The increase of the number of NCMPs draws ire from opposition parties

Edit: An extra point, point 10, was added to this list after Mr Jeyaretnam included his reservations about NCMP.

On 27 Jan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of his intention to increase the number of Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seats from 9 seats to 12.

PM Lee also added that the government would amend the constitution to give equal voting rights to NCMPs.

The NCMP system ensures a minimum number of opposition members in parliament by allowing the best opposition losers of an election to join the policy-making process.

Many would have thought that the increase NCMPs in the next election would be heartily welcomed by the opposition.

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However, they were wrong — these 9 opposition politicians have hailed this policy as superfluous.

1. Low Thia Khiang: NCMPs are like duckweed

Low Thia Khiang — Secretary General of Workers Party (WP) — suggests that the NCMP increase is superfluous because “an NCMP is just duckweed on the water of the pond” and doesn’t have a constituent base to draw support from.

Duckweed is considered a menace as the plant covers up the pond and deprives aquatic plants and animals of oxygen.

Did we hear wrong?

We still can’t believe he compared NCMPs to duckweed.

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Mr Low implied that NCMPs will not give the party strength as they could not compete within their constituencies.

He outlines the huge limitations of being an NCMP by saying:

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.

Check out Mr Low’s dismal opinion of increasing NCMP seats from the video below.

Therefore, Low disapproves of the additional NCMP seats as he seems to believe that they are unnecessary and wouldn’t help the party, as well as opposition as a whole.

2. Sylvia Lim: NCMPs can never be the same as being as elected MP representing the people

Sylvia Lim implies that NCMPs have a lower political standing as compared to MPs.

The Chairman of WP backs up Low’s point suggesting that NCMPs are different from normal Members of Parliament (MP).

In response to Edwin Tong who had an ax to grind against Low’s reference to NCMPs as duckweed, Ms Lim said:

Yes, (NCMPs) are in Chamber to contribute to debate, it can never be the same as being an elected MP representing constituents.

Thus, she seems to think that increasing the number of MPs will be futile, as NCMPs will never be considered to be on the same standing as elected MPs.

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3. Yee Jenn Jong: more than “small cosmetic changes” required

There you get it, words spoken straight from the horse’s mouth.

Yee Jenn Chong was an NCMP from 2011 to 2015. Mr Yee is also part of the WP executive council.

Mr Yee feels that voting rights in parliament would not make any difference saying these were only “small cosmetic changes”.

However, he felt the most pertinent problem faced by NCMP was the lack of legal standing to represent residents from the constituency they contest in.

Most importantly, he implies that the extra NCMP positions would not be useful without “a mandate from the voters” and hopes that these changes would not influence voting patterns.

4. Chee Soon Juan: Increase of NCMPs only “serve to distract people from real problems”

Surprise, surprise, we knew Chee Soon Juan would definitely have something to say about the new policies.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, secretary general of Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), believes that the increase in NCMP would “serve only to distract the people from the real problems that plague elections in Singapore”.

He also called for the Group Representative Constituency (GRC) system to be abolished as it allows for arbitrary designation of boundaries.

5. Lina Chiam: more NCMPs make a difference only with sizeable opposition MPs

Lina Chiam who was a former NCMP from SDP who served from 2011 to 2015.

She believes that NCMPs can “make a difference only if there are enough opposition MPs in Parliament”.

In other words, she implies that they are useless without a substantial proportion of opposition MPs.

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6. Lim Tean: Increase NCMPs — PAP’s way of “persuading Singapore voters not to vote for opposition”

Secretary General of National Solidarity Party (NSP), Lim Tean, wants to do away with the NCMP system and replace it with a Proportional Representation (PR) system.

PR refers to a system that translates the proportion of votes into the proportion of parliamentary seats.

Mr Lim believes that giving more NCMP seats is the government’s way of “persuading Singapore voters not to vote for the opposition”.

He is probably under the impression that if the people thought that there were enough opposition due to the increased NCMPs, they would be discouraged from voting for the opposition.

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7. Steve Chia: NCMPs are all bark and no bite

The former NCMP from NSP who served from 2001 to 2006 does not like the idea of the scheme.

Mr Chia also competed in the GE2015 for MacPherson Single Member Constituency (SMC).

He drew from his previous NCMP stint, saying that he was “told by civil servants [that NCMPs] don’t represent the electorate, so they won’t entertain [NCMPs]”.

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8. Goh Meng Seng: “We do not think that there is a necessity for NCMPs”

People’s Power Party (PPP) chief, Goh Meng Seng, also wants the NCMP policy to be scrapped and replaced with a PR system.

Mr Goh expressed his views on the redundancy of the NCMP system saying “we do not think there is a necessity for NCMPs”.

He also spoke about lower status of NCMPs saying:

No matter how PAP tries to package it, NCMP has little legitimacy under the current setting. They will always be considered as second class members of parliament or just simply “backdoor MPs”.

9. Tan Jee Say: Increasing NCMP to 12 seats will have no effect on parliament

In short, he seems to mean that such a small increase is futile.

Tan Jee Say from SingFirst said that the increase of NCMP seats would have “no impact”.

He added that only when the government increases the opposition size to become one-third of parliament, then can the opposition check the government with a veto.

10. Kenneth Jeyaretnam: NCMP is an unscrupulous mean to fix with an already unfair system

Kenneth Jeyaratnam of the Reform Party (RP) believes that the NCMP is a “token and toothless” position for Opposition.

He believes that the NCMP is undemocratic, and it is a “dishonest fix for a crooked system” which is unfair and unjust.

Thus, the RP leader appeals to the government to fix the system first.

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He implied that the NCMP scheme is merely used to cover up the way parliament has deteriorated into a lack of actual and useful policy discussion required to improve people’s lives, by saying:

Indeed, rather than redressing the undemocratic nature of Singapore’s political system the PAP chose to use the NCMP scheme as a fig leaf to superficially appease the sentiment that our parliament has regressed into one with no real discussion on policy that is substantiated with valid alternatives.

The Secretary-General of RP also wanted a PR system to introduce minority voices into parliament and these PR MPs should be paid the same as SMC MPs.

Not the intended response wanted by PAP?

The government did not get a grateful response from the opposition for increasing the NCMP seats.

Instead, the opposition appeared to treat the proposal with disdain and distrust.

In fact, most of them are saying NCMPs are not required and increasing their numbers are not useful.

Ouch.

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With reference to Today, ChannelNewsAsia