SINGAPORE: The current batch of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) have “done well” and “pushed boundaries” said Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin in an interview with Channel NewsAsia.
His comments came ahead of the close of public submissions for the next batch of NMPs at 4.30pm on Friday (Jul 6). At least half of the current batch of nine NMPs have indicated they would step down in September when their term ends. They are Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, Mr Thomas Chua, Mr Kok Heng Leun and Mr Azmoon Ahmad.
NMPs may choose to be considered for re-appointment, and each term lasts about two and a half years.
“Sometimes they may make the Government feel uncomfortable but then that's how it ought to be. Not for its own sake, but issues that are difficult, awkward, that ought to be discussed … ought to be discussed. And I think it's the Government's responsibility to also respond,” said Mr Tan, who also chairs the eight-member Special Select Committee that looks at the names of people qualified for appointment.
Mr Tan expressed hope that by doing so, it would pave the way for other Members of Parliament to chip in with their perspectives, and these dialogues and discussions could lead to better decisions made on policies.
The other members in the committee are Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, Sembawang GRC MP Vikram Nair and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
On what Parliament was looking for in its next batch of NMPs, Mr Tan said it’s individuals who are able to put forward the issues to the best of their ability.
“Whether it means being bold, whether it means being confrontational, it really is left to the individual to decide how he or she wishes to do it. We've spelt out the criterion for what we're looking for," he said.
"We’re looking for individuals who are committed, who are passionate and who may be able to represent the views of not just from within their community but across the various communities as well."
When asked if Singapore is ready for bolder voices to be heard in Parliament, Mr Tan said it doesn’t have a choice.
“We ought to be ready, and we should be ready to accept because it represents society out there. Increasingly we have an electorate which is educated, who have expectations, who has access to a lot more information. They have views, aspirations and we need to allow those voices to be manifested," he said.
“The job of any government is to listen, to take on board as many perspectives as possible, sense-make as to what would eventually be sensible to be incorporated into policies and that’s what governments must do.
"Now if it makes the Government uncomfortable – and I’ve been there before because I was a Cabinet minister, and it can be uncomfortable – but I think we need to learn to embrace that because it keeps us on our toes, it makes us think harder about the policies that we make.”
The NMP scheme was introduced in 1990 to provide alternative voices in Parliament. There are seven functional groups that will provide the names of suitable candidates. The groups are business and industry, the professions, the labour movement, social service organisations, the civic and people sector, tertiary education institutions, and the arts, media and sports.
The Office of the Clerk of Parliament said nominees should have rendered distinguished public service, brought honour to Singapore, or have distinguished themselves in their respective field.