SINGAPORE - The expanded the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme is a ploy to entice voters to not vote for the opposition, said Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock.
He added that he would decline an NCMP seat if he was offered one, although other party members could take it up if they wished.
Dr Tan was speaking to reporters during a walkabout on Thursday (July 2) with PSP candidate Kayla Low at a market in Yio Chu Kang SMC.
The NCMP scheme was amended in 2016 to ensure there will be at least 12 opposition members in Parliament - up from nine - even in the event that the ruling People's Action Party wins all the seats.
NCMP seats are offered to losing opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes during a general election.
Said Dr Tan: "For NCMPs, while they try and improve the scheme, I look at it as a ploy this round to entice you all to vote the PAP because they guarantee you that they (will) have 12 NCMPs.
"But I think if you really want a proper representative in the House, vote for the person to go into the House so he has the base. That is very important. If you have no base it is very difficult to function as an MP. You cannot just be a virtual MP, you must be a proper MP."
The former six-term PAP MP was responding to remarks by PAP leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who on Tuesday said the NCMP scheme guarantees a "significant opposition presence" in Parliament with full voting rights.
Dr Tan, who is leading the PSP's 'A' team to contest West Coast GRC, said the base means that the MP is connected to the people and has the responsibility to voters who elected him.
"These are the people you really have to represent on the ground, that makes you a very different MP because you can feel the ground, you know the ground (and) the issues that are brought up. You can speak with strength," he said, adding that this makes a lot of difference.
"So I believe if ever my people get into Parliament they should win the right to represent the people."
He added, however, that he would leave it to his team members to decide if they want to enter Parliament via the NCMP scheme, in the event that they are offered seats.
On Ms Low, 43, a chartered accountant and former prisons officer, he said: "When we field somebody, we have already assessed her and think she can win."
She is up against PAP new face Yip Hong Weng, 43, the former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Agency for Integrated Care.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.