Head count for Indian MPs in Singapore

K Shanmugam
By Asia Samachar Team | SINGAPORE |

Singapore’s out-going ruling party did not field any new Indian candidates as its prepared for General Elections 2020. Why?

On the weekend, the question was posed to a People’s Action Party (PAP) senior Indian leader and lawmaker with more than three decades of experience. During a walkabout in Yishun on July 4, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam took on the question.

He said that none of the nine Indian candidates, of whom some are ministers, will be retiring this year as the party approached GE2020, reported Singapore media portal Mothership.

Responding to a media query in Tamil, Shanmugam felt that Indians are well-represented in Parliament and explained that Indian representatives makes up about 10% of the Parliament. In comparison, he mentioned that Indians only make up about 7.5% of the national population, the portal reported.

Covering the same event, The Straits Times reported Shanmugam as saying that though the first goal of the PAP is meritocracy, representing each race in Parliament according to the make-up of the country is also important.

“The first goal of the PAP is meritocracy. Race, colour or religion aside, it’s meritocracy. But at the same time, Parliament has to proportionally represent the people. Chinese, Indians and Malays are represented, but if the percentage changes too much, people will look at that,” the newspaper quoted him.

Shanmugam is a long-serving minister. The former lawyer was first elected to Parliament in 1988.

He has been the Minister for Law since May 2008 and the Minister for Home Affairs since October 2015, a post which he had briefly served from November 2010 to May 2011. He previously served as the Minister for Foreign Affairs from May 2011 to September 2015.

The other Indian ministers in the recent Cabinet were Tharman Shanmugaratnam
(senior minister and coordinating minister for social policies), Indranee Rajah (second minister for education and finance), Vivian Balakrishnan (foreign affairs), S Iswaran (communications and information) and Janil Puthucheary (senior minister of state).

The present list of PAP candidates also does not include any candidates from the Sikh community. At one time, the Singapore parliament had two MPs from the Sikh community – Davinder Singh and Inderjit Singh.

Davinder Singh holds the distinction of being the first Sikh parliamentarian in Singapore’s post-independence history and served the Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation constituency from 1988 to 2006. Inderjit served four terms in Parliament before stepping down in 2015.

On the opposition front, two candidates from the Sikh community in the running are Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh and Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) chief media officer Harmindar Pal Singh. Pritam had won in 2011 and 2015 elections.

In 2015, there were four Sikh candidates from the opposition parties. Joining Pritam and Harminder Pal then were Gurmit Singh from the WP and Sukdeu Singh from Singaporeans First (SingFirst).

In the 2011 general elections, the three Sikhs candidates were veteran lawmaker Inderjit Singh from the PAP, Pritam and Harminder Pal.



An opportunity to serve on wider scale, says Harminder Pal (Asia Samachar, 5 July 2020)

Pritam Singh all set for “a good fight” (Asia Samachar, 2 July 2020)

These Sikhs may get a ticket in next Malaysian general elections (Asia Samachar, 6 April 2018)


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  1. I came across these comments on LinkedIn by Devadas Krishnadas, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Future-Moves Group. He has extensive experience in both the public and the private sector. Something connected to this article.


    Wait, what? What happened to meritocracy and having the ‘best leadership’? By Mr Shanmugam’s explaination, candidates get selected, not on the basis of their abilities and qualities, but whether their ethnicity is represented in the comparative ratio of their representation in the demography of the population. So a better qualified Indian or for that matter Malay, will not be selected over a less suited Chinese, if there were ‘enough’ Indians and Malays as PAP MPs. Is this Malaysia or Singapore? Is this equitable or race based politics? Is this really where we are, after 56 years of nation building with pledge of “We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.”

    Clearly there is a cognitive dissonance between these words and its practice, at least in so far as it applies to the PAP.

    I am dismayed, dissappointed and disillusioned. I would use stronger words but my despair is such that further words fail me.


    He had produced a series of YouTube videos on the Singapore GE2020. Here’s the fifth:


    He makes some good points. But the dig on Malaysia? Come on, lah! Malaysia does not pretend to make all its appointments merit-wise. Last time I checked, Singapore does try to project that image. So why the jab at Malaysia? Instead, stick to Singapore