According to Indranee Rajah, a contestant for the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) for Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC), there is no need for opposition members to be elected to Parliament, given that the enhanced Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme will guarantee at least 12 opposition Members of Parliament (MP).
For those unaware, the NCMP scheme allows the best losers in the general election to have a seat in Parliament. Essentially, it is an artificial construct put into Parliament to create a semblance of opposition representation.
However, it is important to note that NCMPs get paid significantly less than MPs which would in turn mean that NCMPs may not be able to give up their day jobs to serve the people the way an MP can. In this way, it would mean that opposition politicians will potentially never get as much engagement with the ground. They will also not have the opportunity to serve the people in the various town councils. In other words, even as the new changes allow NCMPs to vote in Parliament, they will be denied the exposure to residents which will decrease the NCMPs the opportunity to truly represent people.
In the words of Tan Cheng Bock, leader of the Progress Singapore Party (PVP):
“While (the government) has tried to improve the NCMP scheme, I look at it this time around as a ploy to entice voters not to vote for opposition…..It is very important that (a Member of Parliament) has a base. If you’ve got no base, it’s very difficult to function as an MP. You cannot be a ‘virtual’ MP, you must be a proper one.”
Besides, the whole notion of an NCMP scheme is the antithesis of democracy.
Singapore is supposed to be a democratic country with free and fair elections. The fact that Singapore has regularly had general elections means that the PAP does believe in the merit of general elections and getting a legitimate mandate from the people. So much so that the PAP has steadfastly insisted on holding the general elections at a time of a global coronavirus outbreak despite repeated calls from the public to postpone the general election.
The whole point of having a general election is that voters have a choice of different candidates and parties to vote for. So, if the PAP believes in general elections, why is it telling people not to vote for the opposition because of the NCMP scheme? Doesn’t that defeat the point of a general election in the first place?
Unless of course, the PAP is of the belief that general elections are just meant to be rubber stamps to grant them the perception of legitimacy?
The actions that the PAP have hitherto taken where the general elections are concerned have been confusing to say the least.
They had refused to postpone the general election despite the coronavirus outbreak. Yet, they refused to name a date for the longest time. And, now that they have named a date, they have told us that there is no need to vote for the opposition candidates because we have an NCMP scheme.
So, why bother to have a general election then?
Does the PAP know what it wants?
Or is it as Tan Cheng Bock says , just “a ploy”. A ploy that is putting lives at risk. A ploy that is unenvironmental. A ploy that is expensive in a time when we should be tightening our belts.
Is this the hallmark of a responsible party?
In the words of Jamus Lim of the Workers’ Party:
“What we are trying to deny the PAP isn’t a mandate. What we are trying to deny them is a blank cheque. ”