Much value that NCMPs can offer

Singapore's representative democracy is a just system of government, where the people, in free elections, vote their representatives into Parliament.

In view of the consistently overwhelming People's Action Party representation in Parliament, and in good faith, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew introduced the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme in 1984 to ensure that opposition voices would be heard in Parliament, and, according to him, give the opposition the opportunity to prove themselves.

Members of the opposition have criticised the scheme - stating that the NCMP scheme is self-serving - a ploy to convince the electorate that they need not vote for opposition candidates, as there will already be some opposition representation in Parliament.

Whatever the political agenda may be; the undeniable fact remains that voting is the key to representative democracy.

Members of Parliament are elected by the people. Candidates who aspire to represent their constituency must endear themselves to the electorate and the process of election.

It has been proven that Singaporeans do vote with both their hearts and minds, but to assume that we could be blinded by the NCMP scheme is a little far-fetched.

The NCMP scheme has been considered undemocratic, as it allows candidates who do not have the mandate of the people to air their views in Parliament ("NCMP scheme: Make it compulsory or let it go" by Dr Sunny Goh; Jan 23).

But it is the opposition's views that are given the privilege of parliamentary debates, and under planned changes, NCMPs will soon get the same voting rights as elected MPs ("Changes to political system to prepare S'pore for long term"; Jan 28 and "Equal voting rights for NCMPs a concern" by Mr S. Kumar; Jan 29).

There are many good deeds NCMPs can do.

Other than gaining valuable experience in parliamentary debates, NCMPs - even without their own constituencies - could also champion national issues.

Gaining the trust of the electorate as a whole, rather than committing to winning a constituency in an election, should be the true calling of politicians.

Chow Kok Fai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Much value that NCMPs can offer'. Print Edition | Subscribe