Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nominated MP's- Boon or bane for Singapore?

A. NOMINATED MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT:INVITATION FOR SUBMISSION OF NAMES
The general public is invited to submit names of persons to the Special Select Committee of Parliament for nomination by the Committee for appointment by the President as Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP).

2 The persons to be nominated by the Committee shall be persons who have rendered distinguished public service, or who have brought honour to the Republic, or who have distinguished themselves in the field of arts and letters, sports, culture, the sciences, business, industry, the professions, social or community service or the labour movement.
(read on...)

B.The Nominated Members of Parliament scheme was introduced by Goh Chok Tong and approved by Parliament in March 1990. It allowed for the appointment of up to six unelected MPs for two years after which they can be reappointed. In 1997, the number of NMPs was increased to nine.
The idea behind the scheme was to allow citizens without party affiliation to participate and contribute to parliamentary debates without having to go through the electoral process. (read on...)

C. Some views from
i. singabloodypore
ii.WP's hammer-online

My comments:

Hi friends,

I challenge any reader to name more than 2 NMP’s in the previous parliament.

Most would blame their ignorance on the lack of impact that NMP’s have on their daily lives.

NMP’s represent no one. They do not have any constituencies. Heck, they are not even elected.

Although NMP’s were supposed to enrich our parliamentary debate by adding a non-partisan dimension, I am yet to be convinced that their introduction to the House has brought significant benefits.

To me, risks outweighed their benefits.

NMP’s are non-partisan- Really?

Firstly, many NMP’s were not even non-partisan. Many were actually card-carrying members of a political party. ( I wonder which?).

Granted that members of a political party do sometimes hold independent views, I do not recall many NMP’s of this party actually contributing many alternative viewpoints in past parliaments.

NMP’s speak for whom?

Secondly, since NMP’s are not elected, where is their credibility? Why should we listen to them, as they only speak for themselves. Although they are purportedly nominated by professional groups, academia, trade unions etc, I do not recall voting for any members of my profession to be put forward as NMP’s. I am fairly certain no university academics or trade unionist have been voted in by their peers in any open elections.

NMP’s undermine our parliamentary system

Thirdly, opposition MP’s play a vital and constructive role in our political system. Their role should not be undermined by NMP’s. These opposition MPs’ mandate are legitimised by the people’s vote unlike the NMP’s.

Solution- Elect all MP’s even (N)MP’s

One way to legitimise the NMP’s position would be to make them stand for election. Let a list of nominees be put before the people during the General Elections. Criteria for nomination should not be different from the present GE candidates and then let the people decide who they want sitting in the House. These MP's may not have any geographical constituencies to look after, but at least they have Singapore's mandate.

Of course, we would then have to look for a more appropriate name.

They would no longer be mere Nominated MP’s but Independent MP’s (IMP’s) … well, maybe somehow "Imps" does not sound quite right. Any suggestion?

Cheers

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

15 comments:

jun said...

Hi Doc,

I agree with you that they should be elected. The Singapore Idol and Superstar contests are much more transparent compared to this Nominated MP thingee. ;)

Rowen said...

The nominated MP scheme is a way the current party in power tries to justify their policies. By having NMPs in parliament, the view is to see that there is a non bias group to "audit" the current flow of things.

Yet these NMPs do not speak much in the parliament and they too have their own interests to protect. Therefore the probability of them speaking for the people and in the interest of the common man would be improbable. Eunice Olsen was a NMP. I do not see much speechs from her during her tenture as NMP.

In addition Most NMP are appointed by the government.

Perhaps Sylvia Lim as NMP would speak up? Be it known that everytime she speaks there would be a lot of flak from the rest of the government.

As i see it, the NMP is not a good system. Just additional budget which i think could be reduced.

Just 2 cents worth.

Ram said...

The system is put in place by the Govt to showpiece that Parliament is not a one sided dominated and bias representation. NMPs are a travesty of any elected Parliamentary system in the world..
Of course it will not work .. it is an idea culled without historical precedence..
Common sense dictates that the NMPs elected will not bite the hands that feed them..and surely the appointer will not select those who will rock the boat or they will be shown the door...furthermore, NMPs do not have to go back to the people for future accreditation.
So it is a win win situation for the rulers but not for the people...it imposes
further taints to the electoral process..
A freely elected Parliament, open and transparent , without unfair influences and an even field for all who stand for elections , free from fear and persecution remains the stalwart for a truly representative and effective voice of the people to whom Parliament's responsibility and role is supposedly sancrosanct....

Dr Oz bloke said...

Aiyah....guys guys guys.....

NMP is kuching kurak lah. I mean how much do we pay the NMPs with our state funds? And besides the NMPs have contributed. Eg It was Walter Woon's idea about changing the law to ensure old people will not be abandoned by their children.

What is far more disturbing is the thought that the ("elected") President of Singapore is largely chosen (nominated and supposedly elected) from only an extremely small circle of people (mostly successful businessmen, CEOs or ex civil servants) of which most who qualify would not want to be involved unless they are totally aligned with the ruling government, but yet the consitution states that the President has a role in guarding our reserves (presumably against a rogue government). Remember how much trouble President Ong Teng Cheong had and how much of a "troublemaker" he was deemed by the government?

Last but not least, we pay the President of Singapore about $2.3 million dollars a year (or $6500 a day)to perform these duties. That's certainly not a small sum. But really who out there believes that our current President performs anything more than cereminal duties of the old ceremonial (non-elected) Presidents of Singapore?

I wonder how much we paid them last time?

So forget about NMPs.

Jolly Jester said...

Rowen, just a small little correction on your pt of Sylvia Lim as NMP.

Sylvia Lim is an NCMP (non constituency), which is different from the NMP(nominated). The NCMP scheme allows the top 3 losers from the oppo wards to be invited into the parliament (with limited voting powers). In the event that oppo wins a seat (ie like Chiam and Low) then one seat less is given to NCMP, thus there's only one NCMP in parliament.

The NMP scheme, which is what Doc is discussing here, is a wholly govt appointed scheme.

Jolly Jester said...

Dr Huang,

You said this:
"I am fairly certain no university academics or trade unionist have been voted in by their peers in any open elections."

But in my impression the trade union does have its own system of 'election' for its leaders. It's just not publicised like the GE as it is a NTUC and TU internal affair. Of course, to what extent is the TU's elections fair and free is open for debate.

While I think your idea of electing independent MPs sound good in theory, I think its not practicable. Firstly the PAP would be shooting itself in the foot for allow elected MPs(thus there is legitmacy and real power behind these 'MPs'). The idea behind the NMP scheme can be seen as trying to allow for other viewpoints, spur more discussion, and YET remain in absolute control.

So I guess whether the NMP scheme is a boon or bane will depend on one's own position of whether PAP dominance with non existence opposition is desirable in the first place.

If one thinks that PAP dominance is good (haha i don't need to list out the whole laundry list of reasons for it, just read ST), then perhaps the NMP scheme is a good tweak to the system to allow for more voicing of alternative, responsible views and debate, while not disrupting the political status quo. Thus the NMPs can contribute positively to policy as well as act as a platform for 'neutral, non partisan' views, which compared to pure PAP dominance in the parliament, is still more desirable i guess?

As for if one believes that the PAP dominance is not good, and there should be more opposition, then i think all those arguments that we see here against NMPs as sham representation, pro PAP due to PAP's own selection, etc applies.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi all,
We have a nice debate going on.
I will let you guys have your say before commenting further.
Also I am quite busy.
There are 3 views so far:
1.NMP's are not elected hence do not deserve a place in the House.
2.NMP's are inconsequential anyway, so just ignore the issue
3.NMP are doing some good ( providing views that are not 100% pro-PAP, so is good. ie End justifies the means.
If my summary sucks, I apologise.
Any other views seriously welcomed.
Dr.Huang

sapmme said...

The NMP system is also a backdoor for the ruling party to have essential members (cough... Lee XX... cough) retained as a MP incase an electoral battle is lost.

In such cases, even as a NMP, I believe ministerial portfolio can be assigned to them and the show can go on...

correct me if wrong.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi sappme,
I don't think they will use this route (get office-bearers from NMP's).
The reason being that if it is widely publicised that cabinet member can be sourced from non-elected nominees, they cannot then use pressure tactics such as " if so-and-so does not get elected into parliament, S'pore will not have enough talents in the cabinet to run the show".
The electorate then will just vote freely and even if a former cabinet minister gets voted out, he can then get in by the backdoor.
The PAP uses the GRC as a pressure tactic so that if eg Aljunied goes to the WP, they would have lost a Foreign Minister.
Such are the unsavoury methods used.

Dr.Huang

Charles said...

Dear Dr. Huang

According to British Parliamentary proceedings and conventions , such variations as you have suggested like having office bearers in the cabinet who are non-elected, but appointed will be anathema in the UK ...

This brings up an interesting point about our Parliamentary setup...do we have steadfast conventions and proceedings that are binding on the Govt and which cannot be changed as and when the ruling party decides..We know that this is not the case in Singapore... So what I am saying is that, without such a check in place, any form of variation and abuse, even to the point of idiocy, on the system can be legal and binding, given that Singapore lacks a constitution to boot...already NMPs are gross deviations from UK parliamentary conventions... so further aberrations and distortion of true and bona fide Parliamentary representation can be dished out without restraints and with impunity..as we are seeing this time and again

I thought this may be a small afterthought....

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Charles,
In S'pore, for good or bad, parliament is the supreme body for making/changing laws and even the constitution is not immune to change. So long as 2/3 of MP's agree ( through a vote), any constitution can be( and have been) changed.
Correct me if I am wrong, the parliament can even decide that they will be no need for opposition and outlaw it! or that so and so is so indispensable that he should be supremo or "The Great Leader" for life etc ( you get the drift).
I am not one for sticking to traditions ( no matter what), but at the present time, I am not confident that every decision taken by parliament has been for S'pore's benefit and not just the ruling clique's.
We need a non-partisan ombudsman who will referee all dispute and queries about fairness ( or not) of govt policies and laws.
What say you?

Charles said...

Dear Dr. Huang,

This is what I am arriving at.The Parliament we have is just a facade for Western MNCs' consumption that there is a democratic machinery in Government. Real power lies in the hands of the one party.
Parliamentary conventions in UK are legally binding and not mere traditions.
The final ombudsman must be the people themselves ...of course this is just daydreaming.
Just hope to show how far we have deviated from the conventional Western model.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Charles,
Unfortunately the MNC's don't care whether this is a facade or not. Although they want to be good corporate citizens ( and will not invest places with child labour and sweatshops), the PAP knows that the MNC's ultimately just cares for the bottomline and a stable ( not necessarily democratic) place to mint their money. Hence the PAP and other S'pore "pragmatists" will cite that the ends justifies the means.
Some of us feel that it is still possible to be fair and truly democratic, yet provide a conducive environment for MNC's to come in to do their thing.
It may be more bumpy and with less certainty of how our society will progress, but it will be happier for S'poreans.
In any case, it will be our way ( bottom up) and not just the PAP's way.
Dr.Huang

Jolly Jester said...

Interestingly, the ombudsman concept was suggested by an external constitution commission for singapore, but was rejected by the PAP govt (when singapore gained independence). Also of note is that the PAP (since they were the party in majority during the drawing of the constitution) opted for a very easy route to amend the constitution (2/3 majority in parliament as pointed out by Dr. Huang).

Other checks and balances in other countries to protect the constitution from mere parliament majority include Presidential veto (usually elected president, haha, applies in sg's case... but you know lar), referendum, upper chamber approval, ombudsman, etc.
It is also of note that the only referendum that was ever held in singapore (correct me if i am wrong) was on the merger issue.

And yes, we can see that in our structure, real power lies with the PAP, which is democratically voted in by the people, giving it legitmacy. It seems that in the current situation of singapore, the GE is the only real lever that Singaporeans can change/challenge the PAP politically.

Charles said...

Dear Dr. Huang,

I have to agree with Jollyjester that the GE remains the only way that change can come about peacefully, notwithstanding that the Govt through Parliament do not thwart this by passing laws that will take even that shred of right remaining,from the people.
And that the people will awaken from their deep slumber to the realities in Singapore.