Happening over 2 weekends in June (9-10/23-24 June), a youth model parliament initiatve was held at the Chambers @ The Arts House – the Old Parliament Building. It simulates an actual Singapore Parliamentary sitting, in the hopes of giving participants an opportunity to 1) understand Singapore’s Parliamentary procedures, 2) experience at first hand the complexities of policy-making, and 3) heighten self-awareness on the possible issues that confront and impact Singapore and Singaporeans today and in future years, in short: how to move Singapore forward?
In these 4 sittings, participants from both Government and Opposition benches – a mixture of tertiary students and young working adults – were tasked to do a supply bill debate and to make amendments to this bill paper, based on the actual real Budget 2012.
I am honoured to be invited to play the role of chief secretariat in the Singapore Parliament – namely the Clerk of Parliament. I handle all the administrative aspects, to ensure all parliamentary sittings in the House run smoothly, and to make sure sufficient resources are being given to all Ministers and Members of Parliament.
We were playing it in a future scenario setting such that there will be more Opposition members in Singapore Parliament – about 50 govt members, 38 oppo members. They can shoot their questions to the 1st ministers in Government bench. To check on the ruling government, the Opposition members came up with many questions. And so, the Government members had to make some rebuttals.
In order to allow a greater learning experience, the working committee in fact actually encouraged all participants to “be creative, be bold to think out of the box”, when they discuss among themselves how they want to craft their respective ministry policy improvements to the bill paper.
It was interesting to note that the outcome was both Government and Opposition bench members agreed to compromise on certain aspects of the amended Supply Bill paper rationally after the parliamentary debates, having that unspoken consensus to put national interest before individual and party benefits. 🙂
Thus, my observations of the participants seem to tell me that the younger generation of Singaporeans today would want to say this – Look, as long as we are able to have a decent conversation on resolving national issues while respecting each other, nevermind the fact that we are of different perspectives and political affiliations, we are actually willing to compromise and find new ways to solve problems, to complement and to co-operate together on one common aim – and that is to move Singapore forward in the next few decades.
Having said that, most importantly is, I think there should be talented selfless people on both sides of the House, not just the incumbent party. At the end of the day, regardless of different political affiliations, is all about a group of passionate representatives fighting for the betterment of Singapore and Singaporeans, now and for future generations.
New friendships were formed in this ground-breaking initiative. Camaraderie in both benches were strengthened over group meetings and discussions. Participants learnt to see a specifc policy from different perspectives. Most importantly, it is a non-disputable fact that all of us including myself had a better clearer understanding of Singapore’s parliamentary procedures than any other Singaporean, except for the existing ministers and members of the Parliament. We walked away with a heightened sense of political awareness.
Definitely, this is not the end. It signals a beginning of more such activities to come, in the near future. =)
Note: The Clerk of Parliament is the highest official in the Parliament Secretariat. In real settings, he is supported by his Deputy Clerk, Principal Assistant Clerks and Assistant Clerks, in the Office of Clerk of Parliament. They are responsible for providing prompt advice to the Speaker of Parliament, chairpersons of select committees and MPs on parliamentary law and procedures.
Seated at the desk directly below the Speaker’s Chair, the Clerks act as advisers to the Speaker and Members of Parliament during a sitting which starts at 1.30pm.
In addition to this advisory role, they are also reponsible for maintaining records of all proceedings of the House and its Select Committees and examine Bills, questions for oral/written answer, motions, petitions and other papers for presentation to ensure conformity with the House’s rules prescribed in the Standing Orders.
Other secondary duties performed by the Clerks include undertaking inter-parliamentary liaison functions and acting as secretaries to parliamentary delegations attending conferences abroad.