In a Facebook post on Saturday, Workers’ Party candidate for Punggol East SMC in the General Election 2015, Lee Li Lian spoke out on the issue of the Non-constituency Member of Parliament seat that had been the subject of debate in parliament yesterday, commenting that the amendments made to the motion to vacate her seat as an NCMP were both unfair to her party and a personal attack on her.
Ms Lee had earlier declined to take up the NCMP seat despite qualifying as the top three losers in the General Election. On 20 January, Workers’ Party moved a motion to have Ms Lee’s seat transfer to Dr Daniel Goh, another candidate who contested during the General Election.
On Friday, the parliament had passed the motion after a lengthy debate to vacate Ms Lee’s seat as NCMP under section 52 of the Parliamentary Elections Act and resolved that the seat be filled in accordance with sections 52(2) and 52(3B)(a) of the Act. The motion was however amended to have the transfer of seat labelled as a “political manoeuvre” by the Workers’ Party to take full advantage of the NCMP seat.
Ms Lee wrote in her post, “I was quite surprised by these amendments, which accuse me of acting in contrary to the views of the voters, and that this was a political manoeuvre. To clarify, I did not contest the General Elections to be an NCMP, but an elected member of the house with the full responsibilities involved in representing my constituents.”
Mr Charles Chong’s remark in Parliament on Friday took issue with Ms Lee’s decision to decline the seat, implying that Ms Lee did not respect the voters who voted for her. Mr Chong said “This means in this case, respecting the results of voting in Punggol East SMC which saw sufficient number of voters in my constituency giving Ms Lee Li Lian a mandate to enter Parliament – a privilege she has regretfully declined to accept, and one which the Workers’ Party now seeks to transfer to another candidate who did not qualify on the basis on the GE results.”
Ms Lee addressed this point by saying that she had stepped aside in line with what the voters have expressed through their votes. “Mr Chong suggested in Parliament that I should have respected the ‘decision of the minority’ who voted for me, by taking up the NCMP seat. The NCMP scheme was not put in place by the voters, but the Government. The people have no direct hand in electing me to the NCMP seat. Voters who voted for me were seeking for me to be their elected MP, and unfortunately, this was not the outcome at the polls.” wrote Ms Lee.
She added that if she were to be truly responsible to voters, she would need to be able to represent them both in Parliament and on the ground. “As an NCMP I am unable to do that.” claimed Ms Lee.
In her post, Ms Lee included a clear example of how she would not have been able to fulfill her role fully as an NCMP to her voters with a screenshot of an email from the Pasir-Ris Punggol Town Council.
In the email, the town council rejected Ms Lee’s application as an NCMP-elect on 27 January to book the common area for a charity food distribution that was to be held on Saturday (30 January). In its reply, it stated that no political parties can book for the use of common area.
She commented that the rejection by the town council is rather ironic as she has never rejected any application from the PAP affiliates to hold events at the area managed by the WP town council when she was the MP of Punggol East SMC. At the same time, she also pointed that she was never successful in her applications to hold events at areas managed by the HDB like Rivervale Plaza.
Ms Lee lamented, “As an MP there were many challenges on the ground working with PAP-affiliates to hold events in my own constituency, even if they benefited the residents. What more as an NCMP where I would not be able to support even the people who voted for me on the ground?”
In her ending paragraph, she applauded the NCMP scheme for being a beneficial stepping stone for aspiring MPs to show the people what they can do in terms of speaking up for them in the parliament and “glad that Parliament did allow the seat to be filled by one such individual.”
While Ms Lee has rejected the NCMP seat, she said that she would continue her outreach and grassroots activities and thankful for the support given to her.