Plans for Parliament: NMP candidates share motivations to be in politics

Plans for Parliament: NMP candidates share motivations to be in politics

The Special Select Committee responsible for the appointment of Nominated Members of Parliament announced on Monday (Sep 17) its nine nominations to fill the vacancies in Parliament.

SINGAPORE: Candidates for a new cohort of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) were revealed on Monday (Sep 17), made up of individuals described by Leader of the House Grace Fu as having "good credentials in their respective fields", and having an "interest in a broad range of issues".

They will also add to the diversity of expertise and experience in the House, added Ms Fu, who is a member of the Special Select Committee tasked with selecting possible NMP candidates.

READ: Paralympian Yip Pin Xiu, Sakae Holdings chairman Douglas Foo among 9 new proposed NMPs

Channel NewsAsia got in touch with some of the possible new entrants to Singapore’s Parliament to find out why they chose to stand and what they hoped to contribute to the country’s political discussions and decision-making:

Social entrepreneur Anthea Ong

Ms Ong said that there are three issues she hopes to raise in Parliament: Social inclusion, mental health and volunteerism.

On social inclusion, she said: “The increasing polarisation of views on so many social issues is deeply concerning and can split our society at its core. How can we ensure more and safe spaces to engage in difficult and divisive conversations? How can we stand in the common ground between the polarities and not be pressured to take either end of the two extremes?”

Ms Ong described stress and depression as one of the biggest threats for Singapore. To address this, she said that Singapore must start by reframing the stigma against mental health, and that mental health education should be made compulsory in schools and institutes of higher learning.

She sees volunteerism as a way to address both the issues of social inclusion and mental health. “Volunteering can help dispel prejudices, challenge stereotypes and create acceptance of diversity. Volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression,” she said.

NMP Nominees Abbas Ali_Anthea Ong
Roses of Peace founder and president Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad and social entrepreneur Anthea Ong. (Photos: Facebook/Mohamed Irshad, Anthea Ong)

SUTD professor Lim Sun Sun

Prof Lim aims to raise issues relating to the impact of digitalisation on society, “especially with regard to transformations in the workplace and digital readiness of our citizens”, and increasing gender diversity in the technology sector. 

“I’m also hoping to focus on fostering media literacy in an increasingly diverse media landscape,“ she added. “I will also speak on issues pertaining to new challenges in education.” 

She hopes to draw on her academic expertise and be a “balanced and rational voice”.

Singapore Chinese Orchestra MD Ho Wee San

An active participant in marathons and triathlons, Mr Ho said he “strongly believes in the importance of a healthy and happy lifestyle”. 

“However, I believe that this is not just about the body, but also the heart and soul. That is why the arts are so important, especially the traditional arts, which connect us to who we are,” he said.

As an NMP, he hopes to be a voice for the traditional arts, as well as a resource and advocate. He believes that more support is needed for the traditional art forms because they are under-appreciated and under-developed in Singapore.

“More can be done to make the traditional arts an integral part of our society, bringing together people of different races, religions, and backgrounds and creating a shared understanding across our various communities,” he said.

“Looking to the future, I really hope to see the traditional arts become a part of everyone’s everyday life, actively transforming the well-being of individuals, but also bringing people together as a nation and uplifting our spirits.”

Sakae Holdings executive chairman Douglas Foo

Mr Foo said he is passionate about how Singapore enterprises, particularly those in manufacturing, can learn to stay relevant in today’s “interesting”, fast-changing economy.

Through his leadership roles at the Singapore Manufacturing Federation, Singapore Business Federation and Singapore National Employers Federation, Mr Foo hopes he can help raise issues on facilitating greater exchanges between local companies with their ASEAN counterparts and, through that, create new and better jobs.

SUSS Associate Professor Walter Edgar Theseira

Assoc Prof Theseira said that he applied for the NMP post as he wants to help Singapore avoid the type of “political polarisation” that has engulfed other developed countries.

NMP Nominee Walter Theseira
Singapore University of Social Sciences associate professor Walter Edgar Theseira. (Photo: ETH Zurich)

“I think the NMP position is one of the ways we have in the system to bring a non-partisan view on the policies and challenges we face – a view that is neither restricted by the need to promote a united Government front, nor the need to stand in opposition. The NMP position shouldn’t replace either Government or Opposition MP views, but can serve to complement them,” he said.

He added that he plans to speak on policy issues where social sciences and economics can “help us understand the trade-offs and challenges we face as a society better”.

The academic hopes his personal experience as “someone who benefited from a lot of luck and help from others to get to where I am today” will add something to the parliamentary mix.

KKH assistant director Irene Quay

Ms Quay said that she has been actively involved in volunteer work for the past 20 years, particularly in her area of expertise of pharmacy work, to contribute to a better healthcare system for Singaporeans.

“It has always been my passion to serve those in need and work with my fellow colleagues towards better healthcare for Singaporeans. We all benefited greatly from our forefathers’ sacrifices and it is time for us to use our knowledge and experience to do our part for the next generation,” she said.

Besides advocating for the advancement of allied health workers and making sure they are treated fairly in the workplace, the mother-of-four also said she is “in a good position to represent this critical workforce, share their concerns and suggest ways to further enhance the existing support framework for working mothers”.

Union leader Arasu Duraisamy

The long-term union leader said in an article on NTUC’s website on Monday that he was “apprehensive” when first approached for the post.

NMP Nominees Arasu Duraisamy_Ho Wee San
PSA Corporation technician Arasu Duraisamy and Singapore Chinese Orchestra managing director Ho Wee San. (Photos: NTUC, SCMF)

“But they worked their magic on me. My main aim as a unionist is to better the lives of our workers and members and so if there is another platform for me to air the members’ views, why not. So, I said I will take up the challenge,” Mr Arasu said.

One of the areas he hoped to bring up in Parliament is how workers need to know what they are training for even as 23 Industry Transformation Maps are being rolled out.

“Seventy per cent of our workers are in the small- and medium-sized companies and for them, they don’t see the impetus to upskill or upgrade their systems and processes because for them it is a day-to-day survival,” the 50-year-old said in the NTUC article.

“This is the group of workers who are not well-versed in the importance of the ITMs and we need to do more to reach out to them and engage them.”

Two of the NMP candidates, Mr Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad and Ms Yip Pin Xiu, did not reply by the time this article was published.

Source: CNA/kk(ra)