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review insight 쐽 THE STRAITS TIMES SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 2010 PAGE A39

2006 Sembawang GRC

Nee Soon
Central
SMC
Nee Soon
East
SMC

Ang Mo Kio
Bukit GRC
Panjang
SMC
Yio Chu Kang
SMC
Pasir Ris-Punggol
Hong Kah GRC GRC
Hougang
SMC
Chua Chu Kang
SMC Bishan- Tampines GRC
Toa Payoh Aljunied GRC
Jurong GRC GRC
Potong
Pasir East Coast GRC
SMC
Holland-Bukit Timah
GRC Macpherson
SMC
West Coast GRC Jalan Besar
Tanjong Pagar GRC
GRC Joo Chiat SMC “The
Marine committee...
Parade GRC
proposed the following
single-member
constituencies and group
representation constituencies
taking into account population shifts
and housing developments, and
balancing against other factors, including
2,157,840 the requirement to maintain a minimum
of eight SMCs and keeping, as much as
electors feasible, the number of electors in each
constituency within the respective
84 divisions ranges.”
9 SMCs The committee’s terms of reference were to note
FROM 14 GRCs Cheng San GRC to Ang Mo Kio,”
significant changes in the number of electors, population
shifts and housing development, and have at least eight
PAGE A38 he said, referring to the constitu- single-member constituencies (SMCs).
ency adjacent to Ang Mo Kio that
boundaries adjusted. Seven new saw a hot contest in 1997.
constituencies in HDB areas were Mr Lee’s reply: “I think it is
created.
Explained the committee: “It
was essential and logical to create
new electoral divisions in HDB
community identity: that a con-
stituency should be bound by a
gy at work.
“If you divide up residents in
best to leave them to decide in ac-
cordance with the situation on
the ground.
“They do not disturb bounda-
THE COMMITTEE
new towns. On the other hand,
population shifts away from areas
common interest, whether fishing
in the 1950s, or later on, the par-
area X who might have a same in-
terest, and put them in areas A
ries unnecessarily but when the WHAT IT IS
population has changed, bounda- THERE is no law that mandates the creation or
in or around the city have result- ticular needs of a new HDB town. and B, then you dilute the force ries have to recognise these elec- operation of the electoral boundaries review
ed in substantial depletion in elec- After all, it would be the elect- of that interest and the possibility torate changes.” committee, whichfirst came into being in 1954 ahead
torates.” ed representative’s wish to “repre- that this interest could generate His reassurance notwithstand- of the Legislative Assembly elections.
Yet, the generous deviation sent a division where the commu- political influence,” she specu- ing, speculation about impending Since Singapore’s Indepdence in 1965, it has been
rule might be seen to contravene nity of interest and its distinct- lates. changes continue to swirl around the Prime Minister who appoints the committee. He
the principle of mathematical ness from the interests of others Another consideration in the questions like which PAP MPs also issues the terms of reference.
equality, as it offers enormous is clear, and in speaking for which delineation of boundaries appears will be fielded in SMCs, who are The committee recommends the number of group
flexibility, especially in group rep- he can make his contribution to to be grassroots ties. retiring, and whether the ground representation constituencies (GRCs) and single
resentation constituencies the deliberations to the Assembly In 1967 and 1971, the commit- in a particular constituency is member constituencies (SMCs), and their boundaries.
(GRCs). more distinctive and valuable”, tees were tasked to adjust bounda- sweet. The time taken for the review has ranged from two
For instance, a six-MP GRC in said the 1954 committee. ries without eliminating any con- to seven months.
As things stand now, the aver-
2006 could range from having However, this principle ap- stituencies. The Cabinet decides whether or not to accept the
age number of electors per ward
108,000 to 204,000 electors. committee’s recommendations. The accepted changes
Says Assistant Professor Eu- 쏆 is about 27,500. Taking in a 30
are then gazetted.
per cent deviation, only Nee Soon
gene Tan, a constitutional law The time from the release of the report to Polling
“It was not practical or desirable to limit the East (too big) and Potong Pasir
specialist: “This has implications Day has ranged from 17 days to six months.
(too small) lie outside the range.
for fair and balanced representa-
tion.”
size of every electoral division to 21,000 as that But more tweaks will have to In March this year, Deputy Prime Minister Wong
Kan Seng said the committee for the next election
Noting that the deviation rules would entail massive redrawing of boundaries. be made to take into account the
had not been convened.
new terms of reference.
for New Zealand and Australia The committee, following practice since 1968, One speculation is that one
are 5 per cent and 10 per cent re-
spectively, he argues: “If much decided to adopt a deviation from average to SMC is likely to emerge from the WHO IS IN IT
larger countries with more un- minimise changes to electoral boundaries.” Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. Bets are IN the 1950s, the committee comprised
even spreads of population on the likeable Senior Parliamen- representatives from political parties. After Singapore
1984 committee tary Secretary Teo Ser Luck being attained self-government, it has been made up of
throughout the country can do
sent to helm it. civil servants.
with 5 to 10 per cent deviation,
Another possibility is that Sem- In more recent decades, it has been chaired by the
our 30 per cent deviation is over- Cabinet Secretary, who heads the office that offers
ly generous and may allow for bawang GRC may be split into
pears to have become less impor- One reason, said the commit- administrative support to the Cabinet. He reports to
large variations in the electoral tee, was that they have “well-es- two constituencies, as it is cur-
tant as time went by. the Prime Minister.
rolls for the various GRCs and tablished and active” citizens’ rently anchored by two popular
In 1967, the Government The current Cabinet Secretary is Mr Tan Kee
SMCs.” consultative committees. ministers.
wrote in its response to the com- Yong, who assumed the post last December.
But this downside might argua- “Elimination of any of these There is also speculation that
mittee recommendations that The members of the last boundaries committee,
bly be offset by another considera- constituencies would certainly Hong Kah GRC, the only one
there was “a tendency for some with their designations in 2006, were: Mr Lam Joon
tion: It allows for the retention of disrupt this relationship and undo among 14 not to have a minister
of the depressed areas to remain Khoi, CEO of the Singapore Land Authority; Mr John
boundaries as much as possible, all the good work that has already on the PAP team, will absorb
depressed and for some of the Keung Man Yin, deputy CEO of the HDB; Mrs Leow
even as people move homes been done,” said the 1971 commit- Chua Chu Kang SMC, now repre- Bee Geok, Acting Chief Statistician; and Mr Lee Seng
constituencies to remain isolated
across the island. tee. sented by Manpower Minister Lup, head of the Elections Department, which is the
constituencies”.
There are other considera- But in 1976, this disappeared Gan Kim Yong. committee’s secretariat.
It thus felt that these areas
tions. as a rationale. That year, for the How do demographics fit into
“would have a better chance of
One pertains to the physical first time ever, constituencies the picture? No one is quite sure.
achieving a quicker rate of devel-
landscape. Clearly defined natu- opment if they were merged with were wiped off the electoral map. xueying@sph.com.sg
ral features such as rivers and hill more developed areas” as they They included Bras Basah, Craw-
ridges or roads should be used as would not have to compete for de- ford, Hong Lim, Kampong Kapor,
boundaries where possible in- velopment funds. Sepoy Lines and Stamford.
stead of “arbitrary boundaries”, What appears to be a push to- Those with a suspicious mind
asserted the committee of 1958. wards a socio-economic and eth- may wonder if politics lay behind
So while Changi had a “low” nic mix within constituencies was the move.
voter strength, it was not “suita- accelerated particularly with the But an examination of their
ble to vary the boundaries by tak- creation of GRCs in 1988. previous election results showed
ing in other areas since the drawn In cobbling them together, the that they were PAP strongholds,
boundaries take proper account committee took into account some helmed by popular minis-
of affinities and natural fea- “one or more” of the following ters.
tures”. factors: HDB housing estates; are-
And in a consideration that has as traditionally associated with Teo Ser Luck to anchor
clearly fallen out of fashion in Malay, Indian and other minority a single-seat ward?
more recent decades, the 1954 communities; and the need to
committee said: “It has been our LOOKING ahead, how might the
spread the GRCs islandwide. next incarnation of Singapore’s
general aim to keep the divisions The effect is that today, there
compact and regular in shape.” electoral boundary map look like?
is no particular sense of common One thing for certain is that
Odd-shaped constituencies affinity within the constituencies.
with snaking tentacles began ap- there will be changes aplenty, giv-
A HDB dweller in Braddell will en recent reforms made to the
pearing in the 1990s, and in 2001,
be hard put to see how his inter- electoral system.
a new precedent was set when
ests are aligned with those of a Prime Minister Lee Hsien
Aljunied GRC was drawn to en-
landed property owner in East Loong has already indicated what
close Hougang. In 2006, Bukit
Coast. Yet they vote for or would be in his terms of reference
Panjang was carved out in the
against the same teams of candi- for the next committee. “There
middle of Holland-Bukit Timah
dates vying in Marine Parade will be at least 12 SMCs, fewer
GRC.
GRC. six-member GRCs and a range of
As Aljunied resident Ong Seng smaller GRCs,” he said in Parlia-
When Aljunied Road Lau, 41, puts it: “I am curious ment last year.
is not in Aljunied GRC why Aljunied Road and the sur- It was perhaps the ghost of
BECAUSE it has to balance differ- rounding area are not part of Alju- changes past that prompted
ent factors, some of them conflict- nied GRC. If you do a taxi driver Workers’ Party leader Low Thia
ing, reviewing boundaries is a test, that is, hop into any taxi and Khiang to then rise and ask if the
complex process that goes be- say, ‘Take me to Aljunied’, I won- PM would add an additional term
yond cut-and-dried numerical der how many will take you to of reference: to “keep the existing
calculations. any part of Aljunied GRC.” electorate as far as possible”.
Other considerations are more Such constituencies may help “Because our biggest com-
subjective – and have also prevent class or ethnic divisions plaint on the GRC system is that
evolved in significance as Singa- along constituency lines, but Pro- there is a tendency of gerryman-
pore changed. fessor Thio wonders if there is al- dering, like in the Cheng San GRC
One is the early emphasis on so a “divide and conquer” strate- where you cut up the whole