WP charged with using NCMP scheme to showcase its members

WP charged with using NCMP scheme to showcase its members
Parliament in session on 29 Jan, 2016. Photo: Channel NewsAsia
Published: 4:15 AM, January 30, 2016
Updated: 8:36 AM, January 30, 2016

SINGAPORE — The Workers’ Party (WP) had attempted to use the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme to “showcase” their members and further their interests, when they should have shown respect for the rules established by the Constitution, charged members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) yesterday.

And Ms Lee Li Lian, in rejecting the NCMP seat offered to her after she lost the contest in Punggol East in the Sept 11 General Election last year, had in effect rejected her responsibility to her voters and to Singapore.

In a tense debate over the motion moved by the WP to declare the seat offered to Ms Lee vacant and be filled, Mr Chan Chun Sing, the Government Whip, said he had hoped Ms Lee would have had the “sense of obligation to do right” by the support of the people who have voted for her, noting how her party colleague Leon Perera, now an NCMP, had said it was a privilege to be part of the parliamentary debates.

But Ms Lee, after losing Punggol East, had said she would not take up the seat, and that there were other WP members to “showcase”.

Said Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office: “The honour and privilege to join this House is for service to our nation, it is not for us to showcase ourselves, it is not for us to showcase our party’s talent. If we do that we come with the wrong (end) in mind.”

Urging the House to remember their duties and responsibilities as elected MPs, Mr Chan added: “Let us not turn the NCMP scheme into a revolving door to showcase our talent for our own party’s objectives.”

Mr Chan also said that it was “regrettable” that Ms Lee had chosen to “reject her NCMP seat and with that her responsibility to her voters and Singapore”.

Ms Lee, he said, should have been upfront and honest to voters before they cast their votes, by telling voters that she would not be the best candidate to represent them in the NCMP seat, even if she received the highest vote share among those who lost.

Referring to WP chief Low Thia Khiang’s description of an NCMP as “duckweed” with no roots to a constituency, Mr Chan said: “Please do not call them ‘duckweeds’. Because even in a pond, duckweed has a purpose.” He added: “Let us respect the different roles that we play in this House.”\


WATCH: PAP files amendment to fill 3rd NCMP seat

PARLIAMENT: People's Action Party's Chan Chun Sing filed an amendment to the motion to fill the third #NCMP seat in Parliament: "Madam, I propose to amend the Motion as such, with the following additions for Sub Para C: ‘But regrets that Ms Lee Li Lian, having stood as a Workers’ Party candidate and received the highest vote share among all losing opposition candidates, has now decided to give up her NCMP seat to another candidate from her party with a lower vote share, contrary to the expressed will of the voters. "And that the Workers Party supports this political maneuver to take full advantage of the NCMP seat, even as its secretary-general criticizes NCMPs as just duckweed on the water of the pond’.” Channel NewsAsia Singapore)

Posted by TODAY on Friday, January 29, 2016

Mr Charles Chong, who beat Ms Lee in Punggol East said he was “very disappointed” that the House will not benefit from Ms Lee’s participation in Parliament, noting that the WP’s Yee Jenn Jong, who served as NCMP after losing in Joo Chiat in 2011, had been a positive presence.

For example, when there was a serious dengue outbreak in Joo Chiat, Mr Yee raised the issue in Parliament, while he walked the ground with grassroots leaders and National Environment Agency officers.

“He is an example of an NCMP who sought to grow his roots in the constituency that he had contested in,” said Mr Chong.

Moreover, parliamentarians are “bound by the rules which we have established for ourselves … parliamentary standing orders in our legislation or in our Constitution.” “Where there is a framework within which we must work, everyone involve should respect it and not try to find ways to game the system,” said Mr Chong.

Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) said the move to fill the seat another WP candidate undermines the legitimacy of the NCMP scheme.

Speaking in Mandarin, Dr Lee said: “There is a rule to allow the best performing loser to be qualified as an NCMP. So this should not be changed into something like proportional representation. If — to a certain extent — we change the NCMP system into proportional representation, will it still be in line with the spirit of our institution?”

Mr Chong, who made a similar point, noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced changes for the NCMP scheme earlier this week. Thus, it would be an “opportune time” for the Government to review the provisions relating to filling a vacated NCMP seat to prevent abuse of the current system, he said.