Monday, July 6, 2009

NMPs as infrastructure

The new batch of Nominated Members of Parliament have been announced. Got the news from lawyer Siew Kum Hong's blog.

They are: (please correct me if I am wrong about their area of experience/expertise, thanks!)

1. Mr Calvin Cheng Ern Lee (fashion)
2. Mr Terry Lee Kok Hua (NTUC)
3. Mrs Mildred Tan-Sim Beng Mei (finance)
4. Assoc Prof Paulin Tay Straughan (sociologist)
5. Mr Teo Siong Seng (trade)
6. Mr Viswaroopan s/o Sadasivan (consultancy)
7. Mr Laurence Wee Yoke Thong (social work ???)
8. Ms Audrey Wong Wai Yen (arts)
9. Ms Joscelin Yeo Wei Ling (sports)

The good thing about having NMPs is that we get to fill a few of the many gaps created by the PAP government and its economic imperative.

It is not surprising that they wanted to get "representation" in the area of sports and the cultural/creative industries, as these industries have already been earmarked for development. With no intention to be disrespectful to the NMPs above, I wonder to myself (and obviously aloud) if these individuals have been selected as mortar for the bricks of the nation-building agenda.

Their experience, opinions and contributions are and will obviously be valuable, but the whole scheme seems to fit hand in glove. Good HR management on the part of the goal-oriented state, I must say. Look at the government - engineers, doctors, lawyers, defence generals, etc., it is obvious they have missed out on talents from the areas of social science, social work, psychology, the cultural industries, creative industries and sports. Bordering on technocratic (not my favourite kind of music, by the way).

I am happy that a sociologist is on board. I believe she has done a lot of government-funded research on various aspects of Singaporean life and the family. It's just too bad we do not have more sociologists, historians, or philosophers as NMPs. (turns out she has been criticised for her views on gay Singaporeans)

Governments need the continual assurance of political blow-jobs, not the unpredictability of counter political discourses/rhetoric that might undermine their legitimacy and existing ideologies.

I believe the relative absence of people in the area of social work, academia, human rights is telling enough. Perhaps these individuals pose a far greater threat than say, a swimmer. Sports and nationalism (in most authoritarian regimes) go hand in hand, but of course, in the case of Singapore, much more can be done about sports professionalism (see SAAA and STTA) and nurturing local sportspeople, and making sure they can a decent living.

My sports heroine is Joscelin Yeo and she is one of two reasons why I have always followed the Southeast Asian Games (although the upcoming one borders on farcical), the other being the local football team.

I believe that NMPs should add value to Singaporean politics, and not merely serve as spokes in the government wheel. They should be 'counter-structures' (to think of a fancy term), reminding the state that there are some areas in life and in policy that needs to be improved and cannot be overlooked; they should not be mere 'infrastructure' for the continuity of an uncaring government.

Yes, our government should take care of people more than it takes care of politics. It is so ironic that our government leaves the care of people in the hands of people themselves, when it is actually every government's job to look after its people.

Perhaps the government has wisen up to the potential divisiveness posed by lawyers, as we recall in 2007 the positions taken by Siew and Thio Li-Ann. Both are passionate and have more than contributed to the country. But I guess we are too immature to accept diversity in the house. A government with the goal of ensuring economic prosperity and survivability, can do without social polarisation caused by representative voices of queer rights and Christian right. These are threatening to the government's leadership and legitimacy.

By the way, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, Joscelin Yeo's part of a megachurch. Not sure if we will get religious representation in Parliament though.

Phew, the PAP leaders can heave a sigh of relief, as the rights advocates and the learned and politically liberal constitutional law professor (Thio) are no longer around to contribute to society. Maybe newer issues will be raised by the new NMPs, but will they improve transparency and accountability of the state, or raise pertinent issues on our constitution and statutes?

Are the new NMPs watchdogs, or lapdogs? Are they merely infrastructure that ultimately fit in the government's grand scheme of things? Maybe that is what NMPs are for, maybe not.

Congrats and good luck. Not many of us are cut out to be servants of our respective communities and these individuals deserve our support.

-add-

I think if George Lim Heng Chye was an NMP, I will probably tune in to every Parliament broadcast. Given his interests (in family and public morality, not only young gymnast boys at Bishan), he could definitely stir up interesting Parliamentary debates. He will definitely be very popular given most Singaporeans are rather puritanical and crazily ascetic. Morality in Singapore is like a game of the rather politically incorrect and derogatory name 'Cowboys and Indians'. Some people think they are the righteous 'Cowboys', and the rest of us are the morally misguided and savage 'Indians'. AI YI YI YI YI YI YIIIIIIIIIIIIII

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