Singapore — Mr Ong Ye Kung, the country’s Health Minister, announced in a Facebook post on Jul 1 that he and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng will deliver Ministerial Statements next week regarding Singapore’s Free Trade Agreements.
Mr Ong is a former trade negotiator.
He connected his post to verbal and physical assaults on Indians in the past few months, which he called both “disturbing” as well as “not reflective of what Singaporeans are.”
The Health Minister noted that there has been “an undercurrent of sentiment against immigrant Indians” in the past two years, and acknowledged that there are “concerns from Singaporeans that need to be addressed.”
However, he also took aim at the Progress Singapore Party, whom he seems to hold at least partly responsible for this sentiment.
“The unhappiness is also fuelled in no small part by false allegations by the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) about how the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) has given Indian PMEs a free hand to come here to work,” wrote Mr Ong.
After the incidents, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam asked the PSP in Parliament in May to file a motion on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and CECA in Parliament “so that we can have a proper debate on the matter, discuss what is at stake for Singapore, and shine a light on untrue statements about CECA,” wrote Mr Ong.
On May 11, a few days after a 55-year-old Singaporean-Indian woman was kicked in the chest and called racial slurs, Mr Shanmugam said in Parliament, “I am looking at you, Mr Leong. I invite you to put up a Motion to debate CECA. You know that most of what is said about CECA is false,” addressing Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai from the PSP at that time
On Jun 22, the PSP accepted K Shanmugam’s call to a debate on the CECA.
Mr Leong noted in a Facebook post that “the PSP will decide on a suitable time to file a motion. It will be then up to the Speaker’s discretion to confirm the date of the debate.”
In his Jul 1 post, Mr Ong added that a number of parliamentary questions on the matter have been submitted, which include “many” from the PSP, which is why he and Dr Tan will be delivering Ministerial Statements at next week’s sitting.
“We will explain how vital FTAs are to Singapore and how they work.
We will address in particular the false allegations that FTAs allow foreign professionals a free hand to live and work in Singapore.
We will also move to open our Ministerial Statements for debate.
This will allow members of the PSP to respond to our statements if they wish to.”
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