Parliament to discuss non-religious groups developing places of worship

Parliament to discuss non-religious groups developing places of worship

The issue of letting non-religious organisations bid for and develop places of worship will be raised by MPs when Parliament sits today, the second time this month.

It was prompted by the recent controversy over a columbarium that is being developed, for the first time, by a commercial entity with no links to any religious organisation. The columbarium is in Sengkang.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah has filed a question asking whether the Government can review its criteria on who can bid for such projects, so that religious groups can have a fair shot at bidding for land earmarked for religious use.

The Sengkang columbarium is to be built inside a Chinese temple, which will sit on a plot that Eternal Pure Land company successfully bid for in a tender for $5.2 million. Its bid was higher than a Taoist organisation's $4 million and a Buddhist organisation's $1.8 million.

Ms Lee, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Seng Han Thong and Workers' Party MP Lee Li Lian of Punggol East also want to know the criteria used to award land for religious use, according to a parliamentary order paper yesterday.

The session, however, is set to be dominated by two issues: MediShield Life insurance and new controls on the sale and consumption of liquor. Both are expected to draw vigorous debate from MPs.

The MediShield Life Bill, if passed, will enshrine in law the universal medical insurance programme, which is scheduled to be implemented by the end of this year.

The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill will restrict the consumption and sale of liquor to specified hours and areas.

While government polls have shown broad support for the liquor Bill, some people have criticised it for being draconian.

Relating to the issue, Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad has filed a question suggesting that when alcohol is sold in residential areas, it must be in plastic or tin containers.

This, Mr Zaqy said, could be a safety measure in the event of fights in the neighbourhood.

A Bill to amend the Police Force Act will also be introduced, with changes on how the police are to be organised and disciplined.

This article was first published on Jan 29, 2015.
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