Walk the Talk!


“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” – Albert Einstein

It is a mockery of the Parliamentary process when a Member of Parliament fails to exercise her right to vote on issues that have come up for  consideration.  Whether or not there exists the anti-democratic “party whip”, as an elected MP, I expect the person to have the gumption and the conscience to vote according to what the person says.

Here is an extract (page 40) from the “Standing Orders of the Parliament of Singapore” (it’s a PDF) (the bold emphasis is mine):

VOTING IN PARLIAMENT OR A COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE PARLIAMENT

Collection of voices
62. – (1) When the Speaker or Chairman has put the question at the conclusion of a debate, he shall collect the voices of the “Ayes’’ and “Noes’’ and provided that no Member then claims a division, shall declare the result in accordance with the provisions of the law(13).

(2) A Member may, instead of claiming a division, inform the Speaker or Chairman that he wishes his dissent to be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings and the Official Report and his dissent shall be so recorded.

Procedure on divisions

63. – (1) No division shall be taken unless at least five Members rise in their places in support of it.

(2) When a division is to be proceeded with, the Speaker or the Chairman shall direct that the division bells shall be rung. After the lapse of at least one minute, the Speaker or the Chairman shall direct that the doors be locked and the Serjeant at Arms shall thereupon cause the doors to be locked.

(3) Thereafter the Speaker or Chairman shall put the question a second time and if a division is again claimed, a division shall be taken in a manner to be decided by the Speaker and the Clerk shall enter on the Votes and Proceedings a record of each Member’s vote and of the names of Members who abstain from voting.

(4) At a division a Member shall vote for the “Ayes’’ or for the “Noes’’, or expressly indicate that he abstains from voting. A Member shall not vote in a manner inconsistent with any opinion which he may have expressed when the voices were taken collectively.

(5) A Member may vote in a division although he did not hear the question put.

(6) When the votes have been collected, the Speaker or Chairman shall state the numbers voting for the “Ayes’’ and for the “Noes’’ respectively, and shall then declare the result of the division, whereupon the Serjeant at Arms shall cause the doors to be unlocked.

(7) If, from the number of Members taking part in a division, including those Members who abstain from voting, it appears that a quorum is not present, the division shall be invalid, the business then under consideration shall stand over until the next sitting and the next business shall be entered upon.

So, from the line above, 63-4: “A Member shall not vote in a manner inconsistent with any opinion which he may have expressed when the voices were taken collectively“, very simply states that one has walk the talk.

Therefore, it is extremely disappointing that MP Inderjit Singh, after making a passionate speech that clearly was critical of the Population White Paper, managed not to vote when the division was called. If Mr Singh did walk the talk, he should have at the minimum, abstained from the vote. I am sure that his abstention would have brought the wrath of his party and his party’s whip, but by not voting, he has has clearly shown that he is not able to walk the talk. That is a huge mistake on the part of Mr Singh.

Here’s a cartoon that caricatures this disappointment.

5 thoughts on “Walk the Talk!

  1. I think what that sub-section meant is that if a division is called (i.e. voting by ballot rather than by calling out just Ayes or Noes), you have to vote according to what you called out earlier when voting was by Ayes or Noes. It doesn’t mean you have to vote according to what you blubbered on about during the debates.

  2. Hi Harish,

    This extract caught my eyes :
    “Procedure on divisions
    63. – (1) No division shall be taken unless at least five Members rise in their
    places in support of it.”

    : )

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