Coronavirus: Parliament could meet from 2 or more locations under proposed amendment to Constitution

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s Parliament could meet from two or more locations amid the coronavirus outbreak with a proposed change to the Constitution which seeks to allow MPs to be spread out in different places while it is in session.

A joint statement issued by Leader of the House Grace Fu and the Office of the Clerk of Parliament on Monday night (April 27) said Ms Fu intends to introduce an amendment Bill on this in Parliament next week. Ms Fu is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.

The change does not specify how this could happen but in several other countries, their parliaments have convened through some form of video conferencing or virtual meetings.

The Bill will introduce “continuity arrangements” for Parliament in the event that it becomes impossible, unsafe or inexpedient for Parliament to meet in one place. Singapore’s Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin has been consulted and his views regarding parliamentary law and procedures were considered.

Under the current law, Parliament must meet in one place.

If passed, the enacted Bill will come into force for a period of six months, and can be activated by Parliament for six months at a time.

It can also be de-activated at any time by a resolution of Parliament.

The joint statement said: “The current Covid-19 situation is a good reminder that Parliament must be enabled to carry out its duties and pass laws that serve Singapore and Singaporeans even in exigencies. This Bill will enhance Parliament’s ability to function even in these exigencies.”

The proposed Bill will not involve any extra financial expenditure by the Government.

Should the Bill be passed, Singapore will join several other countries that have adapted to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The British Parliament, regarded as the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world, broke tradition last Wednesday by allowing its members to convene from their own homes via video-conferencing.

Earlier this month, Singapore’s Cabinet separated into two groups at two locations and met virtually.

Safe distancing measures were also rolled out last month in Singapore’s Parliament House, with MPs seated further apart in the House and some MPs seated in the galleries instead of the Chamber itself.

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