At least 8 candidates apply to be NMPs, including 2 seeking 2nd term

Social entrepreneur Anthea Ong and Singapore Chinese Orchestra executive director Terence Ho are seeking a second term in Parliament.
Social entrepreneur Anthea Ong and Singapore Chinese Orchestra executive director Terence Ho are seeking a second term in Parliament.PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, ANTHEA ONG

SINGAPORE - Two former Nominated MPs (NMP) - social entrepreneur Anthea Ong and Singapore Chinese Orchestra executive director Terence Ho - are seeking a second term in Parliament.

Other new candidates who have submitted their applications include Mr Johann Annuar, executive director of non-profit organisation Engineering Good, community artist Terence Tan, playwright and poet Nabilah Said and actress and event host Audrey Lim.

The NMP scheme was introduced in 1990 to ensure a wide representation of views in Parliament. There can be up to nine NMPs each term, lasting 2½ years.

Mr Johann, 46, whose organisation helps disadvantaged groups in the community by providing them access to technology, submitted his papers just before the submission deadline of 4.30pm on Monday (Nov 23).

He said he hopes to speak up on reducing inequality if selected, particularly on digital inclusion and for groups such as people with disabilities.

"We have done very well in making our country prosperous, and with that comes a responsibility to help the more disadvantaged in our community, to bring them up to a level at which they can give their best," he told The Straits Times.

Following the submissions, a special committee of eight MPs chaired by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin will consider the applications as well as other MPs' views of those who applied.

They will interview shortlisted candidates, agree on the final nominees and recommend them to the President, who appoints the NMPs.

Besides submissions from the public, seven functional groups - business and industry; the professions; the labour movement; social service organisations; civic and people sector; tertiary education institutions; and media, arts and sports organisations - are typically invited to submit names of suitable candidates.

Mr Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab, vice-president of the National Trades Union Congress, has been put up as the labour movement's choice for NMP, while research scientist Andie Ang from the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund has been nominated by Singapore's green groups.

Among other things, Dr Ang, 35, hopes to advocate for nature-based and science-based solutions to tackle climate issues, while Mr Samad, 48, said he will tackle issues such as expanding the progressive wage model to more sectors if appointed.

Possible Arts NMPs

Mr Tan, Ms Nabilah and Ms Lim, who were on a shortlist put up by the arts community after an online townhall on Nov 18 attended by 172 people, have also submitted their names for consideration.

They will be seeking to represent the arts sector as an NMP, alongside Mr Ho, 51, the former Arts NMP.

The townhall was organised by a group of volunteers  called the Arts NMP Secretariat. 

It launched an online campaign after the townhall, which garnered 1,993 valid responses in support of the candidates from 1,686 respondents.

Close to 60 per cent of respondents backed Ms Nabilah. Another 25 per cent supported Ms Lim, and 13 per cent backed Mr Tan.

In 2018, artists Dr Woon Tien Wei and Dr Felicia Low submitted their names to Parliament after a townhall organised by the Arts NMP Secretariat. Mr Ho, who did not go through the community nomination process, was eventually appointed Arts NMP.

Mr Ho had attended the recent townhall but did not put his name up for the online campaign.

He said his application is backed by a diverse group from the arts community, and that he hopes to continue building on the work he has done over the past 18 months as Arts NMP to help the arts sector cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Mr Tan, 39, said he wants to “help bridge an increasingly diverse society”.

Ms Nabilah said her main priority is to help the arts and cultural sector deal with the fallout from the pandemic. “ Longer term, it’s also about building a ‘cultural immunity’ for the country, exploring how the arts and culture can be more deeply embedded into the Singaporean soul,” she added.

Mr Ho Meng Kit, chief executive of Singapore Business Federation (SBF), said it has submitted nominations for the business and industry sector. “They are all excellent candidates who will be able to represent the business community,” he said, declining to give more details.

Former NMP applies again

Ms Ong, 52, who has championed mental health issues and spoken up on behalf of marginalised groups in Parliament, said she had not intended to seek a second term as NMP.

"I really didn't think I would be re-appointed even if I applied... I had raised issues and questions that are not always the most comfortable for the Government in my first term," she said.

But she changed her mind after being persuaded to do so by youth activists and volunteers last Wednesday. "I felt that I should honour the process, if people were coming forward to endorse me," she added.

Communication and technology professor Lim Sun Sun, pharmacist Irene Quay and Paralympian swimmer Yip Pin Xiu are not seeking a second term as NMPs.

Meanwhile, labour economist Walter Theseira declined to comment on whether he is doing so.

"Parliament doesn't release information about prospective candidates unless they are actually nominated. I have come to agree that this can be useful in encouraging people to put their name forward for consideration, although it may run counter to expectations for transparency. I prefer to follow the current process by not commenting," he said.