By Ng Kok Lim
I refer to the 30 Jan 2016 Straits Times report “Party’s transfer of vacant seat a political manouevre: PAP MPs”.
Spirit of NCMP scheme
While the spirit of the Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme is to offer a seat in parliament to the best performing opposition candidate who lost, performance is relative. All else being equal, opposition performance should be better against a weaker candidate from People’s Action Party (PAP) like Charles Chong as compared to against stronger PAP candidates like Minister Lim Swee Say and Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan.
Lee Li Lian’s higher percentage votes doesn’t automatically imply that she performed better than Daniel Goh. Because if these two candidates had swapped places during election 2015 with Daniel Goh pitted against the weaker Charles Chong and Lee Li Lian joining the fray against Minister Lim and Minister of State Lee, Daniel’s percentage vote might have been higher than what Lee Li Lian garnered while WP’s East Coast team might have fared worse than it did.
Hence, WP’s support for Daniel Goh to take up the NCMP position doesn’t necessarily go against the spirit of the NCMP scheme. WP is merely supporting the candidate it thinks had performed better.
No contradiction in WP position
There is no contradiction in WP taking up NCMP positions while opposing the NCMP scheme in principle.
What the opposition truly deserves is a level playing field in the political arena so that they can win seats in parliament unencumbered by an Everest of unfair PAP practices. In lieue of that, PAP throws the rag bone of the NCMP scheme. There is no contradiction in protesting one’s exclusion from feasting from the same table of exquisite political cuisine while taking up the rag bones of the NCMP thrown on the floor to sustain oneself to fight another day.
No revolving door
There has been no revolving door as far as WP is concerned because right from the start, WP’s chosen candidate for the NCMP post has always been Daniel Goh. That has never changed.
Conversely, the reshuffle of nearly all minister positions after every election is quite clearly multiple revolving doors. If multiple ministers go through revolving doors every 5 years, it gives the impression that these ministerial positions are very easy roles that can be filled by practically any Tom, Dick or Harry with no prior experience at the snap of the finger. Is it any wonder our housing policies flip flop like prata and our transport system is now choking with Khaw’s cholesterol?
Show case talent
PAP uses the GRC to parachute candidates it deems to be of ministerial calibre into parliament and after several terms, these seasoned ministers, having show cased their talent to the nation, then becomes strong enough to helm GRCs themselves. Isn’t the GRC, PAP’s tool to show case talent? PAP can show case talent, opposition cannot?
Low Thia Khiang’s declaration that he would not take up an NCMP position, which means he would leave parliament if he lost, doesn’t conflict with his support for other WP candidates taking up the NCMP position.
It’s like George Yeo, who having lost in 2011, chose to quit politics. But George Yeo doesn’t go around and say Sitoh Yih Pin should not continue to be in politics after Mr Sitoh lost in his first two tries.
Charles Chong shouldn’t take issue with what Minister Balakrishnan terms as “calling a spade a spade”. A duck weed is a duck weed. It is not a water lily and has no anchor to any constituency.
Not unfair to Punggol East voters
There is nothing unfair here as Punggol East residents didn’t lose anything because the NCMP position is by definition not tied to any constituency, certainly not Punggol East. Even if Li Lian took up the NCMP position, she will neither be obligated nor empowered to represent Punggol East because Punggol East didn’t give her the mandate to do so.
Charles Chong was wrong to say that sufficient Punggol East voters had given Lee Li Lian the mandate. It is precisely because insufficient Punggol East voters had given Li Lian the mandate, that Li Lian lost.
Charles Chong is mistaken, regardless of who takes up the NCMP position, the NCMP position is still a backdoor to enter parliament. The fact that Daniel Goh entered instead of Li Lian doesn’t make the backdoor any more backdoor.
It is Li Lian’s right to give up her NCMP position
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.”
Mr Chan is mistaken, if Punggol East residents had wanted to give Li Lian the right and the privilege, they would have voted her in. The fact that they didn’t means that as a whole, Punggol East residents chose not to give Li Lian that right and privilege.
The author regularly blogs at trulysingapore