Singapore – June 21, 2012 – To engage Singaporean youths in policy and political debate, Young PAP (YPAP) organizes the inaugural YP Model Parliament (YPMP) at the Arts House, Singapore former parliament house, from 9th to 24th June 2012. The inaugural YPMP comprises of forty-two YP activists, as well as thirty-eight youths and university students. The parliamentary debates are centered on the 2012 budget, with special emphasis on population, housing affordability, transportation, and economic policies. The event was formally launched by Minister Teo Ser Luck on 9th June, and is supported by Minister K Shanmugam, Speaker Michael Palmer, Deputy Speaker Kian Peng, and several other PAP MPs.
Currently, YPAP organizes a wide range of activities to engage Singapore youths, ranging from dialogue and sharing sessions conducted by PAP Ministers and MPs, policy discussions, community service projects, as well as grassroots events. This model parliament, according to YPAP Exco Member and PM of the Model Parliament, Martin Tan, provides a new way for YPAP to engage Singaporean youths in robust debates on the politics of public policies.
The YPMP is a ground-up initiative mooted by the YPAP team from Nee Soon GRC and Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. “The inspiration came about while our Chong Pang activists discussed about the UK Youth Parliament. The idea caught on and it was the Singapore Model Parliament which taught us the execution”, said Mr. Edmund Chua, 23, a 3rd year Business Student in the National University of Singapore. Mr. Chua is the Vice Chairperson of YPAP Chong Pang. Together with his fellow comrade, Mr. Darryl Lee, YPAP member in Cashew Branch and a 1st year political science student in the National University of Singapore, they started gathering interested participants.
According to Ms. Cynthia Mark, this bottoms-up initiative quickly caught on as the YPAP team in Chong Pang proposed the idea to the rest of the party and to YPAP Advisor Minister Teo Ser Luck. Currently a manager in the Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping line, Ms. Cynthia 27, is the chairperson of YPAP Chong Pang and Regional Chairperson of YPAP Nee Soon GRC. Many PAP Ministers and MPs also threw their support behind this initiative. Most notable were Minister K Shanmugam, Minister Teo Ser Luck, Speaker Mr. Michael Palmer, Deputy Speaker Mr. Seah Kian Peng, Mr. Zaqy Mohamad, Mr. Vikram Nair, Mr. Baey Yam Keng, and Ms. Sim Anne.
“We want an additional platform for activists to air different perspectives, and to gather ideas from youths on policies. More importantly, we wanted to create an environment where they can express their views openly, so that they can voice out their creative and innovative ideas,” added Ms Cynthia Mark.
According to Mr. Henry Kwek, Advisor to YPAP Chong Pang, YPMP is unique because it let participants experience the rigors of policy-making amidst budgetary constraints. He further added, “Through this exercise, many of us realize that on most issues, there are usually solid rationales behind opposing perspectives. We learn first hand that governance is about making very tough choices, based on rigorous facts, with the betterment of the public in mind.” Participants underwent months of preparation to research and sharpen their arguments. The YPMP government bench organized themselves into various Government Parliamentary Committees along ministry lines. There were even regular “cabinet meetings” for thorough policy discussions. In the end, the YPMP government bench developed a refined Supply Bill based the 2012 Budget. In a marked departure from the real 2012 budget debate in parliament, the YPMP opposition bench unveiled a shadow supply bill supported by budgetary calculations. In addition to the four parliamentary sittings, select committees were also formed for the both benches to seek for a bipartisan agreement to the YPMP budget.
The YPMP is shaping up to be an enriching experience for non-PAP participants. Mr. Bay Ming Ching, an NUS Sociology student who was not a YP member, offered his perspective, “I think that this parliament simulation comes at a fitting time where many Singaporeans are becoming more politically conscious, yet we are still trying to find our way in making a meaningful contribution towards civic discourse. In this sense, a Model Parliament serves as an effective platform to engage Singaporeans from different political standpoints and creates a discursive space where opinions are heard, policy trade-offs are compromised and mutual understandings are obtained. On a personal level, it has exposed me not just to different political views but I also realized that in certain instances, my personal political views do not stand up to scrutiny within a debate setting. Through my stint as Shadow Minister of MICA, I’ve also became largely intrigued with the idea of censorship and media regulations, and I’m actually contemplating a career with MDA, something that I have not thought of before this simulation”
At the end of the YPMP, the participants will get a chance to present their policy ideas formally to Minister K. Shanmugam and other PAP politicians.