Release of EBRC report 'not correlated' with when elections will be called: Chan Chun Sing
SINGAPORE: The release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) report is "not correlated" to when the General Election will be called, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Saturday (Mar 14).
Responding to questions about the release of the report and when elections will be called, he said: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is the release of the EBRC report, it makes no comment on when the elections will be held."
Earlier on Saturday, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan had criticised the timing of the release of the EBRC report, saying that the General Election should only be held after there are “clear signs” that the COVID-19 situation has abated.
"Don't forget, they (EBRC) had seven to eight months to do this. But it waits till the point where this outbreak of the virus is at its worst, pandemic has just been declared," Dr Chee had said.
The World Health Organization had on Wednesday declared the global COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. As of Saturday morning, the disease has killed more than 5,000 people and infected 140,000 all over the world.
"It is the worst of possible times for us to call for elections at this stage ... PAP (People's Action Party) cannot be more irresponsible to do something like this when we should be focusing our state resources, that the minds of Singaporeans at least on overcoming, conquering this virus," Dr Chee added.
In past elections, Parliament had been dissolved between one day and about two months after the EBRC report was released, leading analysts and opposition parties to speculate that the next polls will be called as early as May.
The COVID-19 situation, however, is likely to last "a year or more", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in a televised message on Thursday.
The Singapore People’s Party (SPP) also said on Friday that holding the General Election during the COVID-19 outbreak “would be most irresponsible”.
“This is not the time for partisan politics, but for national unity. It would be nothing less than irresponsible for the Government to call a General Election while the COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving,” said SPP in a statement published on their Facebook page on Friday.
“We are confident that the Government will not risk exacerbating the outbreak by calling for a general election before the situation has stabilised. There is nothing more important than the health of all Singaporeans.”
Speaking to reporters after a tour at the Singapore Zoo, where he presented the SG Clean certificate to Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Mr Chan noted that the “focus at this point in time” is the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I think we have a situation that we need to manage at this point in time, our energy is all focused on managing the current situation, at the same time creating those conditions for our eventual recovery, and that when the recovery comes we would be able to distinguish ourselves.”
READ: Smaller GRCs, more SMCs may boost GE contestability, a positive step for democracy in Singapore: Political observers
According to the EBRC report released on Friday, there will be more electoral divisions and no six-member Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) in the coming election.
The committee recommended the adoption of 31 electoral divisions, up from 29, with a total of 93 seats in Parliament, four more than the 89 in the House currently.
A new Sengkang GRC has been created with four seats, bringing the number of GRCs to 17, up from the current 16. There will also be 14 SMCs, one more than the current 13.