The Workers' Party (WP) candidate for the Hougang by-election Png Eng Huat has revealed that he went through the ballot process for the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) post last May, even though he had earlier declared his stand against the scheme.
Speaking to reporters after a short walkabout in Hougang Avenue 2, the 50-year-old explained that he was merely "going through the motions" as part of a standard selection procedure.
"To clarify, my name was on the ballot paper itself that night when we went for the NCMP selection meeting. I cannot unilaterally remove my name, so I have to go through the process," Png said.
He added, "But to ensure that I don't t get voted, I made my stand again clear to the East Coast team and to secretary-general, which is Mr Low Thia Khiang and a few other members to ensure that I will not be selected for the NCMP post."
On Monday, Png had told Channel NewsAsia (CNA) that he "had actually took my name out of the ballot for the NCMP post", which was offered to the best losing opposition candidates after last year's General Election (GE).
He was responding to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who had asked at a PAP rally on Sunday why the WP had not picked Png for the NCMP post last year. The seat was eventually taken up by Png's East Coast GRC team-mate Gerald Giam instead.
The NCMP scheme was proposed by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1984, to ensure that Parliament had a minimum number of opposition voices.
Following the CNA interview, Png issued a statement saying that he "had already made it clear to the Secretary-General, as well as the East Coast team, that I would not want to be considered for the NCMP position" before the GE.
He explained he is against it as he did not wish for "a government to dictate the number and type of opposition members we can have in Parliament".
But later on the same night, an anonymous source emailed the media with a copy of what was claimed to be the minutes from the said WP executive council extraordinary meeting on May 12, saying Png did not asked for his name to be removed from the ballot.
Png clarified that what he meant during the CNA interview was that he did not wish to be considered for the NCMP post, and apologised for the confusion.
He emphasised, "You can see from my speeches in 2011 (GE) rallies. I was probably the only candidate attacking the NCMP scheme, forcefully, because I do not believe in the system.
"If you want to vote [for] me, I will go into parliament using the same door the PAP MPs go in by, not through another door created by them."
Png also let on that he "signed off the letter" to the Straits Times Forum in April last year, describing the NCMP scheme as being "no insurance" against the majority enjoyed by the PAP in Parliament.
He added that he had made known his feelings on the matter to Low, his running mates in East Coast and other WP members "way before the GE was announced", but said that he "did not have the chance" to reiterate his stand to the the party's central executive committee (CEC) during the meeting.
While Png did not say whether the meeting minutes sent to the press were genuine or how they were leaked, he confirmed some of the information on them: That he had received one vote from the CEC, while his East Coast teammates Giam and Eric Tan got seven and five votes respectively.
Following the vote, Tan also resigned from the WP.
Expressing confidence that this latest incident would not affect Hougang voters' confidence in him and the party, Png said that residents who have questions regarding the issue "can come directly and ask me"
"There is no pretence. The mood here is good. We have a 21-year relationship with them [Hougang residents], so it's warm," he declared.
He also said Low will address the issue at the party's Tuesday night rally.