SINGAPORE – Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng will deliver ministerial statements in Parliament on Singapore’s free trade agreements (FTAs), such as the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), at around 1pm on Tuesday (July 6).
They will explain the importance of FTAs, how these work and, in particular, address “false allegations that FTAs allow foreign professionals a free hand to live and work in Singapore”, Mr Ong said in a Facebook post last Thursday.
He noted that there had been an “undercurrent of sentiment against immigrant Indians over the past two years”, citing two recent incidents of verbal and physical assaults on Indians.
There are concerns from Singaporeans that need to be addressed, he said, but added that the unhappiness is also “fuelled in no small part by false allegations by the Progress Singapore Party (PSP)” about how Ceca has given Indian professionals, managers and executives a free hand to come here to work.
Mr Ong noted that during the Parliament sitting in May, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam had called on the PSP to file a motion on FTAs and Ceca.
This would allow for a proper debate on the matter, and for MPs to discuss what is at stake for Singapore and shine a light on untrue statements about Ceca, he said.
In response, PSP secretary-general Francis Yuen said his party welcomed the debate, and urged the Government to release all related employment data in Parliament.
But he added that the PSP was “bewildered” by Mr Ong’s “baseless allegations” that the party had contributed to the undercurrent of sentiment against immigrant Indians.
PSP Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai said on Monday that while a debate will take place after the ministerial statements have been filed, Tuesday’s debate “cannot be a substitute for a separate and more thorough debate”.
He said that the PSP intends to table a separate motion on FTAs and Ceca in a future parliamentary sitting. A private member’s motion will give a parliamentarian more time to speak, compared with if he or she is responding to a ministerial statement, said Mr Leong.
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