Sunday, August 02, 2015

#butilovesingaporemore : EBRC needs to change to reduce gerrymandering stain

Dear Friends,

When the report of the ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES REVIEW COMMITTEE  (EBRC) was presented to parliament as a white paper on 24th July 2015, there was understandable skepticism from a sizable segment of the population.

For instance, in a Sunday Times article (The new GRC: Jalan Besar 2nd Aug 2015), it was noted that Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew’s Moulmein ward has all but disappeared into 3 different GRC’s ( Tanjong Pagar/Holland-Bt Timah/Bishan-TP). Of course all of us know Lui helms the ministry that is closely related to SMRT’s recent hiccups. I do not need to remind all about another ward ie Joo Chiat, as it will soon be a distant memory ( disappearing into Marine Parade GRC).
My previous post about Gerrymandering click here.

Whether this skepticism was justifiable is a point for further debate as the government did point out that the opposition was not obviously disadvantaged as Worker’s Party (WP) held wards were left intact as was Potong Pasir which Mrs Lina Chiam of the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) lost by the slimmest of margins in GE 2011.

That there was concern about the neutrality of the committee is not unexpected as the chairman was after all Mr. Tan Tee Yong, the Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, although the rest of the committee were experts who would generally be needed to provide professional input for such a report.

They were Dr Cheong Koon Hean – Chief Executive Officer, Housing Development Board (HDB), Mr Tan Boon Khai, – Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Land Authority (SLA)
, Ms Wong Wee Kim – Chief Statistician at Singapore Statistics and Secretary, Mr Lee Seng Lup – Head of Election Department.

A few clarifications would help reduce accusations of gerrymandering and to  preserve the good standing of Singapore:
  1. What were the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the EBRC report
  2. Other than the TOR, it would be wonderful if the EBRC could confirm that no other inputs eg which may benefit or vice versa any political parties, were considered.

I humbly suggest the following:
  1. As in the UK (Boundary Commissions)  and Hong Kong (Electoral Affairs Commission), such a committee should be headed by a judge. NB In the UK, allthough the Speaker of the House of Commons is the ex officio Chairman, he takes no part in the proceedings and the Deputy Chairman of the Commission, who presides over Commission meetings, is always a Justice.
  2. The minutes of the EBRC should be open for public scrutiny.
  3. EBRC should be convened at fixed intervals, eg 5 yearly

I also long for the day when the Elections department is run as an independent body ( unlike being under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) now). Should I be optimistic or follow some people’s advise who say I need to wait “long long” (Hokkien vernacular).

The processes of public affairs should not just be fair but also seen to be fair.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

NB: #butilovesingaporemore : the reason why I speak up. It is not because i do not like the PAP . In fact there are many aspects of the PAP that resonates with me.

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