In light of his new role as Leader of the Opposition (LO), Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh has promised to extend support to opposition politicians from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) who will serve as Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs).
A day after the 2020 General Election – in which the WP won an unprecedented 10 seats in Parliament, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong formally designated Mr Pritam as Singapore’s very first LO.
This week, the Government set out Mr Pritam’s duties and privileges as LO and said that he will be expected to:
- lead the opposition in presenting alternative views in parliamentary debates on policies, Bills and motions;
- lead and organise the scrutiny of the Government’s positions and actions in Parliament;
- be consulted on the appointment of opposition members to Select Committees, including Standing Select Committees such as the Public Accounts Committee; and
- take on other duties such as attending official state functions and taking part in visits and meetings alongside members of the Government and the Public Service, if the opportunity arises.
As the LO, Mr Pritam will be given parliamentary privileges, access to government data and briefings on issues of national interest, staff support, and an LO allowance. Mr Pritam will receive double the allowance of an elected MP and his annual package will be S$385,000, inclusive of his allowance as an MP.
In Parliament, he will generally be given the right of first response among MPs and to ask the lead question to the Ministers on policies, bills and motions, subject to existing speaking conventions. He will also be given a longer speaking duration for speeches, equivalent to that given to political officeholders.
In addition to the government data or information available to other MPs, Mr Pritam will receive confidential briefings by the Government on select matters of national security and external relations, and in the event of a national crisis or emergency.
He will also be provided an office and the use of a meeting room in Parliament House. Further, Mr Pritam may hire up to three additional Legislative Assistants in addition to the one Legislative Assistant and one Secretarial Assistant he is entitled to hire as an MP. He will also be provided with a secretary to support him administratively with Parliamentary business.
Hours after the LO privileges were announced, Mr Pritam revealed on Facebook that he would be donating half of his LO allowance to charitable causes. In a separate social media post, he added that he will be extending his support not only to members of his own party but to the NCMPs from the PSP as well.
He wrote: “In light of the assignment of staff and resources to support the Opposition’s efforts in Parliament, I will confer with the NCMPs of the Progress Singapore Party and extend my support, as appropriate, to them as well.”
The PSP, led by former ruling party parliamentarian Tan Cheng Bock, contested West Coast GRC in the 2020 general election and lost by a whisker to the ruling party team, with 48.31 per cent of the vote.
Although the PSP team was not elected, they were able to nominate two members to join Parliament under the NCMP scheme that entitles the best-performing losing opposition candidates to join the House. The party appointed Hazel Poa and Leong Mun Wai to take up the NCMP seats.
Ms Poa and Mr Leong, who were the party’s vice-chairman and assistant secretary-general respectively, stepped down from their Central Executive Committee (CEC) roles with immediate effect. Although they remain in the PSP’s highest decision-making body, the party said that the pair were “relieved of internal party responsibilities so that they can focus on their parliamentary duties as NCMPs”.