the leader leading the opposition in presenting alternative views in parliamentary debates on policies, bills and motions.

The LO will also lead and organise the scrutiny of the government’s positions and actions in Parliament; and will be consulted on the appointment of opposition members to the Select Committees, including Standing Select Committees such as the Public Accounts Committee.

This was stated in a joint statement by the offices of the Speaker of Parliament and the Leader of the House today.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had on July 11, announced that Pritam Singh, secretary-general of the Workers’ Party, would be formally designated as LO, and that the government would provide him with the appropriate staff and resources to enable him to carry out his duties.

The statement said the LO had been formally designated in other Westminster parliamentary systems, such as Australia and the United Kingdom.

Such a position is not provided for in either the republic’s Constitution or the Standing Orders of Parliament with Singapore’s legislatures never having formal LOs, not even in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, when there were substantial numbers of opposition legislative assemblymen.

Nevertheless, citing the prime minister’s swearing-in speech on July 27, 2020, the statement said the results of the 2020 General Election have “shown a strong desire among Singaporeans for greater diversity of views in politics” and that “this trend is here to stay”.

“Designating an LO will recognise this desire while enabling our political system to evolve in a way that maintains our sense of national purpose,” it said.

To enable him to carry out his duties, as the LO, Pritam whose party won 10 out of the 93 seats in the just- concluded General Election will be given several privileges and additional resourcing.

Among them, in Parliament, he will generally be given the right of first response among Members of Parliament (MPs) and to ask the lead question to the ministers on policies, bills and motions, subject to existing speaking conventions.

In addition to the government data or information available to other MPs, the LO will receive confidential briefings by the government on select matters of national security and external relations, and in the event of a national crisis or emergency.