Singapore GE2020: NCMPs can be easily ignored, but not fully elected MPs, says WP's Leon Perera

Workers' Party candidate Leon Perera was addressing the argument that voters can support the PAP and still have an opposition in the form of NCMPs. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Workers' Party (WP) candidate Leon Perera said the voices of Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) can be ignored in Parliament, but those of fully elected opposition MPs cannot be so easily ignored.

In a Facebook post on Sunday (July 5), Mr Perera added that if the People's Action Party (PAP) Government fails to address concerns raised by fully elected opposition MPs on behalf of their constituents, the PAP will risk losing votes.

But this is not so if the issue is raised by an NCMP who has no constituents.

Mr Perera, a WP candidate for Aljunied GRC in the upcoming election and an NCMP in the previous term of Parliament, was addressing the argument that voters can support the PAP and still have an opposition in the form of NCMPs.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last Tuesday that under the expanded NCMP scheme, there will be 12 opposition members in Parliament, even in the event that the PAP wins all the seats.

He also added that NCMPs have full voting rights, exactly the same as elected MPs.

However, Mr Perera noted that NCMPs do not run town councils and thus cannot engage the people in the same way as fully elected MPs.

"The PAP does not need the current levels of representation - over 90 per cent of full seats - to govern, but they need over 66 per cent of seats to change the Constitution without a referendum, as they did in 2016," he added.

"The Constitution defines the rules of the political game. Should one party have the right to unilaterally change it?"

In his post, Mr Perera addressed several other arguments that had been raised by the PAP and said he was "taking stock at the midway point of the GE2020 campaign".

"How will the PAP's arguments change in the second half? Will we see unfair personal attacks? I hope not."

In response to the argument that this general election is or should be about steering Singapore out of the Covid-19 crisis, he said the WP manifesto has an entire chapter devoted to tackling the virus and responding to a post-Covid-19 world.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Saturday that getting through the Covid-19 crisis should be the focus of all opposition parties.

He said that this point was glaringly missing from opposition party manifestos and discussions in the past days and weeks.

Mr Perera said on Sunday: "There are many lessons to learn. WP MPs have actively debated the nation's response to Covid-19 in Parliament. We also held three webinars in April to June 2020 with experts and thought leaders about Singapore's Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 plans."

He also responded to the notion that the WP is "PAP-lite".

"As WP leader Pritam Singh said, if our manifesto could have been developed by the PAP, we look forward to the PAP implementing measures like the ones below, and fully elected WP MPs will help them to do so."

The list included WP's call to scrap the planned Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike; introduce media reforms for platforms like newspapers, TV and radio; reduce form class sizes in schools; and introduce a redundancy insurance scheme.

"These are not gap-plugging or half-step-to-the-left measures but serious, much-needed and well-informed reforms," said Mr Perera.

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The half-step-to-the-left comment was a reference to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan's point during a recent live debate where he described WP's policy proposals as "whatever line or stand the PAP has taken, you basically use that as your reference point and take a half step to the left".

In his Facebook post, Mr Perera also responded to the PAP's plans for developing various estates in each constituency, noting that they may involve government action and spending.

He said: "If voters vote for the WP, the losing PAP candidate would become the grassroots adviser and would still be in a position to work to fulfil those plans."

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