Sunday 30 January 2022

Singapore renews Formula One deal until 2028

This year's night race to be held on 2 October 2022
By Jonathan Wong, Assistant Sports Editor, The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2022

In one of the strongest signals that the country is committed to reopening and returning to life in a world with Covid-19, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and promoters Singapore GP on Thursday (Jan 27) announced a new seven-year deal to continue hosting a Formula One race here.

With international travel showing some signs of recovery, the agreement is the longest renewal with the Formula One Group - the previous ones were between four and five years. The longer runway is intended to help reposition Singapore again as a business and lifestyle destination and ensure the country maintains its competitive edge in the long term.

The last two night races were cancelled due to the pandemic while last year's edition was the last of the four-year extension signed in 2017. Singapore Airlines' title sponsorship also ended last year.

The latest contract is from 2022 until 2028 with this year's race scheduled for Oct 2 at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, said: "Even as we deal with the immediate challenges of the pandemic, it is important that we focus on our recovery and long-term growth. The Singapore F1 race continues to be a strong focal point for tourists, global events and business meetings.

"We have decided to continue hosting the F1 race for another seven years, after thoroughly evaluating the long-term benefits that a term extension could bring to Singapore.

"The renewal will help sustain Singapore's reputation as a global city with a vibrant lifestyle, attracting international visitors as travel rebounds, and generating business revenue and jobs for Singaporeans."

The joint statement also stressed that the stakeholders would work with the various government agencies to ensure the health and safety of all participants, staff, local and overseas fans and the community.

While three of last year's 22 races - in Italy, Portugal and Azerbaijan - were held behind closed doors, the rest proceeded with spectators in the grandstands. Some, like in Bahrain, Spain and Monaco, early in the year had reduced capacities before venues in Austria, England and the United States began welcoming full houses.

The majority of races required adults to be fully vaccinated and/or supply a negative test result though mask wearing and social distancing were loosely enforced.

Singapore has hosted several international events in recent months. On Nov 27 and 28 last year, pop star JJ Lin performed in front of 2,000 fans each night at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands under vaccination-differentiated safe management measures which allowed concert-goers to sit alongside one another without the need for social distancing.

Two weeks prior, the Bloomberg New Economy Forum welcomed 300 international business and government leaders to Sentosa's Capella hotel, with strict testing requirements for delegates so as to allow for business networking.

And in December, Singapore received more than 500 foreign travellers - players, coaches, officials, sponsors and delegates from regional and continental football bodies - for the month-long, 10-team Suzuki Cup tournament with some games at the National Stadium drawing almost 10,000 fans.

The Singapore Grand Prix is on a different scale though.

The 2019 race, the last time it was staged here, drew a three-day total of 268,000 spectators - the second-highest after the 300,000 total at the 2008 maiden race.

Overseas visitors generally comprise 40 per cent of race-goers here and the race weekend contributes about $130 million annually in tourism receipts.

There have been 12 editions since 2008 and together, they brought more than 550,000 unique foreign visitors, contributing over $1.5 billion in tourism receipts.

The tourism sector has been battered by Covid-19. Last year, there were 330,000 visitor arrivals and an estimated $1.9 billion in tourism receipts.

It is only a fraction of the 19 million visitors and $27.7 billion in receipts from before the pandemic in 2019.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and STB fund 60 per cent of the $135 million night race costs each year, with race promoters Singapore GP footing the rest.

This year's race layout at Marina Bay will likely have to be tweaked due to the planned construction of the NS Square, a new permanent space for large-scale national events which will replace the Float@Marina Bay. The new site, scheduled to start construction in March, will be completed by the end of 2025.

Friday 28 January 2022

New age in Singapore's relations with Indonesia: Leaders’ Retreat on 25 January 2022

The signing of agreements on longstanding bilateral issues at Leaders' Retreat on 25 January 2022 demonstrates the maturity of the relationship and fosters mutually beneficial cooperation.
By Barry Desker, Published The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2022

The Leaders' Retreat in Bintan on Tuesday (Jan 25) between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Joko Widodo set the stage for a new milestone in bilateral relations.

The atmospherics at the meeting highlighted the strong level of confidence and trust between the two leaders, underlined by the concrete agreements concluded between the two countries.

The interactions between the ministers reminded me of the easy informality which characterised exchanges among the participants at summit meetings during the time when I was Singapore's ambassador to Indonesia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

PM Lee and President Widodo witnessed the signing of an expanded framework of agreements, covering the Flight Information Region (FIR), defence cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia, and the extradition of fugitives.

Singapore's Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean and Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan also signed an "umbrella" exchange of letters to bring the three agreements into force at the same time.

Singapore and Indonesia have discussed these complex issues for several decades, including the years when I served in Indonesia. Although both parties were keen on a resolution of these issues, the challenge was to find a balanced framework which created a mutually beneficial outcome, as this would be key to the durability and long-term success of any agreement.

The set of agreements in this framework respects international law and the sovereign rights and interests of both countries. The exchange of letters sets out a clear agreement between Indonesia and Singapore on the pathway to take these agreements from the signing stage to ratification, and ultimately entry into force at the same time, on a mutually agreed date.

The signing of these agreements at the Leaders' Retreat demonstrates the maturity of the two countries' relationship and a commitment to resolve outstanding issues through discussions and negotiations conducted in a cooperative environment.

This is not the first time the Indonesian and Singapore governments have sought to resolve these longstanding issues. In 1995, an FIR agreement was signed and ratified by both sides but did not enter into force due to complications in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) approval process.

In 2007, the two parties signed an extradition treaty as well as the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA), which were to be implemented simultaneously. However, Indonesia did not ratify these agreements.

In October 2019, PM Lee and President Widodo endorsed a Framework for Discussions on the FIR issue and Singapore's military training in the South China Sea. In April last year, this was expanded to include the extradition treaty.

2022 FIR agreement

As someone who was involved in FIR negotiations from the 1970s onwards, my assessment is that the new agreement provides a balance of benefits for Singapore and Indonesia.

The boundary between the Singapore FIR and the Jakarta FIR will be realigned largely taking into account Indonesia's archipelagic territorial baseline, as deposited with the United Nations in 2009.

To meet Singapore's present and future civil aviation needs, Indonesia will delegate to Singapore the provision of air navigation services in Indonesian airspace adjacent to Singapore for 25 years.

This arrangement will support the growth of both countries' civil aviation sectors, including Changi and Indonesian airports. The agreement provides for Indonesia to continue to receive, in full, the revenue collected by Singapore on Indonesia's behalf for air navigation charges on flights over Indonesia where the provision of air navigation services has been delegated to Singapore.

There will also be enhanced cooperation between civil and military personnel in air traffic management. As part of these arrangements, Singapore has agreed to the stationing of Indonesian personnel in the Singapore Air Traffic Control Centre.

Airspace management involves complex technical and operational matters which fall under the jurisdiction of ICAO. Both parties will jointly submit to ICAO the proposal for the realignment of the FIR boundaries and the delegation arrangement, after all three agreements have been ratified. Airspace users and other stakeholders will also need to be consulted.

As a major international air hub, Singapore's interest lies in ensuring reliable and effective air traffic management for the safety of aviation in the region that enables air traffic growth in a planned and sustained manner. With this agreement, Singapore continues to provide the air navigation services needed for Changi's air traffic for the duration of the 25-year pact.

Defence cooperation

The DCA, including its Implementing Arrangement, was signed in 2007 and remains unchanged. It provides a comprehensive strategic framework for a closer defence relationship between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI).

The DCA will facilitate mutually beneficial cooperative activities, which will strengthen the professionalism and inter-operability of the SAF and TNI.

The DCA also provides clarity on the arrangements for the SAF's military training and exercises in training areas which became part of Indonesian waters and airspace subsequent to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The DCA builds on the longstanding joint exercises and joint training arrangements between the two militaries. It also provides for the possible future development of joint training facilities and training areas to strengthen cooperation and the capabilities of both armed forces.

The agreement, which is valid for the next 25 years, forms the basis for an enduring bilateral relationship between the TNI and SAF. The development of this relationship could serve as a benchmark for the strengthening of Asean defence cooperation, as Asean navigates a more challenging regional and international security environment in the years ahead.

Extradition treaty

The 2022 treaty is almost identical to the 2007 extradition treaty, except for an extension of the retrospective operation period from 15 years to 18 years prior to entry into force, at Indonesia's request to match the statute of limitations for the prosecution of offences in Indonesia. It will strengthen existing cooperation in combating crime.

Although the 2007 treaty did not enter into force, Singapore and Indonesia have been cooperating to prevent fugitives from using their respective territories as safe havens, whether it is the deportation of Singaporean terrorist fugitives to Singapore from Indonesia, or the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau assisting the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission, including serving summons requests to persons under investigation.

Implementation of this treaty will signal both countries' commitment to upholding the rule of law and will complement an Asean extradition treaty for which negotiations are ongoing.


The next stage for both countries will be the ratification of these agreements. The endorsement of the DCA by Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto is to be welcomed. He has been touted as a candidate for the presidency in 2024 and is the chairman of Gerindra Party, the third-largest party in President Widodo's coalition which dominates Parliament.

The extradition treaty was signed by Indonesian Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, a senior member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the largest party in Parliament and the party of President Widodo. The party leaders will have to explain to their parliamentarians that ratification of these agreements is important and good for Indonesia.

Ratification and implementation of the Expanded Framework agreements will demonstrate the mutual commitment to resolving longstanding issues in an open and constructive manner. Implementation of these agreements will bring Indonesia and Singapore closer together and build mutual trust and confidence.

Mature relationship

This set of agreements signifies a mature bilateral relationship built on trust, cooperation and mutual benefit. The Widodo administration deserves credit for its pragmatic and decisive approach to finding win-win solutions.

While President Widodo's first term focused on domestic issues, he is leaving a foreign policy legacy in his second term.

Although most observers have highlighted Indonesia's role as chair of the Group of 20 this year, President Widodo has also played a leading role in the Asean response to the coup in Myanmar and in strengthening Asean as an institution. Through the signing of these agreements, he has demonstrated a commitment to enhancing bilateral ties with Indonesia's closest neighbours.

For Singapore and Indonesia, the conclusion of these agreements resolves longstanding issues which have posed problems in the bilateral relationship. The new framework institutionalises the relationship and fosters mutually beneficial cooperation.

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Progressive Wage Model: Entry-level waste collection workers salary to rise to $3,260 by 2028

Higher wages and clear career pathways for 3,000 waste management workers
By Sue-Ann Tan, Business Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Jan 2022

Come 2028, an entry-level waste management worker can expect his salary to double to $3,260, under a new Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the sector that is set to start from July next year, the tripartite cluster for waste management announced on Monday (Jan 24).

Such a worker earns about $1,600 to $1,800 now, said Ms Melissa Tan, chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore. She is part of the tripartite cluster, which comprises the National Trades Union Congress, employers and other stakeholders.

A total of 3,000 waste management workers here will see annual wage increments, mandatory annual bonus and a career and skills progression ladder.

The workers will also get a stipulated minimum hourly overtime pay.

From Jan 2024, they will also receive an annual bonus of at least a month's pay if they have been with their employer for at least a year. This bonus does not depend on their work performance.

These recommendations were accepted by the Ministry of Manpower on Monday.

The ministry said these improvements are consistent with the guidance by the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers to ensure that such workers have meaningful and sustained wage growth to gain ground with the median worker.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said: "You will see about 50 per cent wage increase growth in the coming years... I think this is a good outcome between unions and employers.

"But at the same time, we want to see the sector transform in a meaningful and sustainable way."

When asked if this move will raise costs for consumers, he said that not every change in business cost translates to higher prices for consumers.

He added that transitional support for companies will be announced during the upcoming Budget.

The PWM provides a clear career progression pathway for workers to improve their wages. To do so, they must undergo structured training to upgrade their skills.

Under the PWM for the waste management industry, workers will get a clear career progression pathway from crew to supervisor in the waste collection sub-sector, for instance, and from sorter to waste sorting plant supervisor in materials recovery.

There will also be a minimum number of Workforce Skills Qualifications modules that workers have to take at each level.

With upgraded skills, the PWM will ensure that workers see increased pay over six years, to 2029. For instance, a waste collection crew member earning $2,210 next year when the PWM kicks off, will earn $2,420 from July 1, 2024, and $3,260 in 2028. This marks a compound annual growth rate of 8.1 per cent.

By 2028, a waste collection senior driver will be earning $3,960 - from $2,910 next year - while a supervisor will be earning $3,910, from $2,860.

Mr Fahmi Aliman, chairman of the Tripartite Cluster for Waste Management, said the workers in the sector deserve due recognition for their hard work.

"The committee has been working hard for the past year to come up with a PWM that will boost the wages and skills, as well as improve career progression opportunities of our waste management workers, and in time, attract more workers to the industry," he added.

Ms Tan said the sector is facing a manpower crunch, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as it relies heavily on foreign workers.

“Singaporeans are not coming forward to join this industry because it is not deemed to provide glamorous jobs,” she said.

Meanwhile, demand has risen for waste management services, especially with more packaging waste generated from e-commerce and food delivery.

“I hope that the PWM will attract more Singaporeans to come on board to carry out such jobs with pride,” she added.

Sunday 23 January 2022

In This Together: Singapore's COVID-19 Story

The Straits Times releases In This Together, a behind-the-scenes look at Singapore's COVID-19 story
By Justin Ong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2022

A new book released on Thursday (Jan 20) has chronicled the first two years of Singapore's fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, through the telling of pivotal behind-the-scenes moments and exclusive interviews.

In This Together: Singapore's Covid-19 Story contains 13 chapters written by journalists from The Straits Times newsroom who have been in the thick of covering the crisis. It is edited by executive editor Sumiko Tan.

The writers spoke to more than 300 people including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, President Halimah Yacob, Cabinet ministers, government officials, corporate leaders, front-line workers, volunteers, foreign workers and survivors of the disease.

The 352-page book is divided into two parts: Saving lives, where the efforts of the Government, healthcare sector and scientific community are documented; and saving livelihoods, which expounds on the parallel economic battle to preserve jobs, businesses and Singapore's hub status.

The opening chapter, titled It Took A Village, illustrates how 24 healthcare workers - including doctors, nurses, therapists and housekeepers - worked in tandem to help save the life of retired tutor Irene Tan, 67, who had a severe Covid-19 infection in March 2020.

The next chapter, Inside The War Room, provides a detailed look at how Singapore's leaders - from PM Lee to the multi-ministry task force and the Civil Service's Homefront Crisis Executive Group - tackled the most critical test faced by the city-state in over a generation.

Other highlights include the inside stories of how Singapore procured masks amid frenzied global demand in the early days, the bets and risks involved in purchasing vaccines, and the concerted push by hospitals to step up capabilities while their overwhelmed staff endured struggles of their own.

The book, which is published by Straits Times Press, also examines efforts to stamp out the virus in dormitories occupied by more than 300,000 foreign workers, who made up 19 out of 20 infections in 2020.

Interspersed between chapters are profiles of pandemic front-liners, survivors and people who died from the virus.

Putting this human touch to Singapore's entire undertaking against Covid-19 was a primary reason cited by Ms Tan in coming up with the book, which comes almost exactly two years after Singapore's first Covid-19 case was detected on Jan 23, 2020.

She said the book aims to pay tribute to front-liners - healthcare workers, public servants, those in essential services - whom people often take for granted.

And while journalism did not entail front-line activities such as swabbing or managing crowds, Ms Tan said that what journalists could do was chronicle for future generations the events of the day, so this period of history would not be forgotten.

"If someone were to read this 20 years down the road, they would understand what the first years of the pandemic were like, how Singaporeans felt, and why we did what we did," she added.

Ms Tan said that from the onset, the team was clear that In This Together was going to be a chronicle of Singapore's fight, rather than an assessment.

One major challenge for the project, which started in August 2020, was the unfolding realisation that the pandemic "was not going to go away any time soon", she noted. Publication - originally scheduled for the middle of 2021 - was delayed thrice and stories had to be updated each time.

"The delay allowed us to tell a fuller story," she said. But a decision had to be made on where to end the book, and the new Omicron variant provided that milestone.

Case numbers are rising around the world but severe infections and hospitalisations are not, and some scientists believe this could suggest the coming end of the pandemic.

In an introduction to the book, Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of SPH Media Trust's English, Malay and Tamil Media Group, wrote: "The book is not meant to be triumphalist or self-laudatory, but an honest record of the most severe test Singapore has faced in over a generation, and which will continue for some time yet as the crisis is far from over."

Straits Times news editor Karamjit Kaur, who co-wrote a chapter on aviation, said the book was a tough project as it had to take in the morphing virus and Singapore's changing responses.

Associate news editor Chang Ai-Lien, who co-wrote a chapter on hospitals, added: "Work on the book shadowed the trajectory of the virus, with its numerous twists and turns. The story is far from over."

Ms Kaur and Ms Chang helm the newsroom's own task force on Covid-19 coverage.

Health correspondent Timothy Goh, who wrote several segments including Singapore's hunt for masks, said working on the book brought home to him how the pandemic has affected everyone - young, old, rich, poor, minister, migrant worker.

"I also witnessed a very human and personal side to the officials we see in the media," he said. "Seeing the tiredness in their faces and hearing about the various doubts that were kept private till now reminded me that regardless of our station in life, for the past two years, we've also just been human beings trying to figure out a way to get through this, together."

The book was supported by the Ministry of Communications and Information in the form of book purchases. The ministry also helped to arrange some of the interviews, but left the shape of the book and the telling of the stories to the writing team.

Saturday 15 January 2022

Ong Ye Kung at Singapore Perspectives 2022

Good governance key to helping Singapore reinvent and stay relevant in post-COVID-19 world: Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 13 Jan 2022

The great task for a city like Singapore in a post-Covid-19 world is to keep reinventing itself to stay relevant and competitive, said Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung, who spoke on the topic of cities at a forum on Thursday (Jan 13).

Within the confines of Singapore's 730 sq km is a city and also a country, and people have no option to choose between a freewheeling urban economic centre and a quiet life in the suburbs, he added.

Running an effective state and getting the politics right are thus key to ensuring that the small island of Singapore can accommodate all the different aspirations of its five million people, he said.

"Rather than endless bickering and stalemates, the political process must be constructive and help bridge divides. The objective of politics must be to help the country find a way forward even if the decisions involve very difficult trade-offs," he added.

"This is especially important to Singapore. For what we lack in resources and strategic mass, we can make up with nimbleness and unity of purpose and action. We may be small, but we can be fast and we do things together."

Mr Ong was giving the keynote speech on Cities, Countries and Resilience at the Singapore Perspectives 2022 forum organised by the Institute of Policy Studies at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Recounting the stories of great cities past and present, he said Singapore cannot be modelled after any one city as "we are a city, we are a state, we are also a nation of one people, all rolled into one".

Like New York City, Singapore is a modern-day metropolis as well as a global economic node that needs to be connected to the world to thrive, he said.

That is why Singapore has to be like a smartphone that runs a good operating system and hosts all the apps essential to life, "so that it is not easy, though not impossible, to switch out of Singapore", he added.

This has required constant reinvention, with Singapore leveraging its geographical location to build a trading hub, then growing strategic industries from manufacturing to biomedical sciences, and now becoming a centre for green finance, he said.

Through the pandemic, Singapore has also positioned itself as a hub for vaccine manufacturing and distribution, and should seize the opportunity to rethink how it can do things better and smarter, he added.

Describing the pandemic as a large "reset button", he said Singapore should build on the changes that Covid-19 has forced upon work, retail, education and healthcare to transform itself.

For instance, even after the health crisis, a combination of working from home and from the office will allow people to better juggle their professional and private lives, and also allow cities to alleviate the peak-hour rush that has dictated the planning and development of transport infrastructure for so long, he suggested.

The minister, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 along with Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, said coping with the pandemic has tested Singapore's mettle as a city.

He added that personal responsibility and civic consciousness have been key in helping the country ride each infection wave.

"We have to trust that people will do the right thing in testing themselves and isolating themselves if they test positive," he said.

"While these have been done out of necessity, I believe it has helped us grow as a people. I hope it is the start of a societal attitude that is more forgiving of imperfections, embracing setbacks and failures, appreciating resilience, ruggedness, enterprise and even being unconventional."

As a small city-state, Singapore is also like the imperial city of Chang An, now known as Xi'an, in China, said Mr Ong, where the government must defend the city and maintain law and order to run an effective state.

To this end, Singapore's founding generation has build up a good government with "an executive branch that is effective and can get things done, a non-politicised civil service, and a judicial system that upholds the rule of law without fear or favour", he said.

There are also democratic institutions such as the Parliament, formed through free and fair elections, he added.

Affairs of the state cannot run away from politics, which can both put the fate of the country in the hands of the people and keep powers in check when done right, but polarise the population and destabilise societies when allowed to go wrong, said Mr Ong.

Getting this right is especially crucial for Singapore, which needs unity of purpose to thrive as a small, open country, he noted.

That is why a strong state is necessary to grapple with inequality, protectionism and climate change, the starkest political issues faced by societies today, he added.

Policies need to be consistent in the long term to make an impact, instead of being reoriented with frequent changes of governments. At the same time, there must be discourse to hear and consider diverse views, and proper checks and balances, he said.

"The success of Singapore state depends on our ability to achieve both aims," he added.

Like the ancient city of Jericho, one of the oldest human settlements that was born when hunter-gatherers gathered to cultivate crops in an area with the right conditions, Singapore is also the result of people coming together to forge a common fate and destiny, said Mr Ong.

As "members of a close-knit tribe", there was "a recognition that by working together and making sacrifices for one another, we have a better shot at a brighter future", he added.

But unlike the inhabitants of Jericho who are a natural tribe of similar origins, Singaporeans are far more diverse. This makes Singapore far more complex than any ancient city, said Mr Ong, noting that a sense of nationhood is not a given and needs to be forged through a long-term and subconscious process of nation-building.

"In Singapore, we are working on what it means to be Singaporean, day by day," he said, citing examples of students singing the national anthem daily at school assemblies, different communities living side by side in Housing Board estates and young men serving national service together.

"These are all acts of nation-building. Many of these come through deliberate policies and programmes implemented by the state."

Referring to Singapore's bicentennial year in 2019, Mr Ong said people here had voted "self-determination" as what best describes the country's DNA during a public voting exercise.

"Cities don't need it; many states don't even think about it; but a young nation like us dreams of and cherishes self-determination," he added.

He said there was a growing consciousness about what it means to be Singapore - as a key node of the globalised world that connects the East and the West and creates vast opportunities for its people; a country with institutions of state that will ensure justice and fairness to all, uphold meritocracy and bridge divides; and as a nation that gives every community a place under the sun, where people give and take rather than push their own agenda at the expense of others.

"With all of these, we will determine our own future and be a city, state and nation that continues to thrive for many years to come," he added.

Thursday 13 January 2022

Leong Mun Wai is Clueless in Parliament: Right that unfounded allegations are promptly rebutted before they cause public disquiet

Members of Parliament must not make any unsubstantiated claims in the House (Stern reminder for NCMP over claims on differentiated measures, Jan 12).

Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai's allegations on Monday about teachers checking students' vaccination status in schools would have warranted serious discussion if he had been able to substantiate and verify his claims.

This was not the case as Mr Leong clarified on Tuesday that he had brought up the issue of teachers practising vaccination-differentiated measures based on messages in a chat group.

There are urgent issues to be debated in Parliament, and MPs should take the time and opportunity given to speak their mind about matters of importance to the public.

MPs would do well to equip themselves with facts when they bring up sentiments from the ground in Parliament, especially when there is disagreement over government policies.

This is paramount given that there are pressing issues like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant problems to be discussed and debated in Parliament.

Any unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations about sensitive matters should be promptly rebutted before they cause unnecessary public disquiet and concerns.

This is exactly what Leader of the House Indranee Rajah did.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng