Make it clear if NMP applicant can be political party member

In his commentary, “Improving the system for selecting NMPs” (June 17), Dr Ameen Talib stated that I had quit the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) youth wing after a public outcry.

Although I resigned from the Young PAP only after I was appointed on July 6, 2009, I had announced my intention to quit to TODAY on July 7, when a reporter from this newspaper called to interview me.

That was the first time any media outlet, online or offline, reported about my Young PAP membership. By the next morning, the day the article was published, I had officially quit. I did not quit after a “public outcry”.

That said, I agree with Dr Ameen that it must be made clear whether an applicant for Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) can be a member of a political party. It is now not a constitutional criterion, even though NMPs are described as non-partisan.

One must, however, make a distinction between non-partisanship and not being a member of any party. While the latter can be achieved through a simple act, the former is a state of mind that is hard to achieve.

Few individuals are non-partisan or neutral. Even in a mature democracy such as the United States, polls have shown that although up to a third of respondents say they are swing voters, only about 3 per cent of people truly are.

I believe even if non-membership of a political party needs to be written into the Constitution as a criterion, Parliament should consider expunging the description of non-partisanship.

NMPs are independent, not being under any party whip, but an objective state of mind cannot be a qualifying criterion. One need not have joined a party in order to be partisan.

This means that, much as I agree with almost all of Dr Ameen’s recommendations, past party membership should not disqualify one from being an NMP.

Calvin Cheng

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