At the Singapore Bicentennial Conference held at Raffles City on Monday (30 Sep), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat told the audience that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) is independent and not politically motivated.
To do the electoral boundaries properly, population, demographic and other changes have to be looked at, and this requires the views of independent experts, Heng added.
“So, if you look at what they have done, the constituencies, Potong Pasir remains where it is today, Hougang remains exactly the same as it is, and Aljunied in the last election remained as it is,” he tried to explain. “So, I hope you do not doubt the independence of this commission, that they are doing what is right.”
The EBRC was formed last month on 4 Sep, seen as the first formal step towards the upcoming GE.
Writing on his Facebook page yesterday (2 Oct), Workers’ Party politician and former Non-constituency Member of Parliament Yee Jenn Jong questioned Heng’s assertion that the EBRC is independent and not politically motivated.
“It is ironical that DPM Heng cited the existence of Potong Pasir as a fact that the EBRC committee is independent. If political considerations are not the deciding factor, then Potong Pasir which does not meet the minimum number of electorate to be a SMC, should not even have stayed as a SMC,” Mr Yee argued.
In the last GE, Potong Pasir was the smallest SMC with only 17,407 electors. On average, there were about 27,000 electors in a SMC in 2015 GE.
Mr Yee went on to propose that there should be non-government representatives in the EBRC. He said, “Ideally it should be chaired by someone who does not report to a political office bearer. Having civil servants is fine but there’s no stopping having non government representatives inside to bring in different perspectives and expertise to the committee.”
Mr Yee also lamented that details given by the EBRC have been “shrinking” over the decades. He said, “Hardly any justification is being provided now to changes in boundaries.”
ERBC does not explain how or why they make boundary changes
Indeed, when the ERBC carved out part of Sengkang West SMC – the area between Jalan Kayu and Fernvale Road – and merged it into Ang Mo Kio GRC before the last GE, ERBC didn’t give any explanations for its actions.
At the time, residents at the ward were reportedly displeased:
Sengkang West was embroiled in controversy before 2015 GE when news broke about a commercial columbarium would be erected on a plot of land near BTO homes in Fernvale Lea. The plot was originally reserved for building a temple.
During a town hall meeting, MP Lam Pin Min even sat at the same table as the commercial developer replying to residents’ questions and was seen siding with the developer.
This greatly upset the Sengkang West residents. Due to the public furore, the government eventually backed down and rejected the plans by the developer to build the commercial columbarium, and called for a second tender.
Many people suspected that part of Sengkang West was carved out and put under Ang Mo Kio’s GRC, which is headed by PM Lee, to “play safe” for 2015 GE, since those residents live close to the site were most angered.
In any case, Mr Yee also opined that GE should not be called so soon, sometimes with the parliament dissolved just 1 or 2 days, after the boundary changes are made by ERBC.
“This would give credibility that any change to boundaries are not for political purposes because any serious party can then have at least 6 months to prepare the ground,” added Mr Yee.