Important to find common ground on fundamentals: Ong
Political parties do not have to disagree for the sake of it, says Ong Ye Kung after debates on racism, FTAs
It is important for political parties to find common ground on fundamentals that are vital to Singapore, such as the present need for the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) and the importance of free trade agreements, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday.
"We don't have to disagree for the sake of disagreeing," Mr Ong wrote in a Facebook post on the debates in Parliament last week on racism, and on free trade agreements and foreign manpower.
National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) deputy secretary-general Chee Hong Tat also took to Facebook yesterday to comment on the debates and respond to Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, who spoke about xenophobia and nativism last Thursday at a Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) event.
Mr Chee said: "I am glad that Mr Singh understands the stakes and has not taken a zero-sum view.
"There are genuine concerns with foreigners working and living in Singapore, and it is not always easy to persuade people why we cannot have more jobs for locals without some competition from foreigners."
Mr Ong criticised the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) for refusing to withdraw what he said were wrongful allegations about the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca).
In Parliament, Mr Ong had cited some PSP leaders as saying that Ceca gave professionals from India "a free hand" to come and work in Singapore.
"It is a shame that PSP colleagues, after listening to the facts, would only say that they will study the matter further," Mr Ong wrote.
He said he took comfort in Mr Singh's acceptance of the Government's corrections and accepted Mr Singh's point that the Government could have come forward with data and information earlier.
"If we can sustain this sort of politics in Singapore, we can be confident that better days are still ahead," said Mr Ong.
Mr Chee said NTUC supports the Government's position on free trade agreements and the Manpower Ministry's efforts to enhance protection for local workers.
NTUC will push for more to be done to ensure fair consideration for Singaporeans when it comes to hiring and career progression,and it will look at all options, including anti-discrimination laws, he added.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng told Parliament that his ministry has been studying various options to give the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices more bite.
Dr Tan told reporters on Saturday that anti-discrimination laws are being considered even if they are not a panacea for unfair employment practices.
He added that stiffer penalties may be adopted for employers who do not consider Singaporeans fairly for job opportunities, and "it will not be long" before his ministry and tripartite partners come back with a recommendation.
Dr Tan was responding to Mr Singh, who at the SICC event had called for businesses to lobby the Government to pass anti-discrimination laws.