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. PM Lee said in his swearing-in speech on 27 July that the outcome of the election has “shown a strong desire among Singaporeans for a greater diversity of views in politics” and that “this trend is here to stay”.
Asserting that the LO designation recognises this desire while “enabling our political system to evolve in a way that maintains our sense of national purpose,” the Government set out the role, duties and privileges Mr Pritam will be accorded as LO, in a joint statement.
The statement, released by the Office of the Speaker of Parliament and Office of the Leader of the House, revealed that the Singapore Government considered the role of the LO in other Westminster parliamentary systems, such as that of Australia and the United Kingdom, as it determined the duties and privileges of the LO.
Similar to the LOs in other Westminster parliamentary systems, Singapore’s LO 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, Mr Pritam 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 also 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.
The Government said that the role of the LO “will evolve as our political system develops.”
Revealing that details of his new role have been conveyed to Mr Pritam and that the terms of the LO will be formally set out in a parliamentary statement, the Office of the Speaker of Parliament and Office of the Leader of the House said, “We look forward to working with the LO to create a robust but stable political system serving the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans.”