Veteran unionist to seek NMP term

Veteran unionist to seek NMP term
Newcomers seeking to be NMPs: Veteran union leader K. Karthikeyan (left), and theatre veteran Kok Heng Leun.

The labour movement is proposing veteran union leader K. Karthikeyan to be a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) to represent its interests in the House.

Meanwhile, one of the nine existing NMPs, businessman R. Dhinakaran, told The Straits Times he will seek a second term.

He is the second to do so, after university don Eugene Tan.

Similarly, Mr Karthikeyan is the second newcomer named so far as a potential candidate, as the current NMPs' 21/2-year term comes to an end in August.

The 54-year-old is the vice-president of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the general secretary of the United Workers of Petroleum Industry (UWPI).

He formed the Singapore Petrochemical Complex Employees' Union in 1986 and has been a union leader since, the NTUC said yesterday in a statement endorsing his candidacy.

Mr Karthikeyan said in a statement that if appointed, "this will be an invaluable opportunity to raise issues concerning workers directly to the policymakers".

He noted that in his 28 years as a union leader, many workers' issues had been resolved by government policies. "I sincerely believe that my inputs (in Parliament) will be useful in enacting such policies that would make workers' lives even better," he added.

He is keen to raise issues such as closing the income gap, upgrading workers' skills, improving workplace safety, and re-employing mature workers. Mr Karthikeyan's fellow unionist Ho Shiong Yee was overjoyed he was chosen.

Ms Ho, UWPI's assistant general secretary, told The Straits Times: "I've worked with him since 1986 and... he always puts up a fight for the benefit of our members. Although he interacts with all levels of people... he is always the humble union leader representing the ground."

The labour sector's current representative in Parliament is Ms Mary Liew.

For Mr Dhinakaran, he wants to stay on to continue championing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

"Restructuring efforts have not been completed, and SMEs are not fully ready yet. In the interim, many businesses are suffering. This is a time I should voice this out, if there is an opportunity given," said the managing director of lifestyle and fashion retailer Jay Gee Melwani Group.

The NMP scheme was launched in 1990 to have more alternative voices in Parliament.

Last Friday, theatre veteran Kok Heng Leun was the first newcomer to announce his candidacy.

NMPs represent seven areas in the House: business and industry; the professions; the labour movement; social service organisations; the civic and people sector; tertiary education institutions; and the arts, media and sports. The public has until May 20 to propose individuals they deem suitable. The President will make the final decision.

charyong@sph.com.sg

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