Hri Kumar Nair: 'No one tells me what to say'

Hri Kumar Nair: 'No one tells me what to say'

Backbencher Hri Kumar Nair has taken aim at several government policies, including those relating to national service and permanent residents, the PSLE and certificates of entitlement. After Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew announced changes to the COE system last month, Mr Nair posted a blunt critique on Facebook, describing the move to differentiate cars by engine capacity and power output as "meaningless" as it would disadvantage more efficient cars.

Mr Nair, a senior counsel at Drew and Napier and one of five MPs representing Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, tells Robin Chan he has no inhibitions about speaking his mind and has never been rapped by a minister for doing so. He also debunks any suggestion that he is merely playing the part of "loyal opposition" assigned to him by the ruling party.

Q: You have spoken up against many government policies on housing, education, national service and more recently on certificate of entitlement (COE) online and in Parliament. What motivates that?

I wouldn't see it as being critical of Government. What I say reflects my own honest views and the feedback of the people I talk to.

The NS tax (proposing a tax on permanent residents who do not serve NS) reflects the views of some people I have spoken to. They have expressed unhappiness over the fact that second generation PRs are, in their view, gaming the system by renouncing their PR status just before they are due to enlist. And I think there is some merit to that complaint.

My philosophy is not to just complain, but to say: "Look this is the issue and I have a proposal." My proposal may not be the best, and I certainly don't know all the answers, but I at least have a proposal so that I can start the discussion. Better than just saying there is a problem, and that it is for someone else to solve.

NS Tax was a practical proposal to deal with what I saw was a problem. You can't solve it at the entry level. When a person applies to make his son a PR, we cannot know whether he will arrange for his son to leave Singapore 10 to 15 years later. You can't stop them from leaving the country, because if they want to go, they go.

And an NS tax is not unprecedented. In Switzerland, you get taxed more if you don't do reservist or NS. It is a practical approach to a practical problem.

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