Monday, 1 February 2016

Parliament Highlights on NCMP

PM’s Call for Smaller GRCs and More SMCs

The GRC scheme is officially meant to make sure that minority groups have sufficient representation in government.

Unofficially, the scheme has been criticised as a ploy to allow some candidates a backdoor into parliament by riding on the backs of their more popular colleagues.

The embodiment of such criticism? Desmond Choo, who lost two election battles in Hougang SMC and finally made it into parliament in GE2015 as a member of the Tampines GRC team helmed by the popular then-Education Minister Heng Swee Keat (and selfie king cum PR guru Baey Yam Keng).

NCMP Scheme Revamp: How a Shrewd Ah Loong Pulled Wool Over Your Eyes
“Opposition Candidates Only Deserve to be NCMPs, Nothing More”
Victor Lye versus Lee Li Lian: Two Non-MPs and the Grassroots Political Weapon

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Be honest about intention behind filling NCMP seat, Shanmugam tells WP

The Workers’ Party should be honest about its intention behind filling the third Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat, Mr K Shanmugam said on Sunday (Jan 31).

Weighing in on last Friday’s debate regarding the NCMP seat vacated by the WP’s Lee Li Lian, the Home Affairs and Law Minister called on the opposition party to make clear its intent for moving the parliamentary motion to have the seat declared vacant and filled by its East Coast GRC candidate Daniel Goh.

Ms Lee lost her Punggol East seat at the 2015 General Election, but had the highest vote percentage among the losing opposition candidates with 48.23 per cent of votes, making her eligible for an NCMP seat. However, she declined to take up the position.

Politicians must go beyond petty, partisan point-scoring: Leon Perera
NCMP Scheme created to PAP’s political advantage: Low Thia Khiang
Highlights: Parliament debates the President's address, Jan 29
Parliament votes to fill Lee Li Lian's NCMP seat

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Leon Perera: Shanmugam is presenting a "false choice" on NCMP issue

Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leon Perera said K Shanmugam is presenting a “false choice” between rejecting an NCMP seat and taking it up with “gratitude and praise”.
He also called on politics in Singapore to move beyond “petty, partisan point-scoring”, and focus on proposals to make Singapore better.
Perera was responding to the Home Affairs and Law Minister, who said that the Workers’ Party lacked the two factors needed for Singapore’s democracy to succeed: honesty in Parliament, and financial integrity.

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Slugfest: Shanmugam, WP dishonest – Leon Perera, don’t present false choice
Speaking at the sidelines of a community event, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam, suggested that the Workers’ Party was dishonest about its intention behind filling the third Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat saying, “they want to fill in this third seat because it benefits them”.

Adding that the starting point for democracy should be honesty Mr Shanumugam said, “On the NCMP scheme, we all know what the truth is. The Workers’ Party (WP) should just come out and say: ‘Look, we would prefer a direct choice being given to the voters between the PAP and the Workers’ Party, or some other opposition.

“But we don’t like the people being given an additional choice, which is you vote for the PAP and you still get an opposition candidate. Nevertheless, we benefit from it and therefore we want to fill the third seat”

ST fails to highlight PAP's small-mindedness in the NCMP saga

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WP’s Daniel Goh is now a NCMP, but not before some slick maneuvering by PAP’s Chan Chun Sing
Workers’ Party (WP) has its wish fulfilled. Its member Dennis Goh is now Non-Constituency Member of Parliament in place of Lee Lilian. But not before a slick political maneuvering by Minister Chan Chun Sing to amend the motion filed by WP to vacate the seat offered to Me Lee, and to offer it to Mr Goh instead.

Mr Chan who was in his element, had earlier countered newly minted NCMP Leon Perera who had suggested that the scheme for unelected MPs endangered the future of Singapore by asking him, “If you say NCMP scheme endangers future of Singapore, why do you want to be a party to this?”

In proposing an amendment to the Motion filed by WP, Mr Chan said:
“Madam, I propose to amend the Motion as such with the following additions for sub-para c. But regrets that Ms Lee Lilian having stood as a Workers’ Party candidate and received the highest vote share among all losing opposition candidates, has now decided to give up her NCMP seat to another candidate from her Party with a lower vote share, contrary to the expressed will of the voters. And that the Workers’ Party supports this political maneuver to take full advantage of the NCMP seat, even as its secretary-general criticises NCMPS as just duckweeds on the water of the pond. ”

related: ST fails to highlight PAP's small-mindedness in the NCMP saga

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NCMP debate and the PAP’s low blow

IT IS the role of the opposition to oppose while operating within the system, and it seems to be the role of the ruling party to mock them for doing so – but to what end I cannot fathom. Perhaps it is the height of political manoeuvring. It seems that the only outcome of a House split 83 seats to nine in cases like these will be the usual political strong-arming and a pointless vote.

But the tables were turned once.

To quote the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in a rally speech he delivered in 1955: “We do not like this new constitution. We are not content with streamlined colonialism. But we intend to put four men in the new Assembly so that the Colonial Government and its supporters can hear our voice, can hear our voice at first hand and our voice is yours, because we know you feel the same as we do about injustice, discrimination and exploitation.”

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There are better reforms than extending the NCMP scheme

A new parliamentary session has begun and constitutional changes are on the cards. At first, there were whispers that the elected presidency would be abolished, bringing Singapore back to a system where the president was elected by Parliament.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech reassured all Singaporeans that this would not be the case. The elected presidency would be adjusted (details akan datang), but not abolished.
Lee also signalled his intention to give all Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) full voting powers, and to increase the number of NCMPs from nine to 12. This would guarantee a dozen opposition voices in Parliament regardless of election results.
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Everything you need to know about the key changes on S’pore’s political system in 60 seconds

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave a game-changing speech in Parliament today (Jan. 27), in which he talked about significant changes in the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme and deliberated on the qualifying criteria of the Elected Presidency (EP):
  • The NCMP scheme will increase from 9 to 12
  • A NCMP has more power now
  • Smaller Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), more Single Member Constituencies (SMCs)
  • Review the qualifying criteria of the Elected Presidency
  • Examine how Singapore can ensure that minorities will have a chance to be elected to the office of President
related: parliamentary speech awards: Day 4 parliamentary speech awards: Day 2 parliamentary speech awards: Day 1
3 things for PM Lee to consider about the elected presidency this week
4 potential implications from PM Lee’s speech on political changes
Led by CCS, PAP outmanoeuvred WP b4 letting WP fill up its NCMP seat
CCS uses Low’s duckweed statement, supports motion to get Daniel in parliament
WP’s Sylvia Lim quoted Lee Kuan Yew in her first 13th Parliament speech
After 5 years and 3 tries, Desmond Choo finally gets to speak in Parliament
Ex-PE MP Lee Li Lian hits back at PAP counterpart Charles Chong on NCMP seat
NCMP Daniel Goh has classy response for people who call him “Duckweed Goh”
These days,if you’re pro-estab,you’ll want to scrap or change elected presidency

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NCMP debate: More politics than principle

The People’s Action Party (PAP) played a great game of politics yesterday. It was well-prepared to take on the Workers’ Party’s (WP) motion to let the third NCMP seat be filled, at the WP’s expense. Of course, it was helped by WP chief Low Thia Kiang’s description of NCMPs as “duckweed”, which leads to the question of why the WP would want even more duckweed in the House.

The PAP fielded Mr Charles Chong of Punggol East, where Ms Li Lee Lian was GE2015’s best loser and had said no to the seat. Then it put up Dr Lee Bee Wah, a colorful Mandarin speaker known for her blunt talk. It had one of the potential next PMs in the form of Mr Chan Chun Sing, as its chief attacker. He also happens to be the Government Whip which he used very handily to say that he would keep PAP MPs from denigrating the current NCMPs. “I don’t know how Mr Leon Perera or Mr Dennis Tan feels. But I will guarantee you that none of my PAP MPs will ever call you duckweeds. We value you for your contribution.”

Chuckle. Chuckle.


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NCMP scheme itself is a political maneuvering

In yesterday’s (29 Jan) Parliamentary debate, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing accused Workers’ Party (WP) of political maneuvering when WP proposed to transfer the vacant Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat from Ms Lee Li Lian to Dr Daniel Goh.

Dr Goh, an NUS sociologist, was a WP candidate contesting in East Coast GRC.

Mr Chan told Parliament, “We want to see the third NCMP seat filled. What troubles us is the (WP’s) maneuvering behind it.”

Workers’ Party’s position NCMP sound
Lee Li Lian shows how helpless she would be if she took up an NCMP position
Changes to NCMP system: Patronising and calculated
Changes to NCMP a small price for a bigger fish

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SDP: The electoral system is not for the PAP to tweak and adjust

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has come out strongly against the proposed changes to our electoral system outlined by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his speech today. The opposition political party said that the electoral system is not for the PAP to tweak and adjust.

“The proposals by PM Lee serve only to distract the people from the real problems that plague elections in Singapore,”the party headed by Dr Chee Soon Juan said in a press release.

Pointing out that a democratic election system requires a free media, freedom of speech and assembly, and a transparent electoral process, SDP said that if the PAP is genuinely interested in reforming the political system, the following measures are necessary:
  • Amend the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act and the Broadcasting Act
  • Abolish the GRC system
  • Repeal the Public Order Act
  • Lengthen the campaign period
  • Remove the Elections Department from the control of the PMO

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A democratic society has to be fought for, step by step and brick by brick

Just finished the debate in Parliament on filling the vacated NCMP seat.

Most of the People’s Action Party members of the House were present for this particular debate. Over the past few days, when the House debated national issues and Parliamentary questions, the attendance often dipped to 30 or 40 (or less). Interesting priorities.

Please read the text of the PAP’s amendment to our motion. It speaks volumes about their approach to politics and Parliamentary debate.

NCMP scheme itself is a political maneuvering
Chan Chun Sing's disconnect rethortic
A democratic society has to be fought for, step by step and...
Reform, Not Adjust, the Election System
WP position on filling NCMP position sound

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9 Opposition Members Explain Why Increasing NCMPs Is Utterly Pointless

On 27 Jan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of his intention to increase the number of Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seats from 9 seats to 12. PM Lee also added that the government would amend the constitution to give equal voting rights to NCMPs.

The NCMP system ensures a minimum number of opposition members in parliament by allowing the best opposition losers of an election to join the policy-making process. Many would have thought that the increase NCMPs in the next election would be heartily welcomed by the opposition.

However, they were wrong — these 9 opposition politicians have hailed this policy as superfluous:
  • Low Thia Khiang: NCMPs are like duckweed
  • Sylvia Lim: NCMPs can never be the same as being as elected MP representing the people
  • Yee Jenn Jong: more than “small cosmetic changes” required
  • Chee Soon Juan: Increase of NCMPs only “serve to distract people from real problems”
  • Lina Chiam: more NCMPs make a difference only with sizeable opposition MPs
  • Lim Tean: Increase NCMPs — PAP’s way of “persuading Singapore voters not to vote for opposition”
  • Steve Chia: NCMPs are all bark and no bite
  • Goh Meng Seng: “We do not think that there is a necessity for NCMPs”
  • Tan Jee Say: Increasing NCMP to 12 seats will have no effect on parliament
11 WP Quotes That Explain Opposition Stances In Debate On President’s Address
10 Powerful Quotes Made By Ong Ye Kung In His Maiden Speech To Parliament
MP Darryl David Thinks New Citizens’ Standard Of English Is Not Good Enough

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Nee Soon MP Lee Bee Wah: I’m disappointed the Workers’ Party did not choose their candidates wisely

Speaking in Mandarin in Parliament yesterday (Jan 29), PAP MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah fired a political potshot at the Opposition Workers’ Party Low Thia Kiang’s criticism against the undemocratic Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme.

Below is the English translation of her speech here:
  • “Two days ago, Mr Low Thia Kiang said that NCMPs are like duckweed in a pond. Today, he actually raised a motion to bring one more duckweed into the Parliament. Oh wait, float into Parliament. I don’t understand what is his intentions.
  • If NCMP benefits only the PAP, then why does he want one more NCMP? Even if we (PAP) allow him to have one more NCMP as a political manouvere, his candidates betrayed his stance. Now Ms Lee Li Lian rejected the role and I understand her situation. However, the Workers’ Party should have done their due diligence and preparation and be expected to behave according to the country’s Constitution and serve the people. None of them should be allowed to reject the NCMP role. I am very disappointed the Workers’ Party did not choose their candidates wisely.”
Low Thia Kiang: PAP abuses the use of PA and their grassroots

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Thanks, Lilian; shame on you, PAP

Reading news reports of what transpired in Parliament the last few days has been disappointing, to say the least. And particularly so is the People’s Action Party (PAP)’s politicking over the decision by Workers’ Party candidate, Lee Lilian, not to take up the Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat.

PAP MPs such as Lee Bee Wah, Edwin Tong and Charles Chong, along with minister Chan Chun Sing, all cast aspersions of various kinds on the WP and Ms Lee.

I do not think it is worth repeating them here. Suffice it to say that the attacks (even if they are veiled ones) reflect badly on the perpetrators.

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Victor Lye versus Lee Li Lian: Two Non-MPs and the Grassroots Political Weapon

In a scathing Facebook post, former Punggol-East SMC MP Lee Li Lian has condemned the PAP and the NCMP scheme for essentially making her a paper parliamentarian.

The Workers’ Party member said that she has tried to serve residents in Punggol East, only for the PAP to thwart her attempts.

Putting up this picture, she said:
“To be truly responsible to voters, I would need to be able to represent them both in Parliament and on the ground. As an NCMP I am unable to do that. Just recently as an NCMP-elect, I tried to apply to the PAP-managed Town Council to hold a charity food distribution event in Punggol East on 30th January 2016 today. This was rejected by the TC because they do not approve applications made by Political Parties. It is rather ironic given that when I was MP of Punggol East, I never rejected any applications from PAP-affiliates to hold events at areas managed by the WP Town Council. During my term as an MP, I was never successful in my applications to hold events at areas managed by the HDB like Rivervale Plaza. 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?”
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There was no NCMP election – Ex-MP Lee Lilian hits out at Charles Chong

Former MP of Punggol East single-member constituency, Ms Lee Lilian has hit out at the current MP for the ward, Charles Chong for suggesting in Parliament yesterday that she should have respected the ‘decision of the minority’ who voted for her, 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,” she said.

Ms Lee who lost to Mr Chong by a slim margin in the last general election, also called the amendments to the motion which was passed yesterday to vacate her NCMP seat and pave the way for her party member Daniel Goh to become unelected member of parliament, as being unfair to the Workers’ Party and an attack on her personally.

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Lee Li Lian shows how helpless she would be if she took up an NCMP position

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.

Workers' Party's position NCMP sound - The Online Citizen
NCMP scheme itself is a politcal maneuvering - The Online Citizen
NCMPs with only 15% of MP salary, has more to lose than to gain - The Online Citizen
Changes to NCMP a small price for a bigger fish - The Online Citizen

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WP's Lee Li Lian says amended NCMP motion unfair to party, 'an attack on me'

Former Workers' Party (WP) MP Lee Li Lian yesterday said the PAP Government's amendment to the parliamentary motion to declare vacant the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) seat she rejected was "both unfair to the party and an attack on me personally".

In a Facebook post, Ms Lee, the former MP for Punggol East, said she was surprised by the amendment which accused her of acting contrary to the views of voters and described her giving up the seat as a political manoeuvre.

"I did not contest the general election to be an NCMP, but an elected member of the House with the full responsibilities involved in representing my constituents," she said.

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While the spirit of the 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 PAP candidate 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 better contradiction in WP position.


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A refreshing portion of the Presidential Address

WHAT does “refresh” mean? That’s the term President Tony Tan used last night when he talked about how the political system must be “refreshed from time to time as circumstances change”. He did not use the term “renew”, which was how ST paraphrased him. “Renew” is probably too loaded a term, implying some kind of mini-overhaul. Refresh seems more like a fresh coat of paint or as the women would know, using an astringent or toner on a tired face.

This is the part of his address to Parliament which was the most attention-grabbing. His pledges that the G would foster a caring society with a vibrant urban landscape is to be expected. Likewise references to the “future economy” which Singapore is trying to develop via the Skills Future initiative to change people’s mindsets that learning stops after school.

You have to acknowledge that the G has been extremely innovative in experimenting with the country’s political system. On the electoral front, there is the Group Representation Constituency system which guaranteed the presence of ethnic minorities in Parliament (while at the same time hobbling the opposition which did not have the resources to cobble together a multi-racial slate – a handicap which it has since overcome with the election of the Workers’ Party’s Aljunied GRC slate).

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THE word “duckweed” has been floating around Parliament a lot in the past week. It all began when Workers’ Party (WP) chief Mr Low Thia Kiang responded to the Prime Minister’s proposed changes to the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme with ambivalence, saying that the “NCMP is just a duckweed on the water of the pond. You don’t have roots unlike elected MPs where you have a constituency”.

This analogy then drifted into Parliament, with the PAP accusing WP of trying to exploit the NCMP scheme while fulminating against it. Government whip Chan Chun Sing even said that the WP’s attempt to fill Ms Lee Li Lian’s NCMP seat was a political manoeuvre. The analogy of this hapless little plant eventually took root in the amended motion for Ms Lee Li Lian’s seat to be declared vacant and then filled.

We take a lighthearted look at what WP’s NCMPs, Mr Dennis Tan, Mr Leon Perera, and Dr Daniel Goh might be feeling now.

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Humour: Getting your duckweed in a row

It all started on Wednesday in Parliament.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "I intend to amend the constitution during this term to give NCMPs the same voting rights as constituency MPs...

"They will be equal in powers although not in responsibility and scope to constituency MPs because they are non-constituency and they do not have specific voters to look after. But there is no reason at all to perceive NCMPs as second class."

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Full Coverage:
WP not honest in rejecting NCMP scheme: Shanmugam
Increasing diversity in the House with more NCMPs
Politicians must go beyond petty, partisan point-scoring: Leon Perera
Upholding the integrity of the NCMP scheme
WP 'should be honest about NCMP intentions'
Politicians must go beyond petty, partisan point-scoring: WP's Perera
Be honest about intention behind filling NCMP seat, Shanmugam tells WP
Political changes ahead: Don't be bochap
Leon Perera: Shanmugam is presenting a "false choice" on NCMP issue
WP's Lee Li Lian says amended NCMP motion unfair to party, 'an attack on me'
Workers' Party's position NCMP sound
Slugfest: Shanmugam, WP dishonest – Leon Perera, Don't present false choice
ST fails to highlight PAP's small-mindedness in the NCMP saga
Elections Department says third NCMP will be from WP East Coast GRC team
Humour: Getting your duckweed in a row