The Parliament of Singapore elected Tan Chuan-Jin as the new Speaker of the House today. He urged the Members of Parliament to stand for a united Singapore to speak with one voice.
Addressing Members of Parliament, he said, “We need to present the voices and needs of our individual constituents, but we need also to stand for a united Singapore, to speak with one voice in a fissiparous world.”
Tan was nominated to be Speaker of Parliament by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as former Speaker Halimah Yacob vacated the seat last month in preparation for contesting the Presidential election.
The new Speaker also urged MPs to engage with the public outside the House in order to be effective, in an era where information flows “almost unbounded and in copious volume”.
He said, “Very involved discourse is also taking place outside this House as people are more aware and more informed... To be effective, we do need to engage beyond this house, to tap on the collective wisdom that lies without. While we all need to be grounded and engaged, let us be clear: the buck stops here. We need to be the institution that channels and reflects the voices of the people, so that we can query, answer and debate in a manner that provides hope and clarity.”
He also expressed concern over the rise of fake news. He termed “fake news” as “oxymoronic” because fake news is “not news at all but lies”.
“Putting on a sheep’s coat does not make these falsehoods true. And yet we have seen time and again, how misinformation can have serious impact on people’s lives,” said Tan.
He said, “New platforms also allow people’s views to be channelled very directly to our leaders. The challenge is to discern, sense-make, to find clarity. Ultimately, to provide direction.”
Giving advice to MPs, he said, “I expect you to debate vigorously, but maintain mutual respect, do not abuse our parliamentary privileges and to keep to the Standing Orders. I will be impartial and fair, but I will also be firm.”
Tan also thanked former Speaker Madam Halimah Yacob, for her advice and support as he assumed the new appointment. “She has more than enough on her plate at the moment, but as it is typical of her, she has made time for me in her diary. That is the woman she is. For that, I am grateful,” he said.