President designates four other places for Parliament sittings, including the Arts House

SINGAPORE – Parliament can sit at four other locations for the next six months, after President Halimah Yacob designated these places on Friday (May 22).

The four locations are the Arts House in Old Parliament Lane, The Treasury in High Street, Civil Service College in North Buona Vista Road, and NTUC Centre in Marina Boulevard.

These places can now hold Parliament sittings from Friday to Nov 20 after the President made a proclamation in the Government Gazette the same day.

The announcement comes after a Bill was passed earlier this month to amend the Constitution so that the House can meet in multiple locations if needed, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Madam Halimah gave her assent to the constitutional amendment on May 15.

Before the change, parliamentarians could only meet at one physical location – Parliament House.

MPs were informed about the new locations earlier on Friday. Those who spoke to The Straits Times said the locations would not be used for the upcoming Parliament sitting on Tuesday.

Mr Yee Chia Hsing, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said: “It hasn’t been implemented yet, but the measures will help to minimise any possible mixing between members.”

Nominated MP Anthea Ong said the move did not come as a surprise, given the Bill and the fact that MPs were divided into smaller groups during break times in the last two sittings.

“We don’t know yet where we will be seated but will be notified by the Clerk of Parliament,” she adeed.

When contacted, Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, and Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng also said no arrangements for MPs to sit at the new locations have been made.

In presenting the Bill for debate earlier this month, Leader of the House Grace Fu said spreading members within the Chamber and public galleries for safe distancing “was about as far as we can go under the law today”.

“But it is entirely conceivable that exigencies may make it unsafe or even impossible for us to meet at one place,” she added, adding it is even critical for Parliament to carry on its constitutional functions in such times.

Details of the continuity arrangements, such as the appointed places and the mode of communication between those places, will be decided by the House or the Speaker.

When activated, the continuity arrangements will mean MPs can take part in Parliament proceedings fully despite being in separate places, and their presence will count for attendance, quorum and voting purposes. The powers, immunities and privileges of the House will also apply.

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