Actress wants to speak for the arts as NMP

Singapore Parliament house. (Photo by: Hester Tan, channelnewsasia.com)

SINGAPORE: Actress Janice Koh has put her name on the slate, after arts lecturer Audrey Wong declined to be nominated for a second term as a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP).

The arts community had hoped to present a diverse range of candidates to the Special Select Committee of Parliament to choose from and three other arts practitioners were approached. But they declined as they were "not ready to take up the role" at this point in time, Ms Wong told Today.

However, as the arts community is so large, there is a "possibility" that someone in the community could throw their hat into the ring over the next few days, she also said.

When asked why she was not running, Ms Wong replied: "To run, you need to be committed 100 per cent and, at this stage, I don’t think I can do this right now."

When contacted, Ms Koh told Today that, if nominated, she hopes to be a "bridge" between the arts community and the Government. "Broadly speaking, I hope to provide a cultural lens not just on the arts, but education, heritage and urban development," she said.

The 37—year—old worked at the National Arts Council (NAC) from 1997 to 2002, first in strategic planning and later in grants as assistant director.

Asked if her tenure as a civil servant of four years would be an asset in serving as that "bridge", Ms Koh said: "There is an advantage having been on both sides, so I’m not coming in with an ’us versus them’ approach, but one of collaboration, because if the arts succeed, Singapore succeeds."

Ms Koh declined to elaborate on the issues in the arts sector she would raise in Parliament should her nomination be accepted, noting that there is a "wide variety of issues and not all can be represented" in the House. "Some of which require working behind the scenes with the various statutory boards and ministries," she added.

However, Ms Koh — who most recently starred in the television legal drama The Pupil — told Today she would "continue the dialogue" that Ms Wong started between the arts community and the Government and make the arts "part of the discourse" in Parliament.

"The power of the Republic is not just about economic growth or our skyline, but our soft power, our songs, our plays that travel overseas, and the formulation of our identity," she said.

She added: "It’s all very nice to have beautiful theatres and galleries, and Lion King musicals, but in 200 years’ time will there be works from our poets, our playwrights, our visual artists, or will there just be Lion Kings?"

The public has until 4.30pm on December 8 to nominate those who they think are suitable to be NMPs. Nomination forms are available at Parliament House.

TODAY