COVID-19: Parliament could meet from multiple locations under proposed law

COVID-19: Parliament could meet from multiple locations under proposed law

Safe distancing in parliament
Safe distancing in Parliament on Mar 25, 2020.

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Parliament could soon meet from multiple locations, under a proposed law that would enhance lawmakers' ability to function during exigencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Constitution currently mandates that Parliament meets in one place.

In consultation with Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, Leader of the House Grace Fu will introduce on May 4 a Bill to amend the Constitution, the Office of the Leader of the House and Office of the Clerk of Parliament said on Monday (Apr 27).

"The current COVID-19 situation is a good reminder that Parliament must be enabled to carry out its duties and pass laws that serve Singapore and Singaporeans even in exigencies," said the offices in a press release.

"The mechanism for these continuity arrangements will be active for six months after the Bill is enacted and comes into force."

In its last sitting on Mar 25, safe distancing measures were implemented in Parliament.

Members of Parliament (MPs) sat at spaced intervals in the chamber and the galleries, had refreshments in different groups and used separate restrooms.

READ: Necessary for Singapore to fast-track COVID-19 laws amid unprecedented situation - lawyers

Should the Bill pass into law, it will provide a legal framework for MPs to spread out "between two or more places, if it becomes impossible, unsafe or inexpedient for Parliament to meet at one place", the release added.

Under these "continuity arrangements", the presence of MPs at any of the appointed places will count for attendance, quorum and voting purposes. Their parliamentary powers, immunities and privileges will also be extended to cover the arrangements.

In future, Parliament can activate the continuity arrangements for six months at a time. They can also be deactivated at any time through a parliamentary resolution.

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Source: CNA/jt(ac)

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