Search begins for new NMPs

A NEW crop of Nominated MPs (NMPs) to champion special interest causes is likely to surface in the 12th Parliament. Already, some groups have started the ball rolling on finding someone to represent their cause.

The Clerk of Parliament said people can start nominating those they think are suitable to be NMPs. They have five weeks – until 4.30pm on Dec 8 – to do so. Nomination forms are available at Parliament House.

The arts community already has plans for a public meeting this month.

Those interested in serving may step forward, Audrey Wong who was an NMP in the last Parliament, told The Straits Times. The final list of nominees will be decided later through voting.

The National Trades Union Congress will form a selection committee headed by president John De Payva to pick a labour representative to nominate.

Apart from the arts community and labour movement, NMP hopefuls are also being sought from the following fields: business, professions, social service, civic and people sector, media and sports.

Nominations can be made through seven coordinators from these fields, or directly to Parliament. Those being nominated should have rendered public service, brought honour to the country or distinguished themselves in their fields.

Nominations will go to a Special Select Committee of Parliament which will recommend nine NMPs to be appointed by the president. A term lasts two-and-a-half years.

During the last round in 2009, 46 names were put up and nine – the maximum allowed – were chosen.

When contacted yesterday, three said they were open to seeking a second term, while two said it was unlikely they would do so.

Presbyterian Community Services executive director Laurence Wee said: “If called upon, I will gladly serve.” But he added that the chance should also be given to others.

Sociologist Paulin Tay Straughan from the National University of Singapore was also open to being nominated again, provided she was able to “continue to play a meaningful and constructive role”.

Entrepreneur Calvin Cheng said: “It is a pity our term was cut short because it takes a while for one to get used to parliamentary procedure in order to effectively raise our areas of interest.”

The group of nine NMPs served 21 months before Parliament was dissolved ahead of the May 7 General Election.

Among those undecided, Wong said that it was “50-50” that she might go a second round, while shipping industry veteran Teo Siong Seng said: “I have not thought about it yet.”

But two said they were unlikely to seek a second term. Ernst & Young Advisory managing director Mildred Tan said there were many other people who could contribute and hoped they would step forward.

Union leader Terry Lee felt that more unionists should get the opportunity to serve in Parliament. The remaining two – consultancy firm boss Viswa Sadasivan and three-time Sportswoman of the Year Joscelin Yeo – could not be reached for comment.

While they may have different plans for the future, most appeared to agree on one thing: that NMPs continue to be relevant – the record number of opposition MPs in Parliament notwithstanding.

The NMP scheme was introduced in 1990 to provide an alternative voice in Parliament.

Dr Straughan said NMPs bring a “neutral stance” to the debate in Parliament when they can raise issues and problems without being drawn into party politics. She felt this was important, given the stronger opposition presence now.

Agreeing, Tan said: “NMPs have no political affiliations, and need follow no party line. We just speak from the heart, we speak from our beliefs. If the Opposition is there to provide an alternative voice, then NMPs are the third voice.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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