The Zaobao Forum Editor

Posted by Chia Shi Teck under Breaking News on 20 February 2000

Chia Shi Teck on Picking NMPs as PAP Candidates.

I refer to the article written by your correspondent Chua Tian Seng arguing against my suggestion of replacing the Nominated MP scheme with an Elected National MP scheme instead. This idea was mooted by me in a recent Think Centre Public Forum on Non Partisanship Politics in Singapore. It should be seen in that light. Please allow me to make some clarifications.

Most countries, even those with a strong two party system like the UK and US have two chamber -- the Upper (Senate) and Lower House (Congress) with the Upper House tasked with specific checking powers. Thus having the two types of representatives and having them voted in differently are not new. They play different roles and should not be directly compared. We must look at the issue in our very own unique context. The government has put forward its view that Singapore is too small to justify two chambers. I can accept joining the two into one Hose but the two types of representatives must have equal voting powers. We can say that our NMPs are like the Upper House members tasked to play the non partisan independent check and balance role. I can cite the time when I moved a motion to debate whether the Dr. Chee Soon Juan dismissal from the University was politically motivated as an example of a non partisan independent act. The motion was both welcomed by the ruling PAP and opposition SDP.

The NMP scheme is ten years old now. Perhaps it is time to review the success and shorting comings of the scheme. Most of the participants at the Think Centre Forum agreed that the NMPs have collectively contributed to the well being of Singapore. The glaring shortcoming is that as the NMPs are appointed and not elected (no mandate) they are not given the powers to vote on Constitutional amendments and Financial bills. Therefore they are not equal partners in the House and cannot truly play the check and balance role. Also there is a so-called sunset clause to its existence. Every new Parliament will decided if it wants to have NMPs appointed. A NMP is appointed for a two year term (reapplication allowed) as against a 5 year term for elected MPs. I am arguing that the NMPs be made full-fledged Upper House members and the best way out is for them to be elected for a full five-year term. We can set criteria similar to what we now expect of our NMPs to pre qualify candidates standing for elections as National NMPs. This will take away the fear that political aspirants would rather take this path.

This idea is beneficial and will safeguard our well being. No one can be sure what the future political scene will be. Therefore putting in this extra check and balance is essential. Former President Ong Teng Cheong said it is more important to have a good an honest government that to have a good and honest President. Wise words. I would venture to go a step further to say that it is more important to have the check and balance in Parliament and the not the Istana.

This scheme will also serve to satisfy the growing concerns of the educated minority (cosmopolitans as defined by PM Goh Chok Tong) as many of them with their sectoral minority interests would not find themselves heard under the present electoral system, boundaries and every changing rules. Most of the are non partisan in the sense that they are interested in forming the government but simply want some of their kinds to voice their values views and ideas in the National interest. Without this avenue and as they their interest compromised, they can vote with their feet out of Singapore.

For all the above state reasons which will become more obvious as we become more entrenched in a knowledge based economy, I strongly suggest we allow a bigger leeway to Non Partisan politics in Singapore. Picking former NMPs to become PAP candidates will be counter productive and regressive.

Show some love,

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