Parliament: House votes to fill NCMP seat vacated by WP Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian

The WP's Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian turned the NCMP seat down shortly after last year's General Election. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

SINGAPORE - Parliament has voted to fill the third Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) seat, paving the way for Workers' Party (WP) candidate Daniel Goh to fill it.

The WP had moved a motion for the seat to be declared vacant after the WP's Punggol East candidate Lee Li Lian turned it down shortly after last year's Sept 11 General Election.

The party had said then that its East Coast GRC candidate Dr Goh was the next person in line for the seat according to the votes received and should take it up.

But the Government Whip, Mr Chan Chun Sing, added an amendment to the motion that it was a "political manoeuvre" by the WP to take full advantage of the NCMP scheme even as its chief criticises NCMPs as just "duckweed on the water of the pond". He was referring to a phrase Mr Low had used on Wednesday.

The addition says that Parliament "regrets that Ms Lee Li Lian, having stood as WP candidate and received the highest vote share, has now decided to give up her NCMP seat to another candidate from her party with a lower vote share, contrary to the expressed will of the voters, and WP supports this political manouevre to take full advantage of the NCMP seat even as its secretary-general criticises NCMPs as just duckweed on the water of the pond".

Mr Chan said the amendment was necessary as he had no trouble in seeing a House with all seats filled, but the motion should "reflect the truth".

WP chief Low Thia Khiang, who had put up the original motion, said his party rejected the amendment because it did not believe this was a political manoeuvre on its part.

He had kicked off the debate by explaining his party's position on the scheme.

Although the WP was against the scheme in principle, it recognised that as a "loyal opposition" it had to recognise the political reality in Singapore and work within the political system here, Mr Low said.

He also reiterated Ms Lee's reason for rejecting the seat. She had said that as the incumbent MP in Punggol East who lost the seat in the election, she wanted to respect the voters' decision not to hand her another term in Parliament.

Two other WP MPs also spoke in favour of filling the seat. Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) and Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) argued that the seat should be filled in accordance to the law.

Mr Png pointed out there has been a precedent to filling an NCMP seat that a candidate had rejected - after the 1984 general election when WP candidate M.P.D Nair, who qualified to be an NCMP, failed to take it up.

But three PAP MPs, including Mr Chan, criticised the WP for being inconsistent in their stance on the NCMP scheme.

Mr Charles Chong (Punggol East) and Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) both said the WP obviously saw the advantages in the scheme, having taken up NCMP positions before.

NCMP Leon Perera said the intent of the PAP MPs' speeches was simply to paint the WP as "bad people".

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