The Nominated Member of Parliament

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I was reading about the swearing in ceremony when I saw this comment by one Alex Tan and felt deeply offended.

Here are a team of Singaporeans, who have put aside time and opportunity to come and represent fellow Singaporeans about what we want our society to be.

It is not easy to develop Parliamentary Questions, compile data and statistics for presentation and debate with MPs from all around. It takes a lot of time, is rather stressful and the weight of the people you represent bears heavily on your shoulders.

When one says that they are “puppets, clowns and tax leeches”, one clearly is being very naive about what is needed of politician.

 

I thought I would like to use this article to clarify some of the misunderstandings of a Nominated Member of Parliament:

 

10. A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is not “paid” to do the job.
They are provided an allowance of $2k which is usually used to hire a Legislative Assistant. Other MPs have access to government bodies to help them do their work, but NMPs have few resources to do so.

 

9. An NMP is usually affiliated to a political party
Not true – an NMP cannot be a member of a political party. You can claim that they could be aligned to so-and-so party, but everyone has some sort of political bias and trying to block this completely is not constructive. The issues that the Member is raising and the work he/she is doing is what is important here and ex-NMPs have shown themselves not to be political yes-men.

 

8. Singapore is not the only country that has an unelected law making body
The United Kingdom for example has a “House of Lords”, members are also appointed, not elected.

 

7. Being appointed does not mean it is a bad thing.

By not bearing political burden, an NMP is free to raise and debate difficult issues and has no need to mince his/her words. The problem with career MPs is that they have to be concerned with the popular vote… sometimes, this can bring about ineffective policies.

 

6. An NMP has never contributed positively
This is not true – apart from being the counterweight in a debate, NMPs originated the “Maintenance of Parents Act” and of late, NMP Eugene Tan kept tabs on the quorum in Parliament.

 

5. The NMP position is “undemocratic”
On the other hand, the NMP actually enhances democracy. In a Parliament when Opposition and Government are hot on each other’s heels in matters of politics, I am of the belief that we need the NMP as a counterweight to this.

Court Judges are also not elected, but they do make law and no one seems to complain this being undemocratic.

 

4. You need to have connections in order to be an NMP
Not at all, you just need to be a Singaporean citizen, of sound mind and have contributed to society significantly. Then all you need to do is get an application form and send it in.

 

3. There are benefits in being an NMP
Actually, on the other hand there are a lot of reasons why you don’t want to be one. You have the pressure of fighting for the cause you represent. You have to deal with daily mud slinging (such as the one by Alex). You lose the opportunity to be doing things that benefit you personally.

 

2. All NMPs are aligned with the PAP
Hardly. Eugene Tan’s latest attack on the PAP’s quorum clearly shows no sympathy to the men in white. Ex-NMP Siew Kum Hong sits on Maruah and does not show alignment with the PAP. If you look at the speeches and debates by them, you will note some aggressiveness in their words against PAP policies.

 

1. With more Opposition in Parliament, the NMP will slowly become irrelevant
I don’t think so – I think that a neutral body of politicians is healthy to the Parliament and law-making. Granted, they cannot vote on constitutional amendments, supply and money bills, no confidence nor can they remove a President… but we have the elected representatives to do this. What we don’t have enough of are people to scrutinise and make sense of policies that runs this country everyday.

If anything, I think the NMP scheme could evolve into another house – a house that has veto or delaying power to bills passed by the elected, bringing more refinement into our democratic system. A… *ahem* first world Parliament if you will.

 

 

 

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Samantha Wong

I'm a hobby writer!

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