WP must move motion if it wants alternative NCMP: Grace Fu

Ms Lee Li Lian (left), Workers' Party candidate for Punggol East, hugging a supporter.
Ms Lee Li Lian (left), Workers' Party candidate for Punggol East, hugging a supporter.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The Workers' Party will have to move a motion in Parliament if it wants to propose an alternative candidate for the Non-Constituency MP seat declined by its Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian, said Leader of the House Grace Fu yesterday.

Ms Fu, who advises Parliament on procedural matters as Leader, also said in her statement: "Like many of her constituents, I learnt first from the media and later from her absence from the opening of the Parliament that she is not intending to assume the NCMP seat, despite having campaigned hard to persuade voters to elect her to a seat in the Parliament."

She added that Ms Lee's decision should not be taken lightly as the NCMP seat had been offered in line with constitutional rules, and on the basis of the results of last year's General Election.

Ms Lee, 37, had lost her Punggol East seat at the polls, but was the best performing among all the losing opposition candidates, garnering 48.2 per cent of votes. This made her eligible for an NCMP seat.

However, she announced shortly after the results were out that she would not take it up.

She told The Straits Times last week that she had also written to Parliament officially about it.

Ms Fu, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said the 15,800 voters in Punggol East who had voted for Ms Lee, along with many other Singaporeans, "would want to understand the basis of her decision".

As NCMP, Ms Lee would be able to participate fully in parliamentary debates, raise motions and ask questions in Parliament, she added.

In a Facebook post last year, Ms Lee explained that she wanted to respect the choice of voters who had not voted for her, and also hoped to give other aspiring MPs from WP a chance to speak in Parliament.

Next, she said she had quit her job after becoming an MP in Punggol East following the 2013 by-election so she could dedicate her time to the residents. "However, unlike for an MP, it is not possible to be a full-time NCMP," she said.

Ms Lee also said that she wanted to spend more time with her family.

Her choice was unanimously supported by the WP's leadership, who had suggested National University of Singapore sociology don Daniel Goh for the seat. He was from the WP's East Coast team, which got 39.3 per cent of the vote.

Another member of the team, consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, has been sworn in as NCMP, along with fellow WP candidate and lawyer Dennis Tan, who got 43.5 per cent of votes in single-seat Fengshan.

NCMPs were introduced in 1984 to ensure a minimum number of opposition members in the House.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'WP must move motion if it wants alternative NCMP: Grace Fu'. Print Edition | Subscribe