GE2020: ‘Proper opposition MPs’ able to represent voters better than NCMPs, says PSP's Tan Cheng Bock
SINGAPORE: Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock said that the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme is good for training new politicians but stressed that opposition MPs would be able to represent voters better.
Speaking to reporters during a walkabout in Bukit Gombak on Monday (Jul 6), Dr Tan was asked to respond to comments made by the People's Action Party's (PAP) Heng Swee Keat on Sunday.
In a video released on Sunday, Mr Heng acknowledged Dr Tan's declaration last week that he would not accept an NCMP seat after the General Election, but noted that Dr Tan had supported the scheme in Parliament in 1984. At that time, Dr Tan was PAP MP for Ayer Rajah SMC.
In his reply on Monday, Dr Tan said: "Yes, I do support (the NCMP scheme). There's nothing wrong."
He added that the scheme was a "way in" for new politicians who had lost in the election to enter Parliament and debate.
"But they go in with a proviso, and the proviso is you have no ground, no constituency ... I think it’s okay, for those who want to go into Parliament, learn the workings of Parliament, I support that," said Dr Tan.
READ: GE2020: Tan Cheng Bock will not take up NCMP seat, calls scheme a 'ploy' to entice voters from opposition
Dr Tan reiterated that he would not take up the seat if offered, but might offer it to a fellow candidate from his party as "it's a good training ground".
Speaking to reporters, Dr Tan added that the NCMP scheme was a "ploy" and that voters would be better off electing "proper opposition MPs" who would be able to represent their voices.
“You must vote in proper opposition MPs because they got the stature, they got a ground and they got a constituency to run … This is more important than just going to the House to talk," he said.
He also said that the 12 NCMP seats guaranteed for the opposition in Parliament would be insufficient to block any Constitutional amendments.
The NCMP scheme, started in 1984, guarantees a minimum number of opposition MPs in Parliament. After the last General Election, this number was raised from nine to 12, and the voting rights of NCMPs were enhanced.
"What can 12 seats do, you tell me? Constitutional change, you can't do anything ... It's trying to appease Singaporeans; 'Don't worry we give you a consolation prize'," said Dr Tan.
"Singaporeans must wake up to this and put in proper opposition MPs who will talk with vigor and with strength, with commitment and responsibility," he added.
PSP candidate for Chua Chu Kang GRC Mr Francis Yuen, who was also present during the walkabout, echoed Dr Tan’s sentiments and told reporters that he too would not accept an NCMP seat if offered.
“I think the NCMP is an insult to the intelligence of the voters because they want a full-fledged MP there … An NCMP has no rights to manage the town council or to help the residents, only to speak up in Parliament,” he said.
Mr Yuen added that the election is an opportunity for voters to “exercise their right” and to “vote without fear”.
“Our electorate is very intelligent to be able to discern and not fall for this alternative pseudo voices that don’t mean a thing,” he added.
TAN CHENG BOCK REITERATES CALL FOR DEBATE WITH PAP LEADERS ON COVID-19
Dr Tan was also asked to respond to comments by the PAP’s Chan Chun Sing, calling for him and Singapore Democratic Party’s Paul Tambyah to present their plans on how opposition parties would be able to help Singapore get through the COVID-19 crisis.
Mr Chan’s comments came after Dr Tan said on Sunday that he and Dr Tambyah were prepared to debate on television with PAP’s Mr Chan and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong over the Government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
On Monday, Dr Tan reiterated that he would rather discuss the matter in an “open debate” rather than reveal his plans as that would be him “showing his cards”.
He added that his experience as a medical doctor and Dr Tambyah’s experience as an infectious disease expert would help them provide good input on the issue.
“I’m a doctor … I treated infectious diseases every day – measles, smallpox, chicken pox, tuberculosis, diphtheria, typhoid – how do we control, how did Singapore survive? We were in that era, we were there in the midst of it … We have managed before, we are practical guys, we have seen all this. They have not seen it, they just assume,” said Dr Tan.
Dr Tan also criticised the Government’s decision to hold a General Election during a COVID-19 pandemic. He said that the Government has taken its “eyes off” the coronavirus during the election and noted that there was an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the community on Sunday.
On Sunday, Singapore reported 136 new COVID-19 infections with 18 cases in the community. The number of community cases was the highest number since Jun 12.
“The virus is invisible, it goes all over the place. All of us, we’re exposed …This election they politicise this whole coronavirus and that is really a very serious thing, it’s an irresponsible act. I really hope I’m wrong but I’m worried,” Dr Tan said.