Since the introduction of the Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) scheme in 1990, there has been plenty of chatter about it. In fact, opposition and confusion came from both sides of the house at the very beginning, questioning how the role of NMPs would differ from elected MPs.
Hopefully this question is put to rest. Now that our current NMPs will finish their term in July, we thank them for their relentless pursuit of their causes and better policies for our country.
The merits of the NMP scheme
Mooted at a time when the Opposition was in a state of infancy (circa 1990), the NMP scheme aimed to inject diverse views and promote constructive dissent into our parliamentary debates. Since then, our NMPs have given the Opposition a run for their money, enriching policy debates and offering alternatives backed by facts and sense. For that reason, NMPs continue to have their merit and political relevance today.
Through them, we hear non-partisan perspectives by individuals who speak from their heart rather than play to the gallery with populist policies. In a small yet diverse society, NMPs are an assuring presence in ensuring representation for underserved communities and clauses in Parliament. Lastly, without the constraints of party lines and constituents to answer to, NMPs have often used their platform to shine the spotlight on marginalised groups and controversial issues without fear of committing political “hara-kiri”.
Over the years, our NMPs had spoken up for migrant workers, unwed single mothers, persons with disabilities (PWDs), the LGBTQ community and even the environment (way before Greta Thunberg brought our attention to climate change).
At times, policy suggestions by NMPs have brought about lasting changes for good. The Maintenance of Parents Act, introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by NMP Walter Woon, became law in 1995. Meanwhile, the introduction of Personal Protection Orders for victims of domestic abuse came from a Family Violence Bill tabled by NMP Kanwaljit Soin.
During her final speech in Parliament last week, NMP Dr Tan Yia Swam shared how the NMP (scheme) has given ordinary citizens a chance to voice their opinions and share their interests for the larger good of Singapore.
In the absence of a responsible Opposition, NMPs will continue to play an important role, adding to the robustness and diversity of our Parliament.
As Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How noted in a post congratulating NMPs on successfully moving the motion ‘Supporting Healthcare’, “They spoke up with passion, experience and wisdom. Importantly, despite their busy schedules, they took time to research the issues and offered constructive and well considered suggestions…providing a neutral, apolitical perspective on issues that matter to Singapore and Singaporeans.”
This year, we will bid farewell to our nine NMPs – Mr Abdul Samad, Ms Janet Ang, Mr Mark Chay, Mr Cheng Hsing Yao, Prof Hoon Hian Teck, Prof Koh Lian Pin, Dr Shahira Abdullah, Dr Tan Yia Swam and Mr Raj Joshua Thomas.
And here at Petir.sg, we thank all of them for enriching Parliament with meaningful debates and speaking up on issues that will help steer Singapore to greater heights.
Photo Source: Parliament of Singapore/ Tan Kiat How via Facebook