Nominated Member of Parliament scheme



The Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) scheme was introduced in 1990 to allow for the appointment of non-elected members of Parliament (MPs) to provide alternative nonpartisan views in the House. NMPs are shortlisted by a Special Select Committee of Parliament from a list of candidates nominated by the public.1 NMPs serve a term of two-and-a-half years, and up to nine NMPs can be appointed in each Parliament.

History
The idea of having non-elected MPs in Parliament was floated as early as 1972 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.2 In 1989, then First Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong introduced a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament that would allow for the appointment of NMPs.3 He suggested that the political system of Singapore could be strengthened by the appointment of a few nonpartisan Singaporeans recognised in certain professions or who possessed special knowledge and could represent the various groups in society.4 The NMP scheme, Goh argued, would encourage greater participation from the general public, and contribute to good governance supported by more constructive dissent and alternative views.5

Reactions to the proposed scheme were mixed. Besides objections from the opposition MPs, some backbenchers from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) also spoke out against the scheme.6 Some questioned the need for NMPs, since an elected MP would be able to raise questions and issues in Parliament. Further, they felt that those with good ideas could contribute through other channels such as providing feedback to the media, the government’s Feedback Unit (now known as REACH, or “Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home”) or government parliamentary committees.7 The scheme was also criticised for being undemocratic and that NMPs did not represent anyone but themselves.8 On the other hand, supporters of the scheme suggested that NMPs, because they were not obliged to support the government, might probe wider and deeper into government initiatives.9

Public sentiments were also divided on whether NMPs should be allowed to run for MP after the end of their term. Some said that NMPs should not contest in elections as it would undermine their credibility as independent, nonpartisan MPs. Others disagreed, saying that NMPs were free to decide whether to join a political party after their stint in the House.10 There were also concerns raised by critics who feared that the PAP might use the NMP nomination as a process to screen potential candidates, which could lead to the Special Select Committee choosing candidates based on criteria other than those prescribed in the Constitution.11 To appease some of the objections, a clause was included in the bill which required every new Parliament to decide by resolution whether it wants to have NMPs.12

The bill was passed into law in March 1990 and the NMP scheme came into effect in September that year.13 The first NMPs were appointed in November 1990. The two NMPs were selected out of a total of 12 candidates: Leong Chee Whye, managing director of United Industrial Corporation and Singapore Land Group of Companies and chairman of the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (now known as the Singapore Tourism Board); and Maurice Choo, head of the cardiac department at National University Hospital.14 

Description
At the time of its introduction in 1990, the scheme provided for up to six NMPs, but this number was increased to nine in July 1997.15 The original requirement that Parliament must pass a resolution before NMPs can be appointed was also abolished in April 2010.16

The NMP appointments are made by the president of Singapore on the recommendation of a Special Select Committee appointed by Parliament.17 The committee invites the general public to submit names of suitable candidates and interviews prospective candidates before making the selection.18

Candidates must meet the following criteria to become an NMP:19
– Singapore citizen aged 21 or above;
– resident in Singapore for at least 10 years;
– name appears in the register of electors;
– able to speak, read and write in at least one of the four official languages (English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil); and
– not disqualified from being an MP under Article 45 of the Constitution.

In addition, the Singapore Constitution states that NMPs must have a record of distinguished public service, have brought honour to Singapore or excelled in fields such as the arts, sciences, business, community service or the labour movement.20

Each NMP serves a term of two-and-a-half years and may be reappointed after the term ends.21 An NMP has the same rights as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (a non-elected opposition MP) and can vote on all bills and motions except those concerning amendments to the Constitution and public funds as well as motions of no confidence in the government.22 They cannot be appointed as ministers or office-holders during their term.23

Notable contributions of past NMPs
One noteworthy contribution from an NMP is the Maintenance of Parents Act, which was introduced as a private member’s bill by then NMP Walter Woon in 1994 and passed in Parliament on 2 November 1995. Kanwaljit Soin, the first female NMP, also put up a Family Violence Bill in 1995. Although the bill was not supported, her proposals were included in amendments to the Women’s Charter.24


Timeline
Mar 1990: Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1990 is passed in Parliament, introducing the NMP scheme.
Nov 1990: The first two NMPs are appointed.
Jul 1997: Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1997 is passed in Parliament, raising the maximum number of NMPs from six to nine.25
Aug 2002: Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2002 is passed, extending the NMP term of service from two to two-and-a-half years.26
Apr 2010: Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2010 is passed, abolishing the requirement for a resolution to be passed before NMPs may be appointed.27



Author

Lim Puay Ling



References
1. Ho, K. L. (2003). Legitimation, legislature and legislators in policy-making. In Shared responsibilities, unshared power: The politics of policy-making in Singapore (pp. 189–194). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 190. (Call no.: RSING 320.6095957 HO); Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1999 Rev. Ed.) (Fourth Sched.) Retrieved 2016, August 10 from Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=46c1ebd7-e172-415b-95b4-c550cf88826a;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22cf2412ff-fca5-4a64-a8ef-b95b8987728e%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#Sc4-.
2. Henson, B. (1989, June 16). Non-elected MP idea: Some questions and some pluses. The Straits Times, p. 24; Pang, G.C. & Lim, I. (1972, September 4). University seats idea hailed. New Nation, p. 1; Tan, W. J. (1972, September 9). In quest of an opposition. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Nominated MPs will allow a more consensual style government. (1989, November 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ho, K. L. (2003). Legitimation, legislature and legislators in policy-making. In Shared responsibilities, unshared power: The politics of policy-making in Singapore (pp. 189–194). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 190. (Call no.: RSING 320.6095957 HO)
5. Nominated MPs will allow a more consensual style government. (1989, November 30).The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Hussin Mutalib. (2004). Shifting rules of the game. In Parties and politics: A study of opposition parties and the PAP in Singapore (pp. 329–333). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic, p. 330. (Call no.: RSING 324.25957 HUS); Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1989, November 29–30). Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No. 2) Bill (Vol. 54). Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., cols. 695–768, 785–854. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
7. Henson, B. (1989, June 16). Non-elected MP idea: Some questions and some pluses. The Straits Times, p. 24; Non-elected MPs an admission of failure, says SDP chairman. (1989, July 8). The Straits Times, p. 20; Chiam, S. T. (2000, February 23). Scheme undemocratic as they can’t stay neutral. The Straits Times, p. 55. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Scheme undemocratic as they can’t stay neutral. The Straits Times, p. 55; Non-elected MPs an admission of failure, says SDP chairman. (1989, July 8). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Henson, B. (1989, June 16). Non-elected MP idea: Some questions and some pluses. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. NMPs can also stand as independent candidates. (1990, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 20; Some disagree with panel over retention of seat. (1990, March 30), The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ho, K. L. (2003). Legitimation, legislature and legislators in policy-making. In Shared responsibilities, unshared power: The politics of policy-making in Singapore (pp. 189–194). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 190. (Call no.: RSING 320.6095957 HO)
11. Chua, L. H. (2000, February 19). NMPs are free for all in the hunt for talent. The Straits Times, p. 61; NMPs can also stand as independent candidates. (1990, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, S. ( 1994, July 16). Report card on Nominated MPs. The Straits Times, p. 32; Chok Tong’s variation of his original ‘sunset’ clause adopted.  (1990, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 20; Selected but not elected, but these voices made a difference. (2004, October 9). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved  from NewspaperSG; Hussin Mutalib. (2004). Shifting rules of the game. In Parties and politics: A study of opposition parties and the PAP in Singapore (pp. 329–333). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic, p. 331. (Call no.: RSING 324.25957 HUS)
13. Republic of Singapore. (1990, April 7). Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1990 (No. 11 of 1990). Retrieved from 2016, August 10 Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%225b729d59-07bb-4a16-9591-afd843e9155a%22%20Status%3Apublished%20Depth%3A0%20TransactionTime%3A20160706000000;rec=0
14. Nominated MPs to be sworn-in today at Parliament sitting. (1990, December 20). The Straits Times, p. 3; Tan, S. (1994, July 16). Report card on Nominated MPs. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tan, H. Y. (1997, July 10). Three panels formed to propose NMP candidates. The Straits Times, p. 1; House votes to add three  more NMPs, raising the total to nine. (1997, June 6). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Au Yong, J. (2010, April 27). Constitutional amendments passed. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Ng, I. (2000, January 29). NMP scheme ‘is useful but should be transitional’. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/ 
18. Nominated MPs: Public hearing today. (1990, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Parliament of Singapore. (2016, February 2). Parliament of Singapore: Nominated Members of Parliament: Invitation for submission of names [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, July 6 from Parliament of Singapore website: https://www.parliament.gov.sg/sites/default/files/files/Press%20Release%20-%20Invitation%20for%20Submission%20of%20Names%20for%20Nominated%20MP.pdf
20. Republic of Singapore. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1999 Rev. Ed.) (Fourth sched.) Retrieved 2016, July 6 from Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=46c1ebd7-e172-415b-95b4-c550cf88826a;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22cf2412ff-fca5-4a64-a8ef-b95b8987728e%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#Sc4-.
21. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1999 Rev. Ed.) (Fourth sched.) Retrieved 2016, July 6 from Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=46c1ebd7-e172-415b-95b4-c550cf88826a;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22cf2412ff-fca5-4a64-a8ef-b95b8987728e%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#Sc4-.
22. Nominated MPs: Public hearing today. (1990, January 23).  The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from  NewspaperSG.
23. NMPs can also stand as independent candidates. (1990, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Selected but not elected, but these voices made a difference. (2004, October 9). The Straits Times, p. 18; Tan, S. S. (1994, July 3). NMP scheme a success thanks to Walter Woon and Kanwaljit Soin. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Acts supplement. (1997, August 22). Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1997 (No. 1 of 1997). Retrieved 2016, August 10 from Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22205acada-2300-47c8-acf7-5316aa2467d7%22%20Status%3Apublished%20Depth%3A0%20TransactionTime%3A20160706000000;rec=0
26. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Acts supplement. (2002, September 13). Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2002 (No. 24 of 2002). Retrieved 2016, August 10 from Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22e3cef533-f149-48d1-8e40-7f0829766fc1%22%20Status%3Apublished%20Depth%3A0%20TransactionTime%3A20160706000000;rec=0
27. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Acts supplement. (2010). Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2010 (No. 9 of 2010). Retrieved 2016, August 10 from Singapore Statutes Online website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=Id%3Ab44d4bd4-58c6-4305-bf39-828e17499a26%20Depth%3A0%20Status%3Apublished%20Published%3A02%2F07%2F2010;rec=0;resUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fstatutes.agc.gov.sg%2Faol%2Fsearch%2Fsummary%2Fresults.w3p%3Bpage%3D0%3Bquery%3DId%253Ab44d4bd4-58c6-4305-bf39-828e17499a26%2520Depth%253A0%2520Status%253Apublished%2520Published%253A02%252F07%252F2010



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Law and government>>Public administration>>Parliament
Law and government>>Public administration>>Cabinet (Government Councils)
Legislators--Singapore
Politics and Government