SINGAPORE: Progress Singapore Party (PSP) secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock said he will not take up a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat if the opportunity arises, calling it a “ploy” to entice voters from opposition parties.
Speaking to reporters after a visit to 628 Ang Mo Kio Market on Thursday (Jul 2) where he attended a walkabout with Yio Chu Kang SMC candidate Kayla Low, Dr Tan said he agreed with the Workers’ Party on their views of the NCMP scheme.
“I know they (PAP) changed the rules and all the NCMPs actually behave like MPs in the House. But there’s one element missing – there’s no ground for him,” said Dr Tan.
“For us to be able to be a good opposition, we must always have some home or ground ... I look at it as a ploy ... to entice you to all vote the PAP, because they guarantee you have 12 NCMPs.”
The NCMP scheme allows the "best-performing losers" from the opposition to enter Parliament after a General Election. Members of the WP have in the past spoken up against the scheme, which has been in place for 36 years.
It is important that those going into Parliament get the majority mandate from the people, said Dr Tan.
“All must get elected ...The argument now that you don’t have to elect a proper MP, there will be an NCMP – there’s a slight difference here,” he said.
Dr Tan added that he would not take up an NCMP spot if the opportunity arises, but would not deny fellow party members the opportunity.
“I won’t take but if my men want to take I’ll let them take, because I have been to Parliament. I enjoyed Parliament being a proper elected MP. If the new ones feel that they want to have a feel of what Parliament is like, I won’t stop them,” he said.
“I’m already 80 years old and I always say I want people to get into the House to really experience what it’s like in the House. All the questions being asked and the answers by the ministers ... it’s an experience they must go through. I will leave it to them.”
READ: GE2020: PSP team led by Tan Cheng Bock to contest West Coast GRC against PAP team with S Iswaran, Desmond Lee
Dr Tan was the MP for Ayer Rajah for 26 years, when he was with the People's Action Party. The ward is now part of West Coast GRC.
During his time as an MP between 1980 and 2006, Dr Tan also spoke against the Nominated Member of Parliament scheme.
“I opposed the NMP scheme very, very strongly and I stated my case in Parliament, objected to it and voted against it. That has been my stand,” he said. “For the NCMP (scheme), I’m not against it but that’s my own take. It’s not just being able to talk in Parliament but I always believe that you must have a base.”
Along with other PSP members, Dr Tan and Ms Low spent about 45 minutes greeting residents, as well as posing for photographs. They also ran into the People’s Action Party candidate for the Single Member Constituency, Mr Yip Hon Weng.
DECISION TO CONTEST NEE SOON "NON-NEGOTIABLE"
Dr Tan also reaffirmed the PSP’s commitment to contesting in Nee Soon GRC, and said it was “non-negotiable”.
“When we decided to come to Nee Soon (GRC), it was non-negotiable already. When we decided to go to Yio Chu Kang (SMC) also, it was also non-negotiable. Because we know our ground,” said Dr Tan.
On Wednesday, Minster for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam had said that PSP seemed “half-hearted” in their contesting of Nee Soon GRC.
In response, Mr Brad Bowyer, who is one of PSP’s candidates for Nee Soon GRC, said on Facebook that there were “rumours being spread online we might have been horse-traded”.
Mr Shanmugam in his own Facebook post later called on Mr Bowyer to “give a straight answer” on whether PSP had offered Nee Soon to RP. He pointed to a Straits Times report that Reform Party (RP) chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam had said PSP had offered to cede Nee Soon to the RP.
Mr Shanmugam is part of the PAP team who is contesting Nee Soon GRC, and has been an MP in the GRC since 2011.
Speaking to TODAY on Wednesday night, Mr Bowyer said he had “no inkling” (of the offer to RP), qualifying that he will “double check” this with his party in case there were developments that he was unaware of.
“I want to make it clear to the citizens of Nee Soon, that we have been totally committed for months ... my whole team has been preparing for months,” said Mr Bowyer.
Responding in another post on Thursday, Mr Shanmugam said Mr Bowyer’s answer was “dishonest”.
“And this is a message to Dr Tan: I think Nee Soon voters and the voters in Singapore need to know - why this candidate, whom you hand-picked, say(s) something which was so obviously untrue?” Mr Shanmugam asked.
“If no answer is given, it will speak volumes. It will also tell Singaporeans whether Dr Tan values honesty in his candidates.”
Speaking to reporters, Dr Tan said he did not want to “quarrel” about the issue.
“That’s politics, you must understand. I’m not going to quarrel with him about this. It’s so trivial, it doesn’t matter to me," he said. "We are also putting up a team in Nee Soon because we believe we can win in Nee Soon.”
He added that these comments would not hamper his team’s chances.
“He is telling all these things about my men, let him tell, never mind. I told my men the important thing is go there and prove yourselves, all the other things, don’t let all these (things) sidetrack you,” said Dr Tan.
“Your primary reason is to go there to win, to represent the people there.”