New Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin will be ‘impartial, fair and firm’
Tan Chuan-Jin addresses House as Speaker of Parliament for the first time
Parliament's position as a platform to hear the people's voices can be achieved only if the members come together to discuss issues in a manner that "provides hope and clarity," said Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, fresh from his election as Singapore's 10th Speaker of Parliament yesterday.
Addressing the House as head of the legislature for the first time, Mr Tan said: "We need to present the voices and needs of our individual constituents, but we need also to stand for a united Singapore, to speak with one voice in a fissiparous world."
He also laid out his expectations from the House, pledging to "facilitate good free-flowing debate" to achieve better policies and laws but reminding members not to abuse their parliamentary privileges and to adhere to Standing Orders.
"I will be impartial and fair, but I will also be firm," he said.
Mr Tan, who served his last day as Minister of Social and Family Development on Sunday, was nominated to be Speaker by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong following the departure of Madam Halimah Yacob.
Recognising the importance of the opposition in Parliament, Mr Tan said their presence is a strength and a positive step towards productive debates.
He also touched on the challenges for these debates, which will get even more complex due to the rise of "fake news".
"Putting on a sheep's coat does not make these falsehoods true. And yet we have seen time and again, how misinformation can have serious impact on people's lives. New platforms also allow people's views to be channelled very directly to our leaders," said Mr Tan.
"The challenge is to discern, sense-make, to find clarity. Ultimately, to provide direction."
Mr Tan paid tribute to Madam Halimah, who was in the gallery with her husband yesterday.
"She has more than enough on her plate at the moment, but as it is typical of her, she has made time for me in her diary. That is the woman she is. For that, I am grateful," he said.
Six MPs took turns to also thank Madam Halimah and congratulate Mr Tan, commending him for his values, which they said would serve him well in his current role.
Leader of the House Grace Fu said the members have full confidence in his ability as Speaker.
Addressing the speculation that stepping down as a minister to serve as Speaker was a "demotion", Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong said she begged to differ.
Admitting this was one of the thoughts that came to her mind, she said she "began to think otherwise" and questioned if a person's measure of success should be limited to the position he holds and the salary he earns.
Miss Chia said: "We all serve. No office can limit the passion to serve. No office can limit the talent to make an impact. And any office can be one for exemplary service."