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HomesingaporeParliament to discuss Israel-Hamas war, cost of living and banking disruptions

Parliament to discuss Israel-Hamas war, cost of living and banking disruptions

SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament will discuss the Israel-Hamas war at the next sitting on Monday (Nov 6), as well as the recent banking disruptions and rising Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices.

According to the order paper released on Friday, a motion has been filed by MP Vikram Nair (PAP-Sembawang), MP Alex Yam (PAP-Marsiling-Yew Tee) and MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang) about the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The motion seeks to express condolences to the innocent victims and civilian casualties in the war, as well as advocate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in Gaza.

It also condemns those responsible for the terrorist acts and violations of international law, and calls for all parties to ensure the safety and security of civilians, including the release of all hostages.

The motion also reiterates Singapore’s longstanding commitment to a negotiated two-state solution consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and urges all Singaporeans to safeguard and uphold its multiracial and multi-religious peace and harmony.

Militant group Hamas launched raids into Israel on Oct 7, killing about 1,400 people and capturing more than 200 hostages.

Singapore has condemned Hamas’ raids, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong saying last month that the attack was “horrendous” and could not be justified.

While Israel has the “legitimate right to defend its citizens”, it must comply with international law, including laws of war, and do its utmost to protect the safety and security of civilians, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said last month.

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WP, PSP statements on Israel-Hamas war

On Oct 18, the Workers’ Party (WP) called on Israel to “reject the collective punishment of innocent civilians”, to cease all military operations in Gaza and to allow the transit of humanitarian aid in the area.

It also called for the immediate return of all Israeli hostages captured in Hamas’ “military operation in southern Israel” on Oct 7.

“De-escalation by all parties must be followed by a withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories, followed by serious negotiations to achieve a lasting peace in the Holy Land; a peace that legitimises the existence of the state of Israel, and establishes a viable Palestinian state,” said WP.

It added that it supports Singapore’s position on a two-state solution consistent with UN Security Council resolutions as the “only viable path” to a resolution.

“In particular, UNSC Resolution 242 which is supported by Singapore, calls for the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories occupied since the 1967 war in exchange for a lasting peace with its neighbours.”

WP said previous military action in Gaza undertaken by the Israel Defence Forces in response to “militant operations including by Hamas” has been marked by “overwhelming disproportionality”.

“We fear this reality will repeat itself in the coming days, weeks and months,” said the party.

“The flagrant disregard of the Geneva Convention, the UN Charter and other international legal instruments, including the occupation of land taken in war by any sovereign nation – is not in Singapore’s national interests.

“The killing of non-combatants, women and children by any country or organisation, in the name of war, deserves no less than absolute condemnation.”

The party warned that the continuing conflict is likely to increase attacks against Jews and Muslims elsewhere, “raising the prospect of radicalisation far beyond the Middle East”, making the world more unsafe and dangerous for all countries. 

“All Singaporeans should be aware and mindful of this possibility, and play an active part to prevent it from happening on our shores,” said WP.

In a Facebook post on Oct 30, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) set out its position on the war, saying it “unequivocally condemns violence against innocent civilians”.

It called on Hamas to immediately return all civilian hostages, and for Israel to comply with international law, including the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter.

“The lives of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians must be protected,” said PSP, adding that it supports Singapore’s position that an enduring peace in the region must be based on a two-state solution.

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More than 30 parliamentary questions on the Israel-Hamas war have been filed for Monday sitting, according to the order paper released on Friday.

The questions are mainly about humanitarian aid to the region and Singapore’s position on the conflict. 

Mr Zhulkarnain asked how the government plans to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and how the conflict impacts Singapore’s Enhanced Technical Assistance Package (ETAP) rendered to support the Palestinian Authority through capacity building of Palestinian officials and scholarships for students.

MP Liang Eng Hwa (PAP-Bukit Panjang) asked whether the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has any bearing on Singapore’s diplomatic position in the Middle East region, and what more Singapore can do to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

MP Jamus Lim (WP-Sengkang) wanted to know if Singapore has plans to scale up humanitarian aid and if it has considered the delivery of such aid via nearby countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan.

MP Xie Yao Quan (PAP-Jurong) asked whether the Singapore government will consider calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and what conditions or situations must come to pass before such a call “becomes imminent”.

How the war affects Singapore is also on the agenda.

NMP Neil Parekh Nimil Rajnikant wanted to know what steps the Ministry of Education is taking to ensure that students are not “unduly swayed in their views and thinking” due to misinformation.

He also asked whether there have been any instances where schools, junior colleges, or educators have faced conflict between students who take opposing sides over the conflict.

MP Desmond Choo (PAP-Tampines) wanted to know the expected impact of the war on Singapore’s economic growth and energy prices.

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COST OF LIVING

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and MP Louis Chua (WP-Sengkang) have filed a motion about the cost of living in Singapore.

“Many have expressed their concerns to us around the concurrent price increases for food, water, housing and both public and private transport, among others,” said WP in a media advisory on Friday.

“With the Goods and Services Tax (GST) scheduled to increase yet again to 9 per cent in 2024, this could add further pressures to the cost of living crisis faced by many Singaporeans and their families.”

The motion called on the government to review its policies so as to lower cost of living pressures on Singaporeans.

Since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Singaporeans have been “beset by inflationary pressures arising from within and outside the country”.

“On top of inflation due to economic adjustments, our fellow Singaporeans have also been hit by rising costs and prices of public goods and services, and the schedule of increases will extend into 2025, for another two years,” said WP.

It added that it will “debate robustly” with the government on Tuesday next week on the measures it believes the government can take.

BANKING DISRUPTIONS

MPs will also discuss the latest banking outages. DBS and Citibank’s digital banking and payment services were disrupted for hours on Oct 14 due to a technical issue with the cooling system at a data centre operated by Equinix.There have been several DBS service disruptions this year.

On Wednesday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) barred DBS from any acquisition of new business ventures for six months. The bank is also required to pause non-essential IT changes for six months.

Mr Choo asked if the recent digital banking disruptions were within MAS’ expectations, and the cost of the recent disruptions to consumers and businesses.

He asked how the central bank will ensure that consumers and businesses are given “early warning of such service disruptions”.

MP Poh Li San (PAP-Sembawang) wanted to know if MAS has data on the number of customers and businesses affected.

NMP Jean See asked whether MAS will consider requiring banks to compensate their customers who suffer financial losses due to outages.

During the next sitting, MPs will also debate rising COE prices – with Category B premiums crossing the S$150,000 (US$109,500) mark for the first time in October – and the installation of new onboard units for the ERP 2.0 system.

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