Former ‘Mr FairPrice’ who spearheaded legislation: 5 things to know about Speaker nominee Seah Kian Peng
Mr Seah Kian Peng, 61, will be nominated as the next Speaker of Parliament come August.
Mr Seah will take on the role left vacant by his former Marine Parade GRC colleague Mr Tan Chuan-Jin.
Former Speaker Mr Tan and former Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui had resigned on Monday from the People’s Action Party and Parliament, following their affair.
Mr Seah, who will be elected as the new Speaker at the Aug 2 sitting - assuming no other nominations - is not unfamiliar with the duties of the Speaker.
He was formerly Deputy Speaker from 2011 to 2016.
Here are 5 things to know about Mr Seah:
1. He entered politics in 2006
Mr Seah entered politics as part of the People’s Action Party in 2006, in the general election held in May that year.
He is currently serving his fourth term as an MP in Marine Parade GRC.
Within Parliament, apart from having been deputy speaker, Mr Seah also chaired the Estimates Committee from 2011 to 2015.
The committee examines the Government’s budget.
It reports on what economies, improvements in organisation, efficiency or administrative reforms consistent with the policy underlying the estimates, may be effected - and suggests the form in which the estimates shall be presented to Parliament.
He had also chaired the GPC for the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports previously.
2. Pushed for changes to the Maintenance of Parents Act
One of Mr Seah’s most well-known contributions to Parliament may be his work on the Maintenance of Parents Act.
The Act, passed in 1995, allows seniors who are unable to provide for themselves to claim maintenance from their children who are capable of supporting them, but are not doing so.
In 2022, a workgroup comprising nine MPs was set up to review the Act.
Mr Seah was chair of the workgroup, which conducted consultations with the public before tabling a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Act.
The Bill was introduced in May 2023, and passed after a three-hour debate in Parliament in July 2023.
A Private Member’s Bill allows any MP to initiate legislation, unlike most government Bills which are introduced by ministers.
According to the latest amendments to the Act, elderly parents who are seeking monetary support from their children will have to declare if they have had any record of abusing, abandoning or neglecting their children in the past.
If there is such a record, the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents may not allow them to apply for maintenance from their children.
Mr Seah said in July that the amendments seek to strike the right balance, by strengthening provisions for parents while introducing measures to prevent misuse of the law.
Mr Seah had also spearheaded efforts to amend the Act in 2010.
3. Former “Mr FairPrice”
He stepped down as chief in April 2022, and then took on the roles of deputy chairman of FairPrice Group and chairman of FairPrice Foundation.
He is still the group chief executive of NTUC Enterprise - a holding group of all NTUC Social Enterprises.
He has spent a large part of his career with the NTUC group, helming different portfolios within the group.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the then-FairPrice chief urged Singaporeans to only buy what they need, without hoarding, as there was enough stock in the inventory.
“If you want to buy a little bit more, go ahead, but there’s no need to create a stockpile at home because if everyone is trying to do it on the same day and at the same time, it adds strain to the system,” said Mr Seah.
4. Other involvements
Apart from his more well-known role at NTUC, Mr Seah is also the founding chairman of the Harvard Business School Club of Singapore. He stepped down in 2018.
He is also chairman of the Marine Parade Leadership Foundation, and sits on the board of the Singapore Olympic Foundation.
He announced on LinkedIn in July that he had joined the board of Trust Bank Singapore, the first digital bank here.
He has previously also served on the board of Centre for Fathering for 14 years.
He had also been a board member of SingTel, Health Promotion Board and National Parks Board, Singapore Centre for Social Enterprises (raiSE) and Singapore National Cooperatives Federation.
In September 2005, Mr Seah was elected as a member of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) Board of Directors, making him the first Singaporean to be on this global board in the 112-year history of ICA.
5. Personal life
Mr Seah is married with two children.
He is the third child among four children in his family, who lived in a three-room flat in Mattar Road. His father was a line worker in a printing firm, while his mother was a housewife who took on sewing gigs to supplement the family income.
In a 2014 interview with The Straits Times, Mr Seah recalled his childhood of sleeping on thin mattresses on the living room floor, borrowing money from relatives when “sums didn’t add up”, and not wasting even a single grain of rice during mealtimes.
He told ST in the interview that after all these years, he continues to keep a record of every cent he spends and cannot stand wasted food.
Mr Seah and his siblings were top students at the now-defunct Mattar East Primary.
They all made it to Raffles Institution (RI) and Raffles Girls’ School, but his two older sisters gave up their university education to provide for their younger siblings, a sacrifice he said in a 2013 interview that he remains grateful for.
At RI, Mr Seah made it to the squash team. He longed for higher-performance shoes and racquets which were beyond his means, even though he worked as a painter, kitchen helper and stocktaker during school holidays, reported ST in 2013.
Mr Seah later studied at the University of New South Wales.
In a Facebook post on July 8, Mr Seah said that each year his cohort of RI schoolmates from 1974 to 1979 would gather to catch up. At this year’s meeting, he caught up with one schoolmate he had played squash with.
Mr Seah said in his post that he has had two major sports injuries in his life - one playing football during National Service where he tore my anterior cruciate ligament, and the other in secondary school where he dislocated his elbow in a squash game, as he tried to retrieve a drop shot but slipped and banged into the wall.