Sunday 31 January 2016

Workers’ Party duckweed Daniel Goh is now a NCMP

WP's transfer of vacant NCMP seat a political manoeuvre
How the WP's NCMP motion was turned around by PAP
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2016

It was a proposal put up by the Workers' Party (WP), a parliamentary motion to declare Ms Lee Li Lian's Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) seat vacant and to have it filled in accordance with the law.

But in the end, the opposition party refused to vote for it, and it was the People's Action Party MPs who unanimously voted for the motion.

When WP chief Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) was called upon by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob shortly after 5pm, he read the motion and explained why his party moved it: It objects to the NCMP scheme in principle, but believes in being a "rational and responsible" party working within the system.

Madam Halimah then read the motion, and debate began.

PARLIAMENT: People's Action Party's Chan Chun Sing filed an amendment to the motion to fill the third #NCMP seat in...
Posted by TODAY on Friday, January 29, 2016

Mr Charles Chong (Punggol East), who defeated Ms Lee on Sept 11, warned against using the law to "pick and choose which best losers from different constituencies" should enter Parliament.

In Mandarin, Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) accused the WP of being contradictory, criticising the NCMP scheme yet taking up seats.

Rising to defend their party were Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) and Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang).

Ms Lim explained Ms Lee's rationale and noted there was precedent for filling a rejected seat. Mr Png said WP was merely aiming "to implement to the letter of the law what is provided in Section 53 of the Parliamentary Elections Act".

Government Whip Chan Chun Sing then took the floor, and charged the WP with criticising the NCMP scheme even as it deliberately used it to its advantage.

The PAP would support the move to fill the seat, he said. "But the motion must reflect the truth."

In a move that blindsided the WP, he proposed an amendment.

Parliament would declare the seat vacant and resolve to fill it - "but regrets that Ms Lee Li Lian, having stood as a WP 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 voters, and that the WP supports this political manoeuvre to take full advantage of the NCMP seat, even as its secretary- general criticises NCMPs as just 'duckweed on the water of a pond'."

With the debate now applying to both the original motion and the proposed amendment, WP NCMP Leon Perera rose to speak.

The PAP was using the motion to build a specific narrative, he said, "that the WP are bad people".

But his decision to take up an NCMP seat was not taken lightly, though he "was not so sure" if the scheme would benefit Singapore.

The Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang moves a motion to have Assoc Prof Daniel Goh take Lee Li Lian's empty NCMP seat -...
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Friday, January 29, 2016

The debate was at an end.

Mr Low was called on to speak.

He rejected the amendment, saying: "There is no basis to say that this is a political manoeuvre."

Mr Chan rose one more time.

Mr Low reiterated WP's stance.

Close to two hours after the debate began, it was time to vote - but first, on the amendment itself.

There was a chorus of "aye" from PAP MPs, but loud calls of "no" from the WP. Ms Lim asked for their dissent to be recorded.

The amendment was passed.

The House was now voting for the changed motion, with the additional paragraph included.

"Aye" from the PAP, "no" from the WP. Mr Low called for his party members' dissent to be recorded again - specifically, their objection to the added paragraph.

But the Speaker clarified that there could be no partial objection.

The vote was all-or-nothing: either for, against, or to abstain.

Mr Low stepped away from the podium, to confer with WP MPs.

Madam Halimah then called for the vote again. The PAP said "aye", but when she asked for objections, there was only silence. She asked for those who abstained. The WP MPs raised their hands.

The motion was passed - without those who had originally moved it.

Parliament passes the motion to fill Lee Li Lian's vacated NCMP with a replacement, despite the The Workers' Party abstaining from the vote.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Friday, January 29, 2016

Parliament backs President’s Address; fills third NCMP seat vacated by WP's Lee Li Lian
Dramatic twist at end of five-day debate as WP rapped for 'political manoeuvre' over seat
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2016

MPs yesterday voted to support the Government's agenda as spelt out in the President's Address at the opening of the 13th Parliament, but the day ended with an unexpected twist of events.

People's Action Party MPs unanimously voted to support a motion proposed by Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang to fill the third Non-Constituency MP seat.

WP MPs, however, abstained from the vote after being blindsided by an amendment to the motion which said the WP was making a "political manoeuvre to take full advantage of the NCMP seat".

The motion paves the way for another WP candidate to fill the seat. He is East Coast GRC candidate Daniel Goh.

Yesterday, all MPs endorsed the address by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who set out five broad aims of the Government in this term: keep Singapore safe and secure, renew the economy, foster a more caring society, transform the urban landscape and partner Singaporeans in nation-building.

During the debate that started on Monday, MPs spoke on how workers and vulnerable citizens and businesses could be helped in a challenging economic climate.

They also stressed social cohesion in the face of the terror threat.

Wrapping up the debate after 62 MPs spoke this week, Mr Christopher de Souza said: "The vehicle through which these five aims will be delivered is a decisive, stable and reliable Government - one that is effective and leads by example, and that introduces well-crafted and effective initiatives."

After the President's Address was endorsed, Mr Low began the process to declare the third NCMP seat vacant and have it filled. It had been offered to his party's Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian, the top performing opposition candidate who lost in the Sept 11 polls. But she turned it down.

In an intense, nearly two-hour debate, the PAP and WP crossed swords over the principles of the NCMP scheme and the WP's motives in wanting to fill the seat.

Ironically, the WP ended up abstaining from voting on its motion after Government Whip Chan Chun Sing introduced an amendment to "reflect the truth", he said.

The amendment said Parliament would declare the seat vacant and resolve to fill it, "but regrets that Ms Lee Li Lian, having stood as a WP 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 voters".

The change also said "the WP supports this political manoeuvre to take full advantage of the NCMP seat, even as its secretary- general criticises NCMPs as just 'duckweed on the water of a pond'."

"NCMP is just duckweed on the water of a pond. You don't have roots, unllike elected MPs where you have a constituency": The Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang. (Video: Justin Ong)
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mr Low used the phrase in his response to Wednesday's announcement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that NCMPs would get the same voting rights as elected MPs.

The minimum number of opposition MPs - including NCMPs - will also be raised from nine to 12.

During the exchange, MPs on both sides accused the other of using the system for political gain.

Mr Low said it was a self-serving system to provide sparring partners for the PAP MPs, but Mr Chan said he did not believe the WP was being "gracious" by taking up NCMP seats to "train the PAP".

Mr Charles Chong, who defeated Ms Lee, said she had let down the voters who supported her. But Mr Low said as the then incumbent MP, she wanted to respect voters' decision not to elect her.

Mr Chan countered, saying Ms Lee had also said she wanted to give other WP members a chance to "showcase" what they can do.

"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 talents," Mr Chan said.

"We don't want the NCMP scheme to be a revolving door": Chan Chun Sing who filed an amendment to the motion to fill the third NCMP seat in Parliament.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Friday, January 29, 2016

WP's transfer of vacant NCMP seat a political manoeuvre: PAP MPs
They also point to the contradiction in WP taking up seats offered despite opposing the scheme
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2016

The Workers' Party's move to transfer the vacant Non-Constituency MP seat in Parliament from one party member to another is a "political manoeuvre", said three People's Action Party MPs.

In criticising it, they said the action complied with the letter but not the spirit of the scheme, which offers a seat in Parliament to the best-performing opposition candidates who lost in a general election.

They also zeroed in on the "contradiction" between how the WP opposed the scheme while allowing its members to take up the NCMP seats offered to them.

Said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing: "We want to see the third NCMP seat filled. What troubles us is the manoeuvring behind it."

He questioned the WP's motivations in supporting the decision of Ms Lee Li Lian, its losing candidate for Punggol East, to reject the seat.

The NCMP scheme should not be turned into a revolving door to showcase talent for a party's own objectives, argued Mr Chan, the labour chief and Government Whip, who ensures PAP MPs vote according to the party's line.

He criticised Ms Lee's comments made last year when she said her seat should go to a colleague as "there are better people in the party that we should showcase".

"Let us not turn the NCMP scheme from one of service to the nation into a revolving door for partisan political talent displays."

Mr Chan, Mr Charles Chong (Punggol East) and Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) also charged the opposition party with trying to have its cake and eat it.

They took aim at the contradiction between the WP's opposition to the scheme and its candidates continuing to take up NCMP seats.

Mr Chan pointed out there are political merits for any political party to take up the NCMP scheme, which has benefited the WP.

Otherwise, the WP's members would not have taken up the seats, he added, noting Ms Sylvia Lim did so in 2006 and Mr Yee Jenn Jong and Mr Gerald Giam, in 2011.

Mr Chan said: "We have to recognise that the WP has continued to criticise the system and yet deliberately made use of it... for its political advantage."

Mr Chong cited WP chief Low Thia Khiang's declaration that he would resign if he were made to take up an NCMP seat and said it sent "mixed signals from the leadership of the WP".

The MPs also referred to Mr Low comparing an NCMP to "duckweed on the water of the pond", without roots in a constituency.

"Even in a pond, the duckweed has a purpose": Chan Chun Sing on Low Thia Khiang's analogy for NCMPs. He says as Party...
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Friday, January 29, 2016

Said Mr Chan: "He even called NCMPs duckweeds. I don't know how Mr Leon Perera or Mr Dennis Tan feels. But I will guarantee you that none of my PAP MPs will ever call you duckweeds. We value you for your contribution."

The question of the duty an NCMP owed to voters in the constituency he or she had contested was also raised during the debate.

The PAP MPs argued it would not be fair to the Punggol East constituents who had voted for Ms Lee to transfer the NCMP seat to the WP's candidate in East Coast GRC, National University of Singapore sociologist Daniel Goh.

Said Ms Lee Bee Wah, who spoke in Mandarin: "The WP has moved to allow the voice that's entitled by the Punggol East voters in Parliament to translate into the East Coast GRC. Will this be fair to the Punggol East residents?"

She and Mr Chong noted that such a change adhered to the letter of the law, but questioned if it kept to the spirit of the scheme.

"While the Parliamentary Elections Act allows for opposition parties to nominate the NCMPs where a GRC is concerned, the Act is not intended to let opposition parties pick and choose which best losers from different constituencies were to enter Parliament," said Mr Chong, who defeated Ms Lee Li Lian.

He said a sufficient number of Punggol East voters had given Ms Lee the mandate to enter Parliament on an NCMP seat, but Dr Goh did not qualify on the basis of the 2015 General Election results.

Said Mr Chong: "I would urge them to play by its rules, to abide by its spirit and not to use non-acceptance of a seat by properly elected candidates as a backdoor way to have someone who did not qualify for the position into this House."

He called the WP's move "a rather unfortunate misuse of the guarantee in the Constitution that at least nine opposition MPs will be offered places in Parliament".

Agreeing, Mr Chan said: "The right and the privilege was given to (Ms Lee) by Punggol East residents. It was not for her to give it to someone else."

The PAP MPs also called for the rules governing the transfer of NCMP seats to be reviewed.

Ms Lee Bee Wah argued against letting it be transferable, especially with the newly announced proposal to give an NCMP the same powers as an elected MP.

"All candidates must not have this attitude that they must be elected, and only then can they serve the electorate," she said.


"The majority of the voters in Punggol East decided to not give me the mandate and we must respect this. The NCMP role is better suited for an aspiring MP who has no such experience. In 2013, after I was elected, I resigned from my job to become a full-time MP, to be fair to both my residents and employer. If I were to take on the NCMP role, the commitment in Parliament is quite similar. (But) unlike for an MP, it is not possible to be a full-time NCMP. It will not be fair to my future employer to take leave from work every month. Hopefully, Parliament can allow one more from East Coast GRC to be appointed. This gives a chance to our other aspiring MPs to show people what they can do."

WP chief Low Thia Khiang: NCMP scheme does not make debates more robust
While WP opposes scheme, it does not oppose individual members willing to take part, he says
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2016

The Workers' Party (WP) has long disagreed with the principle of the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme because, contrary to its objective, it does not make parliamentary debates more robust, said its chief Low Thia Khiang.

It also goes against the fundamental meaning of Parliament, which is only for politicians who have obtained the people's mandate.

Still, WP members have taken up the seats offered to them over the years as they "understand that the struggle for a functional democracy... must be fought from within the existing system", he said.

So, while the WP may oppose the scheme, it "does not oppose individual members who are willing to sacrifice their time and energy to contribute to the national debate in Parliament'', said Mr Low (Aljunied GRC).

"Hence if one member who is declared as NCMP is unable to take up the seat, it is my duty as the leader of the WP to nominate the next best volunteer."

Don't be a hypocrite and say NCMP is the same as elected MPs: The Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang defends his "duckweed" analogy.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Friday, January 29, 2016

He gave the WP's reasoning for moving a motion yesterday to get East Coast GRC candidate Daniel Goh to fill the NCMP seat its Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian had turned down.

The NCMP scheme offers a seat in the House to the losing opposition candidate with the best showing in the election.

Mr Low also said the scheme "is a distraction of the fundamental meaning of Parliament".

"Any politician who aspires to enter Parliament must seek and obtain the mandate from the people to represent them, so as to seek and effect positive change for the people," he said.

But the NCMP scheme may end up attracting opposition candidates who contest elections and seek to enter Parliament for personal fame and glory, he added.

Still, the WP will "work within the system", he said, in the same way it contested several GRCs despite not supporting such electoral division.

He also said his party recognises that having one more NCMP in the House would add to the debate, which may result in better policy outcomes.

In rebutting Mr Charles Chong (Punggol East), he said it was illogical to argue that Ms Lee's rejection of the NCMP seat meant she did not respect the group of Punggol East voters who had voted for her in the general election.

An NCMP is by definition without a constituency, said Mr Low, and even if Ms Lee had accepted the post, she"cannot represent the minority who (had) voted for her in this House".

It is out of respect for the voters' decision that Ms Lee declined to accept the NCMP offer, he said. "She decided, having been their elected MP for over two years, their rejection meant she has no legitimacy to be in Parliament."

WP chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), who was an NCMP from 2006 to 2011, added that had she been in Ms Lee's position, she would have rejected the offer too.

"If an incumbent MP who had served the constituency was just defeated and yet returned to Parliament as an NCMP, it might be deemed undemocratic," she said.

The WP's proposal to let Dr Goh fill the third NCMP seat is allowed under the Constitution, and Ms Lim noted that Parliament had previously permitted a similar motion.

In 1985, after WP candidate M. P. D. Nair, who had contested Jalan Kayu in the 1984 election, declined the NCMP seat, then Leader of the House S. Dhanabalan moved a motion to offer it to Singapore United Front candidate Tan Chee Kien. He declined.The seat was left empty.

In rebutting Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), Ms Lim said her remark that the scheme was "overall supportable'' was taken out of context. "What I had said was the scheme was overall supportable in the context of GRCs, and the gerrymandering that has been taking place in our political system."

Similarly, Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) said there is no need for an NCMP scheme "if we adhere to our original Constitution and revert to a democracy comprising only single-member constituencies".

Mr Leon Perera, one of two NCMPs in the House, said the intent of the PAP MPs' speeches was simply to paint WP in a bad light.

"It's a narrative that has been frequently heard: the WP is shifty; somehow untrustworthy; our motives are to be questioned; our integrity is to be questioned... we are contradicting ourselves," he said.

Explaining why he took up the NCMP seat, he said: "It was a very difficult decision to make. But I decided that on balance... I could make a constructive contribution that would help in the longer-term cause of political balance in this country."

Last night, the WP said on Facebook it had abstained from voting on the motion as it did not want to endorse the ruling party's amendment.

Mr Perera added on his Facebook page that the WP needs to work within "a flawed system" as it wants to do what it can to build a democratic society.

I was asked today about the NCMP debates. CNA carried part of my answer. Here it is:
Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Sunday, January 31, 2016

Be honest about intention behind filling NCMP seat, Shanmugam tells WP
The Home Affairs and Law Minister called on the opposition party to make clear its intent for moving the parliamentary motion to have the seat declared vacant and filled by its East Coast GRC candidate Daniel Goh.
By Kimberly Spykerman, Channel NewsAsia, 31 Jan 2016

The Workers’ Party should be honest about its intention behind filling the third Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat, Mr K Shanmugam said on Sunday (Jan 31).

Weighing in on last Friday’s debate regarding the NCMP seat vacated by the WP’s Lee Li Lian, the Home Affairs and Law Minister called on the opposition party to make clear its intent for moving the parliamentary motion to have the seat declared vacant and filled by its East Coast GRC candidate Daniel Goh.

Ms Lee lost her Punggol East seat at the 2015 General Election, but had the highest vote percentage among the losing opposition candidates with 48.23 per cent of votes, making her eligible for an NCMP seat. However, she declined to take up the position.

The motion to fill the seat was passed after a vote in Parliament on Friday.

"They want to fill the seat because it benefits them": K Shanmugam Sc on The Workers' Party's motion to have the NCMP seat filled by another candidate.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Saturday, January 30, 2016

The WP has long said it opposes the NCMP scheme in principle – saying it entrenches a one-party system – but that it believes in being a "rational and responsible" party working within the system.

Two of its members, Mr Leon Perera and Mr Dennis Tan, are currently NCMPs.

At the end of Friday's two-hour debate, WP MPs abstained from the vote after the motion was amended to include calling it a "political manoeuvre" by the opposition party.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community event on Sunday, Mr Shanmugam said the starting point for democracy must be honesty.

"On the NCMP scheme, we all know what the truth is. The Workers’ Party should just come out and say: ‘Look, we would prefer a direct choice being given to the voters between the PAP and the Workers' Party, or some other opposition. But we don’t like the people being given an additional choice, which is you vote for the PAP and you still get an opposition candidate. Nevertheless, we benefit from it and therefore we want to fill the third seat,'" Mr Shanmugam said.

“They want to fill in this third seat because it benefits them."

Mr Shanmugam said that for Singapore's democracy to succeed, two factors are necessary: Honesty in Parliament and financial integrity – making reference to the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council case where the Auditor-General found lapses in its books.

"Go read what the High Court had to say about the Workers’ Party’s chairman suppressing the truth in Parliament and misleading Parliament. Go see what the Court of Appeal, just a couple of weeks ago, had to say about their Town Council Chairman, putting in half-truths on affidavits and trying to mislead," he said.

WP not honest in rejecting NCMP scheme: Shanmugam
The real reason is that it does not like voters being given more choice, says Shanmugam
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 1 Feb 2016

The Workers' Party (WP) should be honest in rejecting the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme instead of "trying to speak with both ends of the mouth", Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

He accused the opposition party of not revealing its real reason for rejecting the scheme: the WP does not like voters being given more choice.

Mr Shanmugam told reporters that the NCMP scheme ensures "you vote for the PAP and you still get opposition candidates".

By opposing it, the WP effectively wants to limit voters to a "direct choice" between the People's Action Party (PAP) and the WP, or other opposition parties, he said on the sidelines of a community event.

Mr Shanmugam was commenting on Friday's parliamentary debate on a proposal to fill the third NCMP seat.

The WP had moved a motion for the seat to be declared vacant so that another of its candidates could take it up, after the seat was turned down by the party's Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian.

Mr Shanmugam said there would have been no way to argue against the WP if it had spoken the "truth" and said: "We don't want people to have an additional choice, nevertheless, we benefit from it and therefore we want to fill the third (NCMP) seat."

But the party did not do so because it knew voters may want the "additional choice" the NCMP scheme provides, he said.

During an intense two hours on Friday, the PAP and the WP crossed swords in the House over the principles of the NCMP scheme, and whether NCMP seats can be transferred willy-nilly from one candidate to another.

The WP ended up abstaining from voting on its own motion after Government Whip Chan Chun Sing introduced an amendment to "reflect the truth".

The amended motion was passed with PAP MPs voting unanimously to support it.

During the debate, WP NCMP Leon Perera had also said he was against the scheme in principle as it was detrimental to Singapore's development, noted Mr Shanmugam yesterday. "If it's not good for Singapore, why are you doing it? Their points are filled with contradictions."

Responding in a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Perera said that Mr Shanmugam had presented a "false choice between either rejecting an NCMP seat or accepting it with gratitude and praise".

He said he had become an NCMP "to show Singapore the value of a more balanced politics" and hoped that his contribution to the lawmaking process would outweigh the NCMP scheme's "risks" to the country's political evolution.

He also said he would have rejected the NCMP seat if he was an elected MP who had lost at the polls.

He added: "We can agree to disagree without calling each other names, running each other down and scoring partisan points endlessly."

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam also said: "I think it is important for democracy that people know what the points are and what is the truth."

He added that honesty in Parliament and financial integrity are key for Singapore's democracy to succeed.

But the WP has not had a good track record on both counts, he suggested, saying: "Go read what the High Court had to say about the WP chairman (Sylvia Lim) suppressing the truth in Parliament and misleading Parliament.

"Go see what the Court of Appeal, just a couple of weeks ago, had to say about their town council chairman, Mr Pritam Singh, putting in half-truths on affidavits and trying to mislead the court."

He was referring to comments made during a court case in which the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council was ordered to hire accountants to address lapses that the Auditor-General uncovered during a special audit.

High Court judge Quentin Loh, in May last year, said that "the suppression of the truth is equivalent to the suggestion of what is false", when referring to Ms Lim's conduct during the parliamentary debate on the town council's financial lapses.

Last month, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said that "there remain concerns as to whether the court has been apprised of all the facts in a candid and forthright manner" by the town council.

Mr Shanmugam said yesterday that the WP should "just be direct, open and clear".

3rd NCMP seat to go to WP's East Coast team
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 2 Feb 2016

The third Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) will be from the Workers' Party (WP) team that contested in East Coast GRC, and Dr Daniel Goh has confirmed he will fill the seat when he gets the formal offer.

The Elections Department told The Straits Times yesterday: "The Returning Officer has been informed of the resolution passed by Parliament on Jan 29, 2016, to fill the NCMP seat of Ms Lee Li Lian that has become vacant."

The department added that Returning Officer Ng Wai Choong, who announces which candidates are elected as MPs and NCMPs, will write to the WP's East Coast candidates, who will decide among themselves who will take up the position. They will inform the Returning Officer of their decision in seven days.

Ms Lee lost her Punggol East seat in last September's general election, but was the losing opposition candidate with the highest vote share. She said almost immediately after the election results that she would not take up the NCMP post.

The WP then said it wanted Dr Goh, a 42-year-old sociology associate professor at the National University of Singapore, to fill the seat.

Last Friday, the WP moved a motion in Parliament for the third NCMP seat to be declared vacant and have it filled. An intense, nearly two-hour debate ensued, and the People's Action Party and the WP locked horns over the principles of the NCMP scheme and the WP's motives in wanting to fill the seat.

The motion was passed, but not before Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, who is the Government Whip, added an amendment saying Parliament "regrets that Ms Lee Li Lian, having stood as a WP 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 voters".

It added that "the WP supports this political manoeuvre to take full advantage of the NCMP seat, even as its secretary-general criticises NCMPs as just 'duckweed on the water of a pond'".

The WP abstained from voting on the motion as it objected to the amendment.

When contacted, Dr Goh said the WP's four-member East Coast team had yet to receive word from the Elections Department.

But he confirmed that he would take up the offer, and said he saw it as a form of service to the country.

He will join two other NCMPs from the WP. They are consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, 45, who was in the WP's East Coast team, and shipping lawyer Dennis Tan, also 45, who stood in single- seat Fengshan constituency.

Debate on NCMPs: What they said
The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2016


"The practice of transferring an NCMP seat to a candidate in a different constituency is not sound in principle. It would be like allowing me, after having won the election in Punggol East, to decline my seat in Parliament and instead pass it on to the PAP candidate in Aljunied GRC or Hougang SMC.

This is not something we permit for constituency MPs. We need to review whether this is something which makes sense for NCMPs. I would like the WP to clarify their position. It would be useful to understand if the WP would support the transfer if the next best loser was a candidate from another opposition party."


"This system should not degenerate into a warped system of proportional representation, where the party with the second highest number of votes can nominate their members into Parliament. Is this still consistent with the spirit of our Constitution?

The vote share of the WP's candidate in Punggol East is almost 9 per cent higher than its candidate in East Coast GRC. Yet, the WP is suggesting she give up her seat to their candidate in East Coast. Is this fair to voters in Punggol East? The WP claims they want to represent Singaporeans. But does their motion really respect the wishes of the electorate?"


"Entrenching the NCMP scheme as good politics sends the wrong signal... The most effective check on the Government is the prospect and, in fact, actual loss of seats... Do we want a system where opposition MPs only come to Parliament to debate? If opposition MPs do not manage constituencies, they will not be able to demonstrate that they, too, were up to the task of representing the constituents, building vibrant communities, and, yes, running the town councils."


"The distribution of influence and power in this House is so lopsided that the ruling party can dictate the number of NCMP seats it allows... It has given us three (and says) it is the WP that created the vacancy... I agree. But the PAP Government also enacted laws for such vacancies to be filled in the event a candidate does not wish to take up the NCMP seat... What the WP is doing is to implement what is in the Parliamentary Elections Act.


"It has been put across that the PAP does not stand to benefit from the scheme. But I do see a benefit: It allows the PAP to send a strong message to Singaporeans that you do not need to vote for any party (other) than PAP. You should, you ought, you can and you must return 100 per cent of elected MP seats to the PAP and you should relegate opposition parties to NCMP seats. But does it benefit Singapore? I'm not so sure."

The fight for Singapore's future and honest politics
NCMP seat debate exposes fundamental split in the House over best politics for Singapore
By Lydia Lim, Associate Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2016

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat asked a question that went to the heart of yesterday's debate, and indeed to all that the Government and Parliament do.

That question is short and comprises just two words: What for? It relates to what keeps ministers and MPs in politics, what drives political and policy change, what it is all for in the end.

But before answering that question, Mr Heng expressed his confidence in Singapore's ability to remake itself for the future. His speech was a much-needed shot of confidence at the end of a five-day debate in which MPs had aired their concerns about jobs, security, rising religiosity and other uncertainties.

As befits the minister chairing the Committee on the Future Economy, Mr Heng spoke about how this nation has managed to catch successive waves of change in the global economy and can do so again to create value for the world. This time, it must become the world's innovation lab, a place where good ideas can be realised.

The three things Singapore has going for it are, first, that it has always done so out of necessity; second, its long years of investment in research and development, knowledge creation and connecting to the world; and third, its people who though they may not realise it have a habit of innovation.

How Singapore makes its living must change to fit changing circumstances, but what does not change is the "what for", which is evergreen whether in 1965, 2015 or 2065. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was always clear about what all of it was for, Mr Heng said, recalling the lessons he learnt in his time as principal private secretary to Singapore's founding prime minister.

The "what for" is to build a Singapore where every Singaporean can fulfil his or her dreams. That is a Singapore where "our people are fully aware of, but are not one bit afraid of, our challenges", where they can reach high no matter what their background and hold their heads high no matter where in the world they go, and where they need not fear, do not give up and never leave anyone behind.

His articulation of a national purpose that all Singaporeans can get behind set the stage for the heated debate that was to follow, during which People's Action Party MPs locked horns with their counterparts from the opposition Workers' Party over the Non-Constituency MP scheme.

The specific question they fought over was a WP motion asking Parliament to allow the party to fill the NCMP seat vacated by Ms Lee Li Lian. But the deeper issue was one of motivation.

The WP accused the PAP of using the NCMP scheme to perpetuate what Mr Leon Perera described as the ruling party's "hyper majority" in Parliament. Mr Perera, who himself is a newly sworn-in NCMP, said PAP MPs painted the scheme as a gesture of magnanimity on the part of the ruling party. But in his view, the NCMP scheme benefits the PAP in a way that does not serve Singapore well, for it sends the message to Singaporeans that they do not have to vote for any party except the PAP, stalls evolution of a genuine democracy and snuffs out passion for political balance.

He posed this question to the House: "What will happen to Singapore if we are dependent on just one party overwhelmingly and that one party fails and there is no other party in our political landscape that can step in to remedy that gap?"

The PAP's counter took as its starting point not the future but the present, with Mr Charles Chong (Punggol East) and Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) criticising the WP for making light of both the spirit and the letter of the NCMP scheme as spelt out in the Parliamentary Elections Act. If political parties were allowed to willy-nilly transfer an NCMP seat from one of their candidates to another candidate from a different constituency, then what was there to stop an elected MP from doing the same, they asked.

Minister Chan Chun Sing said WP members had been less than honest in their stand on the NCMP scheme, declaring their objection to it on principle and attacking it as a tool to perpetuate PAP rule, yet using the scheme to the hilt for political advantage. To date, several WP members have taken up NCMP seats, including WP chairman Sylvia Lim, and Mr Chan said he was quite sure none of them had done it as a favour to the PAP.

He took issue with the reason Ms Lee had given for vacating her NCMP seat, which she had qualified for by virtue of being the best-performing loser in the last general election when she stood in Punggol East, especially her desire to make way for better people in the WP who should be showcased.

Yesterday, Mr Chan said: "Let me categorically say... that we want to see the third NCMP seat filled.What troubles us is the manoeuvring behind. Ms Lee Li Lian was the person who qualified. Mr Daniel Goh is the person the WP supports to take up the seat. So clearly there are advantages to the NCMP seat."

The NCMP scheme , he said, should not be turned into a revolving door to showcase political talent for party objectives. MPs, he added, " are here to answer a higher calling, to serve Singapore and Singaporeans".

Yesterday's exchange, which ended with the PAP supporting an amended motion that will allow Dr Daniel Goh to take up Ms Lee's vacated NCMP seat, exposed a fundamental divide in the House over the best politics for Singapore, going forward.

The PAP has always maintained that good politics lies at the heart of Singapore's success and, as long as they are able, PAP leaders will continue to shape the political system in ways that will ensure the strong and effective government that they consider vital to Singapore's continued survival and success. As the party that helped Singapore thrive in its first 50 years as an independent nation, it is hardly surprising the PAP equates the nation's longevity with its own.

Alternative parties like the WP, that disagree with this view of good politics, have little choice but to play by the PAP's rules, for now.

Still, politicians from all sides would do well to heed Mr Lee Kuan Yew's parting words to Parliament: Keep politics clean, keep it honest.

Workers' Party needs a new approach on NCMP scheme
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 5 Feb 2016 2016

Despite the Workers' Party's (WP) longstanding opposition to the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme, a steady stream of its members have entered Parliament bearing the title.

The opposition party argues that it has to work within the current political system even if it disagrees with certain aspects, and so Dr Daniel Goh will become its eighth NCMP since the scheme was introduced in 1984. He is replacing Ms Lee Li Lian, one of only two WP candidates to have ever turned down an NCMP offer - the other being Mr M. P. D. Nair after the 1984 polls.

But the WP may well have to rethink its approach, after it was outflanked by the ruling party in Parliament over the issue last week.

It filed a motion for Parliament to declare Ms Lee's seat vacant and to have it filled. The House obliged, but not before adding an amendment to formally rebuke the WP for its "political manoeuvre" to transfer the post from one member to another with a lower vote share in last year's September General Election (GE).

People's Action Party (PAP) MPs also repeatedly accused the WP of having no qualms about making full use of the NCMP scheme while attacking it as detrimental to Singapore's long-term political future.

With the minimum number of opposition members in Parliament increasing from nine to 12 after the next GE, the NCMP scheme will be further entrenched.

This means the subject of NCMPs will undoubtedly resurface and the WP needs to refine its strategy in dealing with the topic if it wants to avoid a replay of the harsh scrutiny it came under.

The best solution for the opposition party would be to win 12 elected seats outright, thus rendering the NCMP scheme irrelevant. Such an achievement would mean doubling the six elected seats it has currently, and may seem to be a bridge too far, especially in the light of last year's polls.

Yet, some observers had predicted this exact outcome for GE 2015. They had tipped the WP to retain its seven elected seats then, and add on the hotly contested East Coast GRC and Fengshan single-seat ward, pushing it to the magical number of 12 seats.

To recapture its momentum of old, the WP needs to free itself of a handicap that has hobbled it for too long: its town council's troubled accounts. The sooner it can put right the long-drawn saga over its management of the council, the less the damage might be on its reputation.

After being ordered by the apex court to appoint accountants, the WP-run town council refused to hire one of the Big Four accounting firms, even though the Housing Board offered to pay for the extra costs in hiring a Big Four firm.

While the WP may have felt it was entitled to hire an accountant of its choice, its actions led to an unnecessary prolonging of the saga over the AHTC's financial woes.

A clean set of accounts is critical if the WP is to defend its narrowly-won Aljunied GRC seats while redoubling efforts to win another group representation constituency.

Going forward, the WP also has to take a long and hard look at whether its position of objecting to the NCMP scheme while still taking up such seats is convincing.

It certainly does not have the same resonance as the similar reasoning it employs for contesting in GRCs while opposing their existence.

Why? The GRC system is still seen as disadvantageous to opposition parties like the WP. But it is difficult to make the case that the WP has not gained from the NCMP scheme.

A few PAP MPs have pointed out the most successful graduate of the programme, WP chairman Sylvia Lim, who went from one term as NCMP to becoming an elected MP now on her second term.

The leadership also clearly cares deeply about which of its members take up the post, and last week's motion in Parliament is but one example of this.

After the 2011 polls, the WP central executive council chose Mr Gerald Giam to be the NCMP from its East Coast GRC slate, and was willing to bear the loss of a party veteran when team leader Eric Tan quit the WP as he felt he was the best choice.

The Workers' Party, it seems to me, has two clear choices. Since the WP is unlikely to change its position opposing the NCMP scheme, it can at least make clear that its candidates know they are obligated to take up NCMP seats, even if the party remains officially against the scheme.

This will ensure that its stance does not have to again go under the microscope of a parliamentary debate, triggered by Ms Lee's rejection of the seat this time round.

Alternatively, a bolder approach would be to declare outright that the WP will no longer accept NCMP seats. This would make its position more overtly principled and coherent.

The onus will then also be on the voters to decide if they want elected WP MPs, or no WP MPs at all. Those sitting on the fence may then feel compelled to bite the bullet and cast their ballots for the opposition.

This would dovetail with the party's larger goal of winning at least 12 elected seats, and is also in line with the WP's belief that only elected opposition MPs are good for the long-term political future of Singapore.

WP, where do you stand?I refer to Mr Low Thia Khiang’s letter <<With the big picture in mind>> published in Zaobao on...
Posted by Singapore Matters on Saturday, February 20, 2016

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