Not taking a party position so WP MPs can freely support all sides is ‘wanting to speak without taking responsibility’: Shanmugam

sgmatters.com not taking a party position so wp mps can freely support all sides is wanting to speak without taking responsibility shanmugam not taking a party position so wp mps can freely support al

Mr Pritam Singh, as Leader of the Opposition, says the WP does not take a position on s377A, whether to repeal or not. As a Party, the WP has no official position.

It does not want to be seen as supporting the repeal. At the same time, it also does not want to be seen as opposing the repeal. That way, it hopes to be all things to all men and not too much of anything to anyone,

It also does not support the Constitutional Amendments to protect marriage.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking in his wrap-up speech to repeal s377A and to amend the Constitution to protect the definition of heterosexual marriage. 

In our Westminster Parliamentary system, Parties must have a view on important questions that come before Parliament, said Mr Shanmugam.

They need to be honest in this House, say what they think is good for Singapore, and be accountable to the electorate for their decisions.

The WP had a debate among themselves. They debated and discussed but didn’t decide on a Party position. 

How will such a team function if they are in charge?

Individually, WP Sylvia Lim and He Tingru do not support the amendments to protect the heterosexual definition of marriage.

They want full judicial review without restriction to be made available to Article 156 (4)  which protects the ability of Parliament and the Government to make laws and policies.

Article 156 takes two specific issues out from the courts’ province and keeps them entirely within the province of the elected branches.

These are: (1) the heterosexual definition of marriage, and (2) the ability of Parliament and Government to make laws and policies based on this definition.

Ms Lim’s and Ms He’s position would mean that they accept that the courts can strike down the heterosexual definition of marriage, or to curtail the ability of Parliament and Government to make laws and policies based on this definition, and for society to live with the consequences after that, Minister Shanmugam said. 

The Whip does not prevent MPs from speaking their minds

Mr Singh said his lifting the Whip on WP MPs was democratic, so as to allow for a full and honest representation of all views.

That explanation is factually untrue.

That explanation is factually untrue, said Mr Shanmugam. MPs are entitled to their honest views. They are free to say what they think, agree or disagree. The WP MPs could have made all the speeches they made, even with the Whip in place, Mr Shanmugam said.

To say the Party has no position so as to allow the WP MPs to make speeches supporting all sides, without having to make a decision and be held responsible for the decision is not true democracy.

“It is better described as wanting to speak without taking responsibility,Minister Shanmugam said.

The Whip is relevant for voting, not speaking, and the Whip sets out the Party’s position.

sgmatters.com wp has no position on 377a wants to be all things to all men and not much to anyone k shanmugam wp has no position on 377a wants to be all things to all men and not much to anyone k shan

2 reasons for repealing 377A

The first reason

It is the right thing to do. In Singapore, for a conduct to be a crime, there should generally be a public order or public interest issue. There are no public concerns that justify private consensual sex between men being a crime. It humiliates and hurts gay people. Most gay people do not cause harm to others. They just want to live peacefully and quietly, and be accepted as part of society, the same as any other Singaporean

The second reason

There is a significant legal risk of it being struck down by the Courts if we were to leave s 377A alone, and the significant negative and disruptive consequences for Singaporeans and Singapore, if that were to happen. 

What does WP propose to do?

The WP agrees that the legal risks to s 377A exist.

“What does the WP as a Party propose, if you don’t want to repeal s 377A, and also do not want to support strengthening marriage which we have proposed?” asked Minister Shanmugam.

The position with s 377A is like a train approaching. The question is whether we have the courage to act, or rather dive for cover to protect yourself and leave society to face the train wreck?

Leaving Singaporeans to face the consequences

As a party, the WP does not support the repeal. The party also does not support the amendments to the Constitution to protect the heterosexual definition of marriage. 

Their position will mean that they will leave the decision to the Courts, and let Singaporeans face the negative consequences, including perpetuating differences and polarising our society further, Mr Shanmugam said.

This is because the Courts can only make binary decisions.

And if the WP truly believes that these sensitive matters ought to be decided by the Court, never mind the consequences, including further dividing us in endless rounds of litigation. Then, they should be honest and say so in this House.

sgmatters.com wp has no position on 377a wants to be all things to all men and not much to anyone k shanmugam wp has no position on 377a wants to be all things to all men and not much to anyone k shan 1

In Conclusion

Minister Shanmugam said the issue of conscience, which is real, is quite different from the issue of policy.

“I have focused on the policy issue and I think it is not too much to ask that a clear stand be taken on the policy issue.”

Quoting Winston Churchill, Mr Shanmugam said: “They are decided, only to be undecided; resolved, only to be irresolute.”

The Government has consulted widely and has come to a position.

“We believe that our policy offers a way forward. It balances the different views, maintains our social cohesion, keeps us together. PM and DPM Wong have stated clearly that they will maintain this position. On this difficult matter, we will do our duty and take responsibility for holding society together,” said Mr Shanmugam

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