“Regardless of when the GE is to be held, it should not stop the Elections Department from issuing the EBRC report when ready”, said former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) and Workers’ Party (WP) politician Yee Jenn Jong.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday (Mar 11), Mr Yee’s remarks came after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that “The coronavirus situation and its impact on the economy are likely to worsen, and ensuring Singapore can focus on overcoming the challenges is a major factor in deciding when to hold the general election”.
When asked if Singapore would consider holding an election amid the virus outbreak, and whether the Elections Department is looking at measures to protect public health, DPM Heng said: “We are looking at all possibilities”.
In his social media post, Mr Yee agreed that it is not advisable to hold a GE in the midst of a fight against COVID-19, however, he added, “Already it has taken more than twice the average time to issue the report from the formation of the committee, and nearly 4 times as long as it took for them to do so in 2015”.
He continued: “Surely the committee which comprises mostly of the same people as in 2015 cannot have suddenly become so unproductive”.
Referring to comments he made in January where he challenged if the ERBC was truly independent, Mr Yee wrote, “The Elections Department and the EBRC have the perfect chance to show that they are independent. Let that be demonstrated”.
In another Facebook post published on Tuesday (Jan 21), Mr Yee suggested that the Government could appoint other independent members to the committee, make the committee’s minutes of discussions open to the public, and provide better justification of changes instead of publishing “skimpy reports”.
He also called on the Government to set a reasonable time gap from the publication of the EBRC’s report to polling day. There is presently no set time between the release of the EBRC report to the calling of the election.
The independence of the EBRC has remained a hot button topic in Singapore. The committee is chaired by the secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Tan Kee Yong – a senior civil servant who has publicly defended PM Lee in the past, most notably in 2017 when he rebutted accusations PM Lee’s siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang made during the explosive 38 Oxley Road dispute.
Mr Tan also chaired the EBRC in 2015, prior to that year’s general election. Certain recommendations to the committee were made, such as the recommendation to have Joo Chiat SMC absorbed into Marine Parade GRC which drew backlash and sparked questions over the neutrality of the EBRC. /TISG