The New Mock Parliamentarians
With the 12th Parliament in sitting, it is out with the old, in with the new. Outgoing 9 NMPs are Calvin Cheng Ern Lee, Terry Lee Kok Hua, Viswaroopan s/o Sadasivan, Mildred Tan-Sim Beng Mei, Paulin Tay Straughan, Teo Siong Seng, Laurence Wee Yoke Thong, Audrey Wong Wai Yen and Joscelin Yeo Wei Ling. The incoming 9 NMPs on a 2.5 years term are Eugene Tan, Teo Siong Seng, Tan Su Shan, Ramasamy Dhinakaran, Nicholas Fang, Mary Liew, Laurence Lien, Faizah Jamal and Janice Koh.
The deadline for NMP application was on December 8 last year and initial reports were that there were more than 20 people aspiring to be mock parliamentarians. Eventually, it was a record high of 50 applicants and there were only 47 eligible candidates, of which 9 were selected, 9 being the maximum number of NMPs allowed. The burning question is who were the 3 applicants unqualified in the eyes of the Special Select Committee. Of the 9, Eugene Tan is a regular commentator on local politics and I admit I’m largely unfamiliar with the remainder 8 NMPs.
The arguments against the NMPs have been repeated ad nauseum. However, they hold considerable merit if one believes in the Westminster system. NMPs are not elected by the people, do not represent party interests and do not represent any geographical constituency like in traditional parliaments. The NMPs are seen as coming from 7 segments of society – Business and industry, professions, labour movement, social service organisations, civic and people sector, tertiary education institutions, and media, arts and sports. Which just says that the NMPs come from anywhere and can lobby anything.
The 9 are not elected by the people but selected by the Special Select Committee which consists of the speaker, 6 PAP MPs and Low Thia Khiang. This invites generally unfair criticisms that the NMPs are planted PAP yes-men and yes-women. Nevertheless, Walter Woon, Siew Kum Hong and Braema Mathiaparanam were anything but PAP plants, except to the cynical conspiracy theory advocate.
That said, the mock MP or NMP idea is rejected outright by the opposition. In 1992, the 3 SDP and 1 WP MPs, Cheo Chai Chen, Chiam See Tong, Ling How Doong and Low Thia Khiang, voted against it. On the PAP side, only Tan Cheng Bock voted against his party’s bill. They understood that having NMPs would encourage a crutch mentality among Singaporeans ie. Singaporeans would not vote in opposition MPs and instead rely on NMPs to stir up debates with the PAP in parliament. A fair statement as opposition MP representation has not really increased since 1990 when the NMP scheme was introduced. The NMP scheme hinders rather than helps democracy in Singapore.