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Parliament to discuss Terrex seizure and Singtel Internet outage
THE first Parliament sitting of the new year takes place on Monday afternoon, with Members of Parliament (MPs) filing 97 questions - 68 for oral answer and 29 for a written response - for various ministers to answer.
One of the dominant issues to be discussed is the detention of nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles in Hong Kong; Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan are expected to field queries from six MPs on this.
It was on Nov 23 last year when Hong Kong customs detained the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles which were on board a container ship in transit in Hong Kong. They were being transported back to Singapore after an SAF military exercise in Taiwan.
The authorities had reportedly impounded the shipment because the vessel owner, APL, had not provided the appropriate permits for the vehicles.
Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang) intends to ask Dr Balakrishnan for an update on the state of Singapore's relations with China, and how Singapore can continue to balance its existing trade and foreign-relations interests, given "strong expectations" from China to align with its One China policy and claims over the South China Sea.
Mr Zaqy also wants to know what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' plans are to "normalise relations" and minimise the impact of China putting a greater focus on competing economies in the region.
Pritam Singh of the opposition Workers' Party will ask Dr Ng whether any secret or confidential equipment and information was "compromised or potentially disclosed" to foreign powers in the course of Hong Kong's seizure of the vehicles.
Another pressing topic on the agenda is the massive fibre broadband Internet service disruption which hit Singtel subscribers last month. The service was affected for about 24 hours over the weekend of Dec 3.
Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee) will ask Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim for the cause of the outage, and whether there are plans to strengthen and protect critical infrastructure such as the telecommunication network from major disruptions.
Turning to Singapore's job market, Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang) will ask Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say for a projection on Singapore's unemployment for the first quarter of 2017.
The MP also wants to find out the average waiting time for local and foreign university graduates to enter the workforce, and how the softer job market is affecting older workers in the country.
Meanwhile, six Bills are up for a second reading, among them the one to amend the Retirement and Re-Employment Bill. The House will debate, among other things, the move to raise the re-employment age from 65 to 67, and to allow a new employer to take on the re-employment obligations of the original employer, subject to the employee's agreement.
Four new Bills will be introduced on Monday, including one to amend the Presidential Elections Bill ahead of the upcoming presidential election, which must be held by August this year. The upcoming poll will be reserved for candidates from the Malay community, which will pave the way for Singapore to have its first Malay head of state in 47 years.