Nominated Member of Parliament scheme

Singapore Infopedia


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.

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 

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 NMPs are required to vacate their seat if they are elected as a Member of Parliament or they stand for election for a political party.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

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


Lim Puay Ling

1. Ho Khai Leong, “Legitimation, Legislature and Legislators in Policy-Making,” in Shared Responsibilities, Unshared Power: The Politics of Policy-Making in Singapore (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003), 190 (Call no. RSING 320.6095957 HO); Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, Singapore Statutes Online, 2020 rev. ed., Fourth Schedule.
2. Bertha Henson, “Non-Elected MP Idea: Some Questions and Some Pluses,” Straits Times, 16 June 1989, 24; Pang Guek Cheng and Ivan Lim, “University Seats Idea Hailed,” New Nation, 4 September 1972, 1; Tan Wang Joo, “In Quest of an Opposition,” Straits Times, 9 September 1972, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Nominated MPs Will Allow a More Consensual Style Government,” Straits Times, 30 November 1989, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Ho, “Legitimation, Legislature and Legislators,” 190.
5. “Consensual Style Government.”
6. Hussin Mutalib, “Shifting Rules of the Game,” in Parties and Politics: A Study of Opposition Parties and the PAP in Singapore (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic, 2004), 330 (Call no. RSING 324.25957 HUS); Parliament of Singapore, Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No. 2) Bill, vol. 54 of Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 29–30 November 1989, cols. 695–68, 785–54. (Call no. RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
7. Henson, “Non-Elected MP Idea”; “Non-Elected MPs an Admission of Failure, Says SDP Chairman,” Straits Times, 8 July 1989, 20; “Scheme Undemocratic as They Can’t Stay Neutral,” Straits Times, 23 February 2000, 55. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Scheme Undemocratic”; “Non-Elected MPs an Admission of Failure.”
9. Henson, “Non-Elected MP Idea.”
10. “NMPs Can also Stand as Independent Candidates,” Straits Times, 18 March 1990, 20; “Some Disagree with Panel over Retention of Seat,” Straits Times, 30 March 1990, 26 (From NewspaperSG); Ho, “Legitimation, Legislature and Legislators,” 190.
11. Chua Lee Hoong, “NMPs are Free for All in the Hunt for Talent,” Straits Times, 19 February 2000, 61 (From NewspaperSG); "Stand as Independent Candidates.”
12. Sumiko Tan, “Report Card on Nominated MPs,” Straits Times, 16 July 1994, 32; “Chok Tong’s Variation of His Original ‘Sunset’ Clause Adopted,” Straits Times, 18 March 1990, 20; “Selected But Not Elected, But These Voices Made a Difference,” Straits Times, 9 October 2004, 18 (From NewspaperSG); Mutalib, “Shifting Rules of the Game,” 331.
13. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1990, Act 11 of 1990, Singapore Statutes Online
14. “Nominated MPs to Be Sworn-in Today at Parliament Sitting,” Straits Times, 20 December 1990, 3; Tan, “Report Card on Nominated MPs.”  
15. Tan Hsueh Yun, “Three Panels Formed to Propose NMP Candidates,” Straits Times, 10 July 1997, 1; “House Votes to Add Three More NMPs, Raising the Total to Nine,” Business Times, 6 June 1997, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Jeremy Au Yong, “Constitutional Amendments Passed,” Straits Times, 27 April 2010, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Irene Ng, “NMP Scheme ‘Is Useful but Should Be Transitional’,” Straits Times, 29 January 2000. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
18. “Nominated MPs: Public Hearing Today,” Straits Times, 23 January 1990, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Parliament of Singapore, “Parliament of Singapore: Nominated Members of Parliament: Invitation for Submission of Names,” press release, 23 February 2016.
20. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, Singapore Statutes Online, Fourth Schedule.
21. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, Singapore Statutes Online, Fourth Schedule.
22. Public Hearing Today.”
23. "
Future Govts Have Option to Appoint Outstanding Members as Ministers," Straits Times, 18 March 1990, 20; "Nominated MP Bill Passed," Straits Times, 31 March 1990, 1; "Chok Tong Spells Out Changes to the Bill," Straits Times, 30 March 1990, 26. (From NewspaperSG); Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, 2020 rev. ed., Article 46(2B), Singapore Statutes Online.
24. “Selected But Not Elected”; Tan Sai Siong, “NMP Scheme a Success Thanks to Walter Woon and Kanwaljit Soin,” Straits Times, 3 July 1994, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 1997, Act 1 of 1997, Singapore Statutes Online.
26. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2002, Act 24 of 2002, Singapore Statutes Online.
27. Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2010, Act 9 of 2010, Singapore Statutes Online.

The information in this article is valid as of 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.

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