How Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin plans to connect with the public

How Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin plans to connect with the public

Most Singaporeans may not be familiar with Parliamentary proceedings. New Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin hopes to address this and more as he seeks to bridge the gap between Parliament and the public.

SINGAPORE: On days when Parliament is due to sit, House Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin usually starts it off with a quick jog by the Singapore River, followed by a meeting with his clerks to sort out all administrative work before the session begins.

"Leading up to the day itself, obviously there’s quite a lot of work as well. Members will be submitting a lot of questions,” said Mr Tan.

“The clerks will be processing it, and then we’ll work with the leader and whip as to how they want to cluster the questions so that all questions would be eventually answered - whether oral or written. But you also will want to cluster around main themes that would be addressed by various ministries.”

He was speaking to Channel NewsAsia as he gave this reporter an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in a day in the life of a Speaker.

As Speaker, Mr Tan's duties include enforcing the rules of debate. This means allocating time for Members of Parliament to speak, so that everyone will be able to ask questions and voice their concerns.

But just two months since his appointment, the former Social and Family Development Minister is thinking of what more he can do in his role.

For instance, he’s thinking of helping the public understand what goes on in Parliament. This means explaining certain concepts like the “adjournment motion” - who can table it and what happens when more than one MP files a motion.

“Being aware of the debates is one thing ... reading about them, watching, thinking about them," he said. "But understanding the process is also important, this is really about the democracy at work.”


To bridge this information gap, Mr Tan is thinking of starting a blog to explain Parliamentary processes. This might even extend to other social media platforms, like Facebook, Youtube, and maybe even Instagram.

Visually, this might be interesting. Singapore’s Parliament, Mr Tan revealed, still keeps some old traditions from the original Westminster days.

"I think the Speaker used to wear a wig. I still have the wig, I found the wig, but I’m not wearing it anymore. But I think some of these traditions (are) probably still useful to maintain,” he said. 

Beyond reaching out to the general public, Mr Tan intends to foster better Parliamentary ties with other countries as well.

The Speaker traditionally acts as the House’s representative, welcoming visiting dignitaries and representing Parliament at national events and during official visits abroad.

“I’m keen to see what we could do with Indonesia and Malaysia particularly, especially in the neighbouring countries, whether more of our parliamentarians can meet up with their counterparts more,” he said.

Mr Tan feels his role as the Speaker is not confined to the walls of the Parliament House. Social causes such as volunteerism are close to his heart, and this is something he intends to continue promoting.

He said: "I’ve always been very interested in social causes … about how we could encourage the public to be involved. How do you give voice to concerns, aspirations and how do you also begin to translate into things you could do?

“So being socially aware, socially conscious, being involved - and how do you structure that using the SG Cares movement, for example, as an approach by which more Singaporeans could be actively giving, caring for others. Maybe through that, change in society begins to happen as well.”

Source: CNA/dl