Former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Anthea Ong, editor of the book, ‘Nominated Member of Parliament Scheme: Are Unelected Voices Still Necessary in Parliament?’ — A Collection of Perspectives and Personal Reflections by NMPs’ will be holding a public talk with her fellow NMPs and authors, Braema Mathi, Kuik Shiao-yin and Associate Professor Walter Theseira at 6pm at the National Library on 29 Nov 2022.

The NMP scheme was first introduced on 10 Sept 1990 and more than 90 NMPs have served in parliament ever since. Inspired by her parliamentary experience, former NMP Ong brings together 20 NMPs past and present as the editor of this first book dedicated to the NMP scheme.

Ong, a social advocate and founder of social organisations including Hush TeaBar and A Good Space, became an NMP in 2018 during the 13th Parliament of Singapore. In her maiden speech in parliament, Ong calls for mental health to be made a national priority.

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In a Facebook post by the publisher World Scientific Singapore, Ong feels that there is a need to re-look at how Singapore’s parliament can be tweaked to better represent all strata of Singaporeans.

“I would submit that the question to ask is not whether the scheme is still relevant more than three decades on, or if NMPs will be necessary with more opposition MPs in the House. Instead, we should be curious about the possibilities for this electoral engineering ‘experiment’ in the context of Singaporean society today,” said Ong.

“Beyond democratic ideals, we must urgently consider the intergenerational impact of social stratification in an almost perfect meritocracy over 57 years, especially the equity and availability of opportunities for the minorities in our midst. What kind of Parliament will truly represent all Singaporeans and residents, not just the majority?”

Another contributor to the book is Braema, who served in the 10th and 11th Parliament from October 2001 until January 2005.

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On whether the NMP scheme has outlasted its cause, she said, “I am of the view that the NMP scheme worked well in its formative years when NMPs offered alternative perspectives, shared innovative ideas, suggested solutions, recommended laws, policies and programmes to fill up obvious lacunae and buttressed advocacy on pet interest areas by tabling bills and/or motions.”

During Braema’s time in parliament, there were only two elected opposition MPs, namely Chiam See Tong (Singapore People’s Party for Potong Pasir SMC) and Low Thia Khiang (Workers’ Party for Hougang SMC). But now WP has increased its presence in parliament with MPs from Aljunied GRC and Sengkang GRC, and there are two additional non-constituency members of parliament from the Progress Singapore Party.

“I cannot place a clear time frame on this. But in the last decade or so, MPs from the PAP and the opposition parties have upped their game in parliament and there is also a higher level of presence at public events,” added the former president of AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research).

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There are currently nine NMPs in the 14th Parliament. They are Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab (Trade Union Leader), Janet Ang Guat Har (Public Transport Council chairperson), Mark Chay (former national water polo player), Cheng Hsing Yao (GuocoLand Group CEO), Prof Hoon Hian Teck (SMU Dean, School of Economics), Prof Koh Lian Pin (conservation scientist), Joshua Thomas Raj (lawyer), Dr Shahira Abdullah (orthodontist), and Dr Tan Yia Swam (general surgeon).