Parliament: MPs react to proposed changes to Singapore's political system

Parliament: MPs react to proposed changes to Singapore's political system

Members of Parliament air their thoughts on changes to the NCMP scheme, the GRC system and the Elected Presidency, mooted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

SINGAPORE: A day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mooted a series of changes in the political system, Members of Parliament (MP) from both the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and the opposition Workers' Party (WP) spoke in Parliament in response to the suggestions.

On Wednesday (Jan 27), Mr Lee suggested that from the next General Election, the minimum number of opposition MPs in Parliament should be increased from nine to 12. He also proposed that by the next GE, the Group Representation Constituencies should have fewer seats on average, with more single-seat wards introduced. The Elected Presidency scheme, introduced in 1991, should also be reviewed, said Mr Lee.

ON CHANGING THE CRITERIA FOR THE ELECTED PRESIDENCY

Ms Rahayu Mahzam said she welcomed the concern of the Government toward minorities, but does not want the selection of a Malay President to be a symbolic one.

"Mr Lee said there will be a process to ensure that minorities will not be excluded, and there will be a President from the minority group. We would like to see representation from our community, but we want Malays to be chosen because he or she is the best, and not because of his or her race," she said in Parliament on Thursday.

Mr Edwin Tong suggested strengthening the qualifying criteria from at least two perspectives.

"First, obviously, the paid-up threshold has become obsolete, and that should be reviewed. But second, and perhaps more fundamentally ... is that we look beyond just the numbers. Just because a candidate has been a CEO, or CFO of a company with x-billion of paid-up capital or turnover, it does not necessarily make that person the right person, or indeed, a suitable or appropriate person to become the elected President."

On Mr Lee's suggestion on looking into strengthening the Council of Presidential Advisors, Mr Tong suggesting having more than just the current six members on the Council.

"The CPA should be enhanced with competent experts appointed from across a diverse range of fields, as well as from across a spectrum of civil society who collectively can represent a broad cross-section of stakeholders in Singapore."

They should also be required to outline the grounds on which they give their advice, save for matters on national security. Doing this ensures transparency and accountability and engenders public confidence, he said.

ON GIVING EQUAL VOTING RIGHTS TO NCMPs

Mr Ang Wei Neng said the proposal to increase the minimum number of opposition MPs “entrenches the importance of the NCMP scheme” and recognises the contributions of past NCMPs.

“The political parties of the best losing opposition candidates that have accepted the NCMP nomination benefitted from the system. So instead of calling names, let us all embrace the NCMP scheme as a unique feature of the Singapore political system.”

Ms Rahayu Mahzam said NCMPs like Mr Leon Perera and Mr Dennis Tan will “add to the robust debate and change laws”, and was surprised that Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang compared them to “duckweed”. Mr Low’s analogy was meant to illustrate the NCMP’s lack of political muscle, as an NCMP is not rooted to any constituency.

"Nothing stops the NCMPs from going to the ground – do house visits, organise sessions to gather the ground concerns. In fact, I recall Mr Perera mentioning that he does grassroots work at East Coast and Aljunied."

SYLVIA LIM, EDWIN TONG ON NCMP ROLE

Being an NCMP is not the same as being elected MP, says The Workers' Party's Sylvia Lim in an exchange with Edwin Tong. He had addressed Low Thia Khiang's "duckweed" analogy for NCMPs in Parliament. bit.ly/1PGTw5P

Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Thursday, January 28, 2016


ON HAVING SMALLER GRCs

Mr Edwin Tong said voters benefited from the suggestion to reduce the average size of GRCs. "I think this makes more, better options and choices for our electorate, and the Workers’ Party surely cannot complain of smaller GRCs. The question of economies of scale in the running of a town council can, I think, be easily overcome by having more than one GRC make up a town, which is currently not the case."

Source: CNA/av