Motion on NCMP Seat – Opening Speech by Low Thia Khiang

Madam Speaker,

The motion before the house is to provide for the filling of the vacant seat, in accordance with the relevant sections of the Parliamentary Elections Act. Ms Lee Li Lian of the Workers’ Party was declared a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) at the General Election 2015, but has decided not to take up the seat.

Ms Lee Li Lian has not taken the Oath of Allegiance under Article 61 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore at the first sitting on 15 January 2016 and the second sitting on 25 January 2016 of the first session of Parliament.

Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, three NCMP seats were declared elected. Since Ms Lee Li Lian has not taken up the seat, Parliament has the power to resolve to fill the vacant seat.

Madam, under the Parliamentary Elections Act, if the election results of a Group Representative Constituency (GRC) qualifies for the NCMP seat, two seats are offered to the team of candidates in the GRC.

However, there were only three NCMP seats declared under the Act at the last General Election. As a result, East Coast GRC, despite being qualified as the next succeeding GRC, only one candidate, instead of two, was declared NCMP.

Under the circumstances, it is logical that Parliament considers filling the vacant seat by declaring another candidate from the East Coast GRC team as NCMP.

Madam, it is public knowledge that the Workers’ Party opposes the NCMP scheme.

The Workers’ Party believes that the NCMP scheme is not the way forward to make our political system more robust. The NCMP scheme has become an attempt to whitewash the tremendous negative impact driven by the change in our political system, from Single Member Constituencies to the creation of GRCs, to entrench a one-party political system with no insurance against the failure of the ruling party.

The Workers’ Party is a rational and responsible political party. We understand the political reality. We understand that the struggle for a functional democracy by a loyal opposition must be fought from within the existing system under the law legislated by Parliament even though we disagree with them.

Therefore, we do not oppose individual members who are willing to sacrifice their time and energy to contribute to the national debate in Parliament.

Hence, if one member who is declared as NCMP is unable to take up the seat, it is my duty as the leader of the Workers’ Party to nominate the next best volunteer. This is why I have decided to move the motion.

The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore provides for a maximum of nine NCMPs from the opposition in this house if there are none being elected at a General Election.

When the NCMP scheme was proposed in 1984, three benefits were given in support of the scheme. These purported benefits were repeated again in 2010 when NCMP seats were increased from six to nine seats.

The first reason is, “To provide PAP Ministers and MPs with the experience of the cut and thrust of debate by sparring with Opposition Members.”

The second reason is, “To allow the electorate to judge for themselves what elected Opposition Members can and cannot do for the people.”

The third reason is, “To dispel any suspicions of cover-ups, since Opposition MPs would give vent to any allegation of misfeasance or corruption or nepotism, even if these proved false and allowed the Government to rebut them.”

From the above, it is clear that the creation of the NCMP scheme is chiefly for the benefit of the ruling party and opposition members are deemed as valuable only in relation to the training they give the PAP Ministers and MPs.

Although the PAP is trying very hard to convince Singaporeans that NCMPs are on par with elected MPs, they have shown the cloven hoof by referring to the NCMPs as second class MPs in this house and opposition best losers who crave for publicity and personal fame. Such a view was characteristically articulated two days ago in this house by MP Cedric Foo, who was so arrogant to say that Mr Leon Perera’s presence here is by the grace of the PAP.

Madam, with the backdrop I have described above, there should be no surprise that the Workers’ Party has been opposing the NCMP scheme, a scheme which was created to the PAP’s political advantage.

It is the view of the Workers’ Party that the only way forward for a strong Parliament, one that can hold the Government of the day accountable, is for the ruling party, in the position of strength, to create a political system that would allow both genuine loyal opposition parties to grow, as well as for the ruling party to perform and compete for seats.

I expect the Workers’ Party NCMPs to grow strong from their position of weakness and to hold their heads up high with pride and dignity. They will respect Parliament, respect the law and respect themselves.

Madam Speaker, I beg to move.