Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean made a Facebook post on Thursday (25 Jun), assuring that the Constitution will ensure at least 21 alternative voices would be present in the new Parliament after the coming general election (GE).
According to him, there will be 93 elected Members of Parliament (MPs), which is up from the current 89 elected MPs. “The Constitution also ensures that there will be at least 21 alternative voices in Parliament after this GE,” he added.
The 21 alternative voices would come from the 12 Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) – from among the remaining alternatives’ candidates with the highest votes – and 9 Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs).
NMPs are actually appointed by the President for a term of two and a half years on the recommendation of a Special Select Committee chaired by the Speaker of Parliament. The Special Select Committee itself is composed of elected MPs from the Parliament. Since the NMP scheme started in 1990, the Committee has been dominated by MPs from the ruling PAP.
According to Teo, NMPs would “offer non-partisan perspectives on arts/culture, sports, the sciences, business, industry, the professions, community service or the labour movement”.
NMP Chia Yong Yong: CPF is not your money
In the many years since the NMP scheme started, only a handful of NMPs were seen to be giving views independently. Majority of them would simply endorse the views and policies of the ruling PAP in Parliament.
Take for example, NMP Chia Yong Yong of “CPF is not your money” fame, questioned the very idea that Singaporeans should be entitled to decide how they want to spend their CPF money during a Parliamentary debate in 2015.
During the debate, she reminded the House that CPF members were not the only ones contributing to their own accounts, and that others will end up supporting those who squander their CPF savings. She went on to single out proponents of the argument that “it’s our money, it’s in our account, it’s our retirement money, I want it out, I will spend it any way I want”.
“Our CPF savings are enhanced, enforced CPF savings which are accumulated through our own deferred consumption, through co-payment by our employers and through top-ups from public funds,” she countered.
“Because I am not the only person contributing to that fund, I cannot be the only person to call the shots as to how I’m going to spend it.”
She took the opportunity to criticise Workers’ Party suggestion that CPF monthly payouts should begin earlier at age 60 instead of 65, “I have great unease and I cannot support this recommendation that we allow such flexibility to the people. I have unease because I think we are placing a very great fiscal obligation upon our future generations living off what our forefathers have built for us.”
Today, Singaporeans continue to only get their monthly CPF payouts after 65.
Indeed, the NMP scheme has been criticised on the grounds that it is undemocratic, and that un-elected NMPs have no incentive to express the electorate’s views in Parliament. It has also been criticised that the scheme reinforces the ruling PAP’s technocratic and elitist view of politics.