NSP: Don't exploit hawker issue for political gain

SINGAPORE - The National Solidarity Party (NSP) has called on the ruling People's Action Party and the opposition Workers' Party not to exploit the ongoing hawker centre cleaning dispute for "political gain".

NSP secretary-general Hazel Poa said on Monday night in a statement that her party is "troubled by what we see as the declining level of discourse in our politics recently", and "a growing culture of partisan bickering". 

She pointed to last week's Parliament sitting as evidence. Last Tuesday, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan sparred with WP MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang on whether the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council had asked for extra payment for high area cleaning of Bedok hawker centres.

Ms Poa called on both parties to focus on a thorough post-mortem, and to focus debate instead on recent licensing rules for news websites and the country's preparedness during the recent haze. These are issues which are "top of mind for all Singaporeans" currently, she added.

Ms Poa said the website rules would have a chilling effect on free expression. She also asked why the Government did not issue stop-work orders during the peak of the haze, and why the Government's stockpile of masks bought with taxpayer money were given to retailers to sell for profit. She also suggested an "emergency response czar", or a senior minister, to head an inter-ministry committee to ensure the Government communicates clearly in emergencies.

Ms Poa added that "good leaders do not point fingers when things go (wrong) or single out private citizens in an attempt to embarrass them."

She did not elaborate. But a week ago, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim named blogger Ravi Philemon as among those who caused unnecessary public anxiety during last month's haze by spreading rumours. Mr Philemon is a member of NSP.

Ms Poa said leadership is about being honest and open about errors, and focussed on problem-solving.

"That is the kind of leadership that Singaporeans voted for in the last general elections, not what we have been seeing in Parliament of late," she said, adding that elected MPs have a duty to ensure that parliamentary sessions focus on discussing issues that matter to the people.

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