More robust exchanges expected in new Parliament session

As Singapore's 12th Parliament is set to be open by the country's new President, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, on Monday, Members of Parliament are expecting more robust  debates and exchanges with a larger opposition presence in the House.

Of the 87 elected MPs, six are from the Workers' Party (WP), with two Non-Constituency MPs from the WP and one from the Singapore People's Party.

First-time MPs, from both the ruling and opposition parties alike, will also be feeling the pressure to perform.

MPs said they have spent the last five months following the end of the General Elections reaching out to residents and researching issues.

PAP MP Edwin Tong, told The Straits Times that he felt PAP MPs have to be 'more opposition than the opposition', and speak their minds, as well as reflect their residents' concerns openly and honestly.

Some ways that MPs, such as Tampines MP Baey Yam Keng, have been using to reach out to their constituents include meeting up with them more often over coffee sessions, and using the Internet and social media such as Facebook to ask what issues their constituents would like to see raised in Parliament.

Some common concerns that have popped up include cost of living, public housing, affordability of education and managing the influx of foreign workers.

Meanwhile, Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim said the new Parliament will be an opportunity to show what the opposition can do to improve Singaporeans' lives.

She told The Straits Times that the party had a broader mandate this time, and 'more WP MPs will enable us to canvass for a broader range of issues'. Their members' different qualifications and life experiences will also contribute to the debates.

While she declined to elaborate on what the individual MPs will focus on, she stressed that the party was keen to use its larger number of representatives in the House to its advantage.

However, Ms Lim added that WP intends to be constructive in its approach - supporting any government agendas that benefit people, but confronting the government when a policy is 'ill-conceived'.

The opening session will see the election of a new Speaker, followed by the swearing-in of MPs. President Tan will deliver the President's Address in the evening, which is expected to rally Singaporeans to come together after having gone through two elections, and where he will also give a broad outline of government policies for the next five years.

Detailed plans will be given by each ministry when they respond to the president's speech over the next few days.