Singapore—On Monday (June 29), ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Indranee Rajah made the news for saying that there is no need for members of the opposition because according to the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme, at least 12 opposition will have seats in Parliament.
Ms Indranee, who is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, told members of the media “Even if the PAP took all the elected seats, which we do not take for granted and cannot be given, you will still have 12 (NCMPs).”
Opposition leaders fired back at the Minister’s statement the following day, Nomination Day.
While the Workers’ Party Png Eng Huat will not be contesting in this year’s election, he nevertheless responded to what Ms Indranee said, first of all pointing out that the scheme is not a guaranteed one.
In a Facebook post, Mr Png, who had served as the Member of Parliament for Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC) from 2012 until this year, wrote, “The NCMP scheme is not guaranteed. You must still finish among the top losers to qualify. So please, tell everyone to vote WP!”
He went on to say how the balance is tipped in favour of the ruling party because PAP candidates are appointed as Grassroots Advisers (GRA) no matter how few votes they get.
And the GRA, he added, is a position of considerable power.
“The GRA runs the community clubs, the Residents’ Committees, attends Parliament during important events, attends National Day Celebrations, gives out Edusave awards, has his photos plastered all over the estate, and officiates opening of overhead bridges, bus stops, and what have you, without needing a single vote from you. Moreover, this scheme is reserved exclusively for the PAP candidate only.”
This guarantee of influence for PAP’s GRAs “beats the Reserved Presidency hands down,” he added at the end of his post, which has been widely shared.
The WP’s Dennis Tan, who had served as an NCMP since 2015 and is now seeking Mr Png’s seat in Hougang, also responded to Ms Indranee’s comments.
Yahoo Singapore reports Mr Tan as warning Singaporeans of falling “into the trap” of thinking NCMPs can replace opposition MPs elected into Parliament.
Mr Tan said that PAP wants people to believe that the NCMP scheme is “an alternative,” but it actually disallows opposition parties from growing roots in different constituencies. By way of example, he said that when he was an NCMP for Fengshan SMC, he was not allowed to hold events there.
He added, “The PAP’s losing candidates made use (of) a lot more facilities than we even have, all funded by taxpayers. And we are not allowed access to those facilities for our events for residents.”
Believing that the NCMP scheme provides a sufficient platform to the opposition will only add to the ruling party’s supermajority, Mr Tan said.
“If the PAP were to do very badly, how is another party going to take over as government from zero to 51 (MPs)? Does Singapore want that kind of scenario? That would be disastrous.” —/TISG