I was invited to attend this youth summit, with more than 100 other young Singaporeans coming from various backgrounds. It was jointly organised by Chong Pang Community Club and North West Community Development Council.
Students, artists, film-makers, street dancers, working adults, youth volunteers or activists on various causes, ranging from youth empowerment, animal rights, environmental movements, religious groups and voluntary welfare groups.
Behind closed doors, in different groups, we shared views on various hot-button issues such as meritocracy, foreign talents, LGBT (Lesbians/Gays/Bisexuals/Transgender), housing, population bloom, unwed mothers, disabled persons, Internal Security Act, taxes and Section 377A (Penal Code). We had a chance to have a direct conversation with Law & Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr K Shanmugam.
Held in a function room at a hotel in Orchard Road, the focus of this one-full day youth summit was on young Singaporeans because there has been a “generational change”. Mr K Shanmugam sees that the next upcoming 20 years will be very different from the last 20 years.
Yeah, since the watershed Singapore General Elections held in May last year. Being a more educated and well-travelled group of Singaporeans, we hear alot more views from the young ones these days.
I was among those who rose up to pose questions to Minister. It was a question about inclusiveness in Singapore in the next 20 years.
“Talking about building an inclusive Singapore, as an hearing-impaired young Singaporean, I do not know but just would like to hear your own view – do you see a possibility that we would have a physically disabled or hearing-impaired Member of Parliament in the next 10 or 20 years?”
I raised this question because during the earlier break-out group discussion, my group touched on the topic of “Disabled Persons”. One of the group participants reflected that there is a missing voice to be an advocate for disabled Singaporeans, as such it would be a good thing if our Parliament allows another Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) position to represent them.
Presently Ms Denise Phua, a Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, helps to speak up for these communities in Parliament.
Mr K Shanmugam responded, saying that the Singapore Government do to the best of its ability to ensure equal opportunities for all Singaporeans, be them able-bodied or physically challenged, for now and future generations. He is glad that there are many employment opportunities for physically challenged Singaporeans in the private sector and social enterprises these days. But he is unable to ensure that we would have a physically disabled Member of Parliament in Singapore one day.
“It still depends”, he said.
Thinking deeper..okay, I think I understand what he meant.
These are my thoughts:
It is a known fact that a Member of Parliament has to be elected by the electorate.
Firstly, putting aside the physically handicap issue, it depends on political parties whether they are able to find qualified credible individuals who are knowledgeable with all the current issues/challenges faced by the special needs communities to represent them in Parliament. This point alone, should be able to address the issue of inclusiveness for disabled persons in Singapore, IF this person aspires to be an advocate for the community in the Parliament House.
In addition, the job responsibilities that come with MP position. They are indeed taxing. This person must be able to fulfill its obligations.
Secondly, the individual’s overall character and values. Is he or she a right fit, with what political parties are looking for? Can he/she carry himself/herself well?
It is just like how an employer assess job applicants during job interviews or screening process.
Lastly, another possible factor – it depends on the opponent whom this individual is pitting himself against, during an election campaign. Does he/she have that competitive edge or X-factor over his opponent? Yes, it could be that likeability or personal charisma factor.
We shall see in future if it becomes a reality.
The search is on………….