Speaking to the local media after the Prime Minister’s speech in Parliament today, Workers’ Party’s head-honcho, Mr Low Thia Khiang, expressed that the proposed changes to the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme may undermine the opposition parties here in Singapore.
“An NCMP is just duckweed on the water of a pond,” Mr Low said.
“You don’t have roots, unlike elected MPs where you have a constituency, you run a Town Council, you are in close touch with your residents, and you can sink roots there. NCMPs, make no mistake about it, are not elected MPs. They may be given the same voting rights in Parliament, but that only pertains to Parliament,” he added.
Referring to Prime Minister’s speech where he had said that contest was important for politics, Mr Low feels that the proposed changes to the NCMP scheme will have the exact opposite effect by lowering the ambitions of opposition candidates.
“Opposition parties may go in to run elections hoping to get into Parliament as an NCMP. I think that’ll be ironic, and the opposition – in the form of NCMP – will just be a vase, not a real functional democracy with contestable politics,” the WP secretary-general cautioned.
Mr Low believes that the opposition’s role is not only to speak in Parliament, but that the role is integral to having a functional democracy. The opposition must be in a position to contest the Government and put them on their toes at an election, WP’s chief reminded.
Pointing out that only an MP with a constituency “will give you the reality on the ground, and thereby when it comes to discussing policy, (he) will be more grounded”, Mr Low said that the views of an MP without a ward to serve will only be “academic”.
Even if the NCMP has the same rights in Parliament as an elected MP, the NCMP’s experience will be different because he (or she) does not have a local electorate to serve, Mr Low feels.
An unelected MP does not have to run a town council and may also not get to meet residents often at events like meet-the-people sessions, and so the NCMP as well as the political party he belongs to does not gain “political muscle”, Mr Low mentioned.
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