MPs seek answers on NLB policies

MPs seek answers on NLB policies
Two of the three titles taken off the shelves by the National Library Board after receiving queries over whether they were suitable for children.

The recent controversy over the National Library Board's (NLB) decision on three children's books with homosexual content will be raised by Members of Parliament when the House sits on Monday.

At least seven MPs are seeking answers on the library's policies, including its guidelines on removing books.

Another issue on MPs' minds is whether there are measures to ensure Singaporean airlines do not cross war zones, a concern sparked by the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17.

The commercial jetliner was allegedly shot down while flying over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.

The two topics have been hogging the headlines in recent weeks and MPs have submitted 14 questions on them for debate, said the Clerk of Parliament yesterday.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) said the NLB saga throws up questions on how a government agency is run, and how it safeguards public interest.

"As a public agency, the library needs to have a position, whether it is reflecting or steering community norms. It cannot just react to what the public says.

"There must be a process whereby it goes about its operations and it must be able to stand by its decision. It's important for us to discuss this in public," he said.

The NLB had removed the books after a review, following a few public complaints. The ensuing public uproar led it to return two titles - And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express - to its shelves, but in the adult section. The third, Who's In My Family, was destroyed before the issue came to light.

Nominated MP Janice Koh wants to know whether the NLB will publish a list of challenged, withdrawn or reclassified books every three months.

With reports saying a Singapore Airlines flight had taken the same route as MH17, four MPs want to know if SIA had indeed done so. Said Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong of the Workers' Party: "It's a question Singaporeans are asking, because we all fly and may have to fly over risky zones. So we just want to know the safeguards the airlines and the Government have in place."

A new Bill to amend the Road Traffic Act will be introduced. It will give the Traffic Police powers to ensure road safety.

Four Bills will also be debated, including the Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill which calls for fines of up to $2 million for errant firms that burn crops on their land and cause the haze.

This article was first published on August 2, 2014.
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