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Why It Matters

NMPs play meaningful role

A total of 41 people applied or had their names put forward for up to nine Nominated MP (NMP) seats in Parliament when applications closed on Tuesday.

Those who will eventually be selected by a parliamentary committee have an important role. They will contribute to debate in the House and add to the diversity of views and informed opinion that is vital to decision-making.

This is especially important as key issues for the next phase of Singapore's development will be determined in the months and years ahead.

These include changes to the political system to review aspects of the Elected Presidency, giving Non-Constituency MPs more voting rights, efforts to restructure the economy, and issues such as healthcare and an ageing population, among others.

A diversity of views does exist among MPs from the People's Action Party and the Workers' Party - the only two political parties now represented in the House. But the presence of non-partisan representatives in the form of NMPs means there will be an additional layer of input and different perspectives when issues are considered.

So it is a good sign that the call for NMP hopefuls drew applicants from varied backgrounds and with a range of interests, from nature to the arts. It would have been helpful if applicants' names were made public. As it is, only 13 of the 41 NMP hopefuls were publicly known when applications closed. Why so?

One argument is that it would otherwise be embarrassing for applicants who aren't selected. But a counter argument is that those who vie to be NMPs should be prepared to weather public scrutiny. That's important given the vital work ahead for Parliament.

The NMP scheme has, and continues to offer Singaporeans, another avenue for political participation. Those selected will need to speak up and put forward ideas in the House. Thick skin, a stout heart and the ability to robustly argue and defend one's positions are crucial.

And by most accounts, decision-making and the political process here have benefited from views that come from representatives who do not belong to or are bound by party positions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'NMPs play meaningful role'. Print Edition | Subscribe