The recent NCMP debate in parliament was a win-win for both the WP and PAP.
WP criticizes the NCMP scheme because it doesn’t want voters to think that
having NCMPs is enough. They succeeded in dampening the enthusiasm that came
when the government announced the expansion of the NCMP scheme from 9 to 12
opposition best losers. By strongly criticizing the scheme and calling it
“duckweed on a pond”, Low has dampened the enthusiasm that the public felt
about the loosening of PAP’s grip in parliament.
Some are angry at him for that. The PAP supporters are unhappy that the
joyous occasion was ruined. They felt angry that a potential solution for
uniting Singaporeans across the political divide had been rejected so quickly
by the opposition, despite months of policy planning by the government.
The contradiction about WP seeking the NCMP seat to be transferred when they
had just criticized the scheme, was not as impactful as it could have been.
PAP had a golden opportunity here but screwed up. The problem in the PAP’s
argument was that Lee Li Lian had already decided not to take the NCMP seat
that night when she lost. It’s far-fetched to call that a political manoeuvre
now, 5 months after she announced her decision on TV. And even during GE2011,
WP chief Low had said that he won’t be taking a NCMP seat. By now, most
people already know that WP doesn’t allow elected MPs to return as NCMPs when
they are voted out. Lee Li Lian’s decision just confirmed that by providing a
The second problem for the PAP was that people do want Associate Professor
Daniel Goh in parliament as a NCMP. They don’t care how he gets it, but they
would rejoice if he got it. In Singapore, elite credentials appeal to both
sides of the political debate. Status is still a major issue in Singapore.
There are PAP supporters who are okay with a professor becoming a NCMP.
PAP should have attacked the WP MPs for being indecisive and hypocritical and
just stopped there. But instead PAP went on to blame Lee Li Lian and called
the whole drama a ‘political manoeuvre”. What an overkill! That was the
dumbest thing they could have done! Like Daniel Goh said, it’s unfair for PAP
to attack a former parliamentary colleague and make such personal attacks
when she is not even there to defend herself!
Charles Chong, the incumbent Punggol East MP, also screwed up by wading into
this farce, expressing disappointment that unlike his time in Joo Chiat, this
time there is no NCMP there to help his residents have a voice. He also said
“WP should not bring someone into parliament by the backdoor way”. He made
himself look like a fool here since we all know which party the backdoor
route is associated with. Charles Chong is no Sitoh. He lacks tact.
The whole debate in parliament has an unlikely beneficiary- former MP Lee Li
Lian. Why else do you think many Punggol East residents turned up for the CNY
shopping trip she organized recently?
(https://www.facebook.com/punggoleastcommunity/?fref=ts). People feel
sympathetic towards her and want to hear her side of the story.
Most people have accepted that PAP and WP have equally lost the moral high
ground in the NCMP debate. If anything, people are frustrated with the
political bickering and are less interested to follow politics. This is not
the way to a First World Parliament. The main parties should excite the
electorate not put them into a slumber.
Focus has shifted from the WP ‘A’ team who are already known for their stance
and performance to the WP ‘B’ team (Daniel Goh, Dennis Tan and Leon Perera)
who are new faces, have stellar credentials but lack a track record. WP’s
success or failure in this term will be mostly decided by the NCMPs. The ‘B’
team will take centre stage.