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PTW: Union leader and MP and also board member of transport company?

Andrew Loh / Deputy Editor

Can an MP represent or protect the interests of his or her constituents (who are consumers of services) if he or she is also a board member of the companies which are providing such services?

What if he or she is, at the same time, also a union leader, representing the interests of workers? More importantly, what is the main reason for having MPs as board members of public-listed companies, such as SMRT and SBS Transit?

The Deputy Secretary-General of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) and Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, Mdm Halimah Yacob, is a board member of public transport operator, SMRT – besides the other numerous posts she holds elsewhere.

According to the SMRT website, Mdm Halimah’s posts in other organisations are:

- -               Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee on Health.

- -               Chairman of the Jurong Town Council.

- -               Executive Secretary of the United Workers of Electrical and Electronics Industries.

- -               Member of the International Labour Organisation Governing Body in Geneva, Switzerland.

- -               Workers’ Spokesperson - Technical Cooperation C'tee of the International Labour Conference.

- -               Board member of the Economic Development Board.

- -               Board member of the Housing & Development Board.

- -               Trustee of the National University of Singapore.

- -               Trustee of seven unions affiliated to the NTUC.

- -               Co-Chairperson for the Tripartite Alliance on Fair Employment Practices.

- -               Chairperson for the Tripartite Workgroup on Women Back to Work Programme.

- -               Co-Chairperson of the Employability Network and the UFUK Cooperative.

- -               President of the Malay Teachers’ Union Co-operative.

- -               Patron of the Young Muslim Women’s Association.

As an MP, she represents the interests of her constituents; that is, Singaporeans.

As Deputy Secretary General of the NTUC, she represents the interests of workers.

As a board member of SMRT, she represents the interests of the company.

On a similar note, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Mr Wee Siew Kim, is a board member in the other transport provider, SBS Transit. (See here.)

The important question, as far as public transport is concerned, is: Can one person represent all three parties; workers and constituents (who may be public transport users) and the transport provider – SMRT - together with her numerous other positions in other organisations?

Can an MP adequately represent or speak up for his constituents on the issue of public transport if he or she is also a board member of the transport company?

In your opinion, is this feasible or desirable?

Is there a question of a conflict of interests?

Or does this safeguard Singaporeans’ interests better? Can an MP serve both commuters' and transport companies' interests at the same time?

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