Singapore 2025

What of Singapore towards 2025? Thoughts of a Singaporean.

Archive for July 2011

9 Jul 2011: The New Social Compact in Singapore

I spoke at a public forum hosted by the Young Sikh Association on 9 Jul 2011, alongside Zakir Hussain of the Straits Times, PAP MP Inderjit Singh and Dr Tan Chi Chiu, Chairman of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, Singapore Management University on the new social compact in Singapore. It was yet another fascinating discussion where I found Dr Tan’s views particularly thoughtful and worthy of greater circulation. Specifically, he shared many insights on how the government could move forward together with civil society.


Pritam Singh: YSA Speech 9 Jul 2011

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Before I begin I would like to thank the Young Sikh Association for inviting me to share my thoughts with all of you.

From the outset, I would like to say that the public discourse on a new social compact is not something new. The questions that are being posed this afternoon were already being asked by Singaporeans 10 years ago, as the second generation of PAP leaders handed over the reins of the power to the third generation. Let me take you on a short journey, thanks to the mainstream media to make this point.

First, I present an article entitled, “Poor get more help in PM’s new deal” dated 21 August 2001 by then Straits Times journalist and current PAP MP Irene Ng. The article was a reference to then PM Goh Chok Tong’s 2001 National Day rally. The article outlined the new social contract as follows, and I quote, “The new contract continues the emphasis on self-reliance and family ties. But it goes on to say you must work or at least go for retraining, and if you do, the Government will give some support if you earn too little to support your family. And if you fall in the low-income group, you will get more. It is an approach that has been introduced into the system over the years in an ad-hoc and piecemeal fashion, with an announcement of a CPF top-up here, a HDB service and conservancy rebate and worker-upgrading programme there.

In 2003, Paul Jacob of the Straits Times in a very appropriately titled article called, “Is the social compact changing?” commented (quote) “something has changed when ordinary members of the public take on new ministers and policies. (unquote)” So by 2003, the reality of a more questioning and critical population had been readily noted, and evidently, Singaporeans were no longer just pragmatic individuals.

In 2005, former Chairman of the PAP, Lim Boon Heng, openly noted:

In the past, better education, better health care and better housing were clearly seen as key components of this social compact. Today, low-income Singaporeans may feel that they are shouldering a higher share of the costs than before.

‘Will this lead to social tension? Not if we can show the lower income that we care and play our part to help them.

‘So, how do we reshape the social compact, without destroying self-reliance and the incentive to work, and without loading the cost on to business?

In 2006, in an article written by Daniel Buenas in the Business Times, current DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted:

Not only has income distribution become unequal, but lower-income groups, particularly unskilled workers, have experienced stagnation, or sometimes decline, in their standards of living.’

He added that, if left unchecked, these developments will lead to a breakdown of the social compact required for Singapore to continue to participate in a global economy and reap the benefits of globalisation for the majority of the population. ‘We have to address this,’ he said. ‘Through the CPF system, in particular, we have to continue to do that – saving for the future needs of the lower-income, including their medical needs and their other retirement needs, not just provide for the present.

‘It requires some political stamina. But, well, I think that is the most responsible thing to do.‘”

Now if you forgot what I have said so far, its ok, because now is the time to sit up and take notice of the most lucid and thoughtful analysis of the new social compact that Singaporeans were thinking about over the last decade. The next article I am going to refer to appeared in the Straits Times on 23 Nov 2007. It was written by a gentleman by the name of Yeoh Lam Keong. Today, he is the Managing Director and Chief Economist at the Economic Strategy Dept of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC). The article was so profound that the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek found it appropriate to write a piece on the basis of his insights and revelations. And yes, no surprise, the title of Yeoh Lam Keong’s article was “A New Social Compact for Singapore”.

I tried to select appropriate excerpts to share with you, but there is so much of value in that piece towards our discussion today that I have decided to spend a few minutes reading out what he so presiently delivered 4 years ago in 2007:

Since the late 1990s, a fundamental change has taken place. Median real wages are no longer rising with robust growth. Instead, they have been roughly stagnating since 1998. For the bottom 60 percent of workers, individual wages have, in fact, cumulatively declined by 7 to 15 per cent over the past five years up to last year, despite 5 to 7 per cent GDP growth.

The poorest and least skilled have been the hardest hit. Median monthly starting pay for cleaners and labourers has fallen by nearly one-third, from $860 to $600, between 1996 and (2006). While household incomes especially of the bottom 30 per cent rebounded last year, this is due to jobs being plentiful enough for more family members to work. Yet the poor have to run faster just to stand still. The bottom 30 percent have now experienced stagnating real household incomes for eight to 10 years.

In the long run, this malign combination of median wage stagnation and rising inequality is potentially poisonous for the social compact underpinning Singapore’s virtuous circle of strong governance.

If the median worker faces long-term wage stagnation, the credibility of tough policies – will be undermined. Many will feel their stake in the common enterprise of prosperity has been eroded. What remains may be the bitter, zero-sum politics of envy and dead-end populism.

Current net Workfare payments of around $80 to $100 per month are a long way from being able to bridge the poverty gap between bare subsistence and the small surplus needed to invest in human capital at the household level. Yet Workfare remains the fastest way to get there without compromising the work ethic.

The political will and policy framework to deal with wage stagnation may well be one of the biggest tests of compassion, pragmatism and policy innovation Singapore has faced. However, some subtle risks also arise from our traditional policy distrust of large-scale welfare, or direct social spending to address poverty.

The latter is perhaps more difficult to deal with, as it reflects a policy paradigm that may also need radical change. A stronger, direct social safety net may now need to be seen by both policymakers and the public as an institution that enables policy to take advantage of globalisation more quickly and boldly, rather than one that erodes the work ethic, drains the Budget or hamstrings economic reform.

Can we, policymakers as well as citizens, be bold, compassionate and creative enough to re-imagine and remake our social compact, one that includes a social safety net more suited to the current mega-trends of globalisation?

The last government official to speak at length on the social compact was current Emiritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong at the Singapore-China forum in 2010. ESM Goh explained Singapore’s success through three key elements that defined our social compact. ESM Goh identified our education system, our multi-racialism, and the decision to pay public officials competitive wages as central to our social compact.

So there you have it – six articles sourced from the mainstream media, from 2001 to 2010, some very quite presciently premonitioning the drivers of a new social compact for Singapore. Without doubt, the new social compact did not become a reality after 7 May 2011. It has been in gestation for the last 10 years, under the PAP’s watch.

In the aftermath of the elections, we finally see the PAP responding. Why did it take them this long, that is not for me to say. But during our rally speeches, the Workers’ Party did allude to the reality that the PAP listens to the wishes of the electorate on polling day – your vote is indeed very powerful. In 1991, when 4 opposition members of parliament were elected, the PAP duly formed a cost review committee to address cost of living issues, which were raised by the opposition during those elections.

In the aftermath of the 2011 elections, we have already come to know that three central planks of Singapore’s social compact are being reviewed: HDB policy – any review of which has a direct impact on CPF, healthcare, and ministerial salaries. Lets be clear about it, the shape of the new social compact is in the PAP’s hands. The Workers’ Party, and I am sure many Singaporeans, certainly look forward their recommendations.

Ladies and gentlemen, so far, I have alluded to the hard aspects of the new social compact. Let me conclude, with a view to provoke more discussion later about the soft aspects of this new social compact. For the longest time, from the time of the first-generation of PAP leaders, the public discourse has not been about individuals, but about community.

At its height, this national ideology was framed with a view to reject individualism. But over the last few years, even concepts of community have been shaken with 1/3 of Singapore comprising of foreigners. Some well-meaning Singaporeans fear that we have become more xenophobic. However, this fear of xenophobia may not be a function more foreigners in Singapore, many of whom are not socialized to the no spitting and no littering campaigns of the Singapore many of us grew up in. On the contrary, it is also helpful to remember that we are the third or fourth most densely populated countries in the world today – many Singaporeans also feel a sense of dislocation, unfamiliarity and discomfort with the Singapore they grew up in. Let us not underestimate this emotion as we deliberate and consider what the new social compact will look like. It may well be timely to conceive of the new social compact not only in terms of community as the PAP has done for the longest time, but in terms of what individual Singaporeans like you and me, and I hazard even PAP supporters desire as well.

Thank you very much.

Written by singapore 2025

15/07/2011 at 1:00 am

8 July 2011: Coalition Government and the IPS Post-Election Forum Speech on Party Renewal

I attended a very thought-provoking conference at the invitation of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy last Friday where I was asked to speak on party renewal. I have appended my speech in full below. I spoke on the subject of party renewal alongside Hazel Poa of the National Solidarity Party and Vikram Nair of the PAP. Many subjects were covered during the question and answer session including my response to a question from Dean Kishore Mahbubani of the LKY School who used the co-driver analogy to enquire when the Workers’ Party would be ready to form government. I suggested to him that the reality of any party forming government is only one possibility and that a coalition government of a number of parties could also be possible, in the event no party secured an outright majority of more than 44 seats.

Tessa Wong of the Straits Times called me up on Saturday morning oddly asking if the Worker’s Party aimed to be a part of a coalition government to which I answered in the negative. She filed her story on Saturday night, with the headline, “WP’s Pritam Singh clarifies coalition suggestion” (see screenshot timestamped at 10.07pm on Saturday). Between the time Tessa filed her story and before the next day’s paper went to print, someone in the Straits Times had changed the headline to “Pritam retracts coalition suggestion”. Tessa did not call me up again after she filed her story, so I am not sure how the Straits Times concluded that I had retracted the coalition suggestion. And for the record, nothing has been retracted.

All said, this did not distract from an interesting exchange that ensued from the floor on the prospects of coalition governments with the Chairman of our panel discussion, Mr Ong Keng Yong (outgoing IPS Director and Ambassador-designate to Malaysia) suggesting that the Institute of Policy Studies may want to consider pursuing research work on the prospects of coalition governments in Singapore. The prospects of a weak PAP government buttressed by any opposition party or even the prospect of a weak opposition government, buttressed by some PAP MPs is not necessarily exactly outside the realm of imagination. One possible vestige of such a scenario is playing out in the UK today with the Liberal Democrats joining hands with the Tories to form government. Perhaps one important question is how successful such coalitions could be in governing the country, for there are enough examples the world over of coalitions that work and those that do not.

The nature of the democratic process is such that it is not the politicians, but ordinary Singaporeans that will determine the political contours of this country. There may well a sizable constituency that backs the NSP, SDP, RP, SDA or WP in the years to come. These parties may or may not form a significant parliamentary presence should be people of Singapore decide to vote for these parties. The PAP may be left with a paper thin majority or one that does not inspire confidence in Singaporeans, leaving it little choice but to consider the prospects of a unity government.

Over the last few years, Singapore has seen the establishment of a number of new think-tanks like the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS). All produce cutting edge insight on contemporary issues with RSIS building a strong reputation for its Commentaries and ISAS hosting a high quality blog. IPS conducted a useful and informative survey on GE2011 that was presented at the aforementioned conference. All these think-tanks are in a position to assist government in scenario-planning for the future. RSIS in particular hosts a particularly appropriate motto – “Ponder the Improbable”.

I am not not sure whether a coalition government in Singapore in future is improbable, but that certainly should not stop anyone from pondering about it.


Pritam Singh: IPS Speech 8 Jul 2011

I was asked to comment on the “topic of the renewal of the respective parties that might have taken place before the election and will continue to take place after it.” The ambit of the assigned topic is exceptionally broad. More specifically, the very definition of renewal has to be contextualised. Renewal for the Workers’ Party must be set against some comparative indicia. Are we renewing with a view to host the same style of politics that we have adopted in the past? Are we renewing with a view solely to bring in more people into the party, replacements as it were, but critically, the same type of people? Or are we renewing with a view to including a more varied membership base?

As many of you would know, the Workers’ Party, as an opposition party does not have the luxury of hosting official tea sessions for hundreds of prospective candidates. We do not go out and pro-actively encourage Singaporeans to join us. Nor do we pro-actively seek out the man or woman with a string of accomplishments to join our cause. Every Workers’ Party member walks through our party doors through his or her own volition. We do not entertain prospective members who come by, demanding or subtly hinting at guarantees or who come with a list of terms and conditions before agreeing to stand on our ticket. Singaporeans join the Workers’ Party because they believe in a more progressive society and a better tomorrow, and they see the Workers’ Party as the vehicle that will take Singapore to that very destination.

The chosen path of an opposition member in Singapore is a challenging one. Any Singaporean with plans to join the opposition cause must accept that he or she will be scrutinised closely. The prospective member may be wise to expect unusual attention, especially if he or she is likely to become a candidate. A certain paranoia may also grip you – that of being followed, or being pulled out of the immigration queue for apparently routine questioning. So the very concept of renewal for an opposition candidate must necessarily take on a different meaning than for the ruling party. We are guided by different parameters when it comes to renewal. There is an argument to be made that renewal is driven less by the party and more by the person who comes through the party doors. To some extent, this view is not necessarily incorrect.

If we personify the Workers’ Party for a minute, and force it to hold a mirror up against itself, the image that ought to appear would be that of the average Singaporean. He or she would be an individual who could possibly have gone to the top schools, a polytechnic student, an accomplished ITE graduate, a father or mother, son or daughter, a wage earner, an engineer, a bus driver or construction supervisor. The Workers’ Party believes every Singaporean, no matter what his lot in life can make a contribution to the public discourse. Renewal or not, any prospective member to the Workers’ Party must remember that it is people who are the masters and that grassroots and community activists and of course politicians, are the servants. These words may sound very jarring to those who believe in elitism or who believe that an anointed vanguard should lead Singapore society. Whatever the case, a substantive democracy remains the best guarantee against any political force that rules a nation not on behalf of the people, but on behalf of itself.

Now, there would be an urge in some of you to conceive of what I just said – about the politicians as servants and the people as masters – in terms of political ideology. That this is somehow a socialist message cast against the backdrop of a left vs. right divide. To those who believe so – let me disabuse you of this thought. There is nothing ideological about public service and having the long-term interests of your fellow human beings at heart. So in the name of renewal, how does the Workers’ Party make that all-important call – to recruit members who never forget that fundamentally they are the servants of the people?

Judging an individual’s character can be a hugely challenging exercise. Even seasoned individuals can get this wrong. I am reminded of that PSC scholar on a teaching scholarship who was charged last year for producing child pornography while studying at York University. A few meetings and interviews are definitely not be enough to suss out what motivates a person and why he or she chooses the path of opposition politics. The stakes are equally high when it comes to selecting candidates and members for the Workers’ Party.

So on what basis do we renew the party? Nothing reveals how interested a person is in ordinary Singaporeans like a splash in the deep end of the pool. At the Workers’ Party, new members are exposed to one or two public engagement opportunities very early on to suss out how comfortable they are dealing with ordinary Singaporeans. These include selling the party newsletter, the Hammer at hawker centres or going on house-visits to assigned HDB blocks. Younger members can expect to volunteer with the party’s youth wing, and getting involved with their activities.

One key trait the Workers’ Party looks for in a prospective member is if he or she is a people-person. This trait usually manifests itself most readily at 12 o’clock, in the heat of the afternoon where a member of the public is challenging a prospective recruit for the party’s position on a policy matter, like the lack of a freedom of information law in Singapore and what the Workers’ Party is going to do about it. Now, being a new volunteer, this challenge may be a bridge too far for some, and perhaps even the best of us. Some may get defensive and fudge the issue, or show-off his or her knowledge of the matter queried, effectively going over the head of the resident in his or her reply. The prospects that the Workers’ Party are more likely to keep tabs on are those that politely share with the resident that he or she is not sure of the matter at hand but will find out and return to the resident with a reply, or those that are able to synthesise the issue quickly before providing the resident with an answer any layman would understand.

Now, in the comfort of this air-conditioned room, some of us may feel up to the task. But let me assure you, after a couple of hours of walking and constant engagement with residents, a person’s true inclinations usually begin to unveil themselves, and quite readily I might add. This may not happen immediately, but after a couple of months, a fairly reliable composite assessment of that new Workers’ Party member is likely to surface. The impatient, the arrogant, and those that dismiss others quickly, people with a chip on their shoulders and individuals with hidden agendas quickly find themselves feeling very uncomfortable, as they come to realise that joining the fight under the Workers’ Party is not a walk in the park. Members who join with an agenda in mind quickly realise, as Abraham Lincoln was popularly quoted as saying, “You can fool some people all of the time, and all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

To conclude, party renewal means nothing if it means bringing poor prospects into our ranks. But it is also important to remember that not every new member in the Workers’ Party is a front-end party member. The worst kept-secret in the Workers’ Party is the existence of a solid and dependable bunch of members and volunteers who work the back-end, and who recognise that the Workers’ Party chain is only as strong as its weakest link. They are the unsung heroes, those who join the party with no other aim and or ambition, but to contribute towards building a more democratic, equal and just Singapore. For renewal is a meaningless word if the Worker’s Party evolves into a party that does not have the pulse of ordinary Singaporeans.

Written by singapore 2025

10/07/2011 at 8:20 pm

Singapore Government Scholarships: Poor minority representation and a way forward?

The weekend was noteworthy for two somewhat related bits of news. First, I received the July/August 2011 copy of Challenge (, a bimonthly publication of the Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office. The same weekend also saw the hosting of the SINDA ( ) Community Forum.

First, Challenge magazine. The July/August edition included a feature article with Chairman of the PSC, Eddie Teo entitled, “Scholars with Empathy, Please”  by A Makwana. Here is the bit that piqued my interest in that article (Blue represents the writer, A Makwana. Red represents the words of the PSC Chairman):

‘One potentially contentious issue brought up during the recent General Elections was the relatively low number of scholarships awarded to minorities relative to their numbers in the overall population.’

“As far as the PSC is concerned, anybody, despite his or her race, who appears before us and deserves a scholarship will get a scholarship. We do not discriminate against certain races and there are no quotas.”

‘While there is no official system to ensure more proportionate representation of races among scholarship holders, the PSC does give a nudge if it finds too few non-Chinese applicants in a particular year.’

“We go back to the schools and say so-and-so has done extremely well, we’d like to speak to the person to see if they want to apply.” ‘But some, he says may simply not want to join the Public Service.’

From my understanding, I was the only candidate in the last general elections who raised the issue of the relatively low numbers of scholarships awarded to minorities relative to their numbers in the overall population.  My remarks were made on the back of an article I wrote in February 2011, published on this blog. The title of that article was, “Singapore Government Scholarships: A case for greater representation of minority races” (

We now know that the PSC “nudges” if it finds too few non-Chinese applications. Even though the PSC Chairman was not quoted as using these words, the article is helpful nonetheless, as it acknowledges that the relatively low numbers of scholarships awarded to minorities is not a non-issue. The question is what can be done about this, going forward. In view of the egregiously low number of minority scholars, it would be helpful to know when this policy of “nudging” began. Because if it began from 2002 (click on table), then the number of successful minority applicants suggests that nudging may not be enough.

All said, the PSC Chairman’s remarks in the latest edition of Challenge are a step in the right direction. Separately, it may be unfair placing the burden of increasing the number of minority scholars on the PSC. Singaporeans, regardless of race want the best people leading the Singapore civil service. As many Singaporeans already know, “the best” are a mix of a number of traits, only one of which is raw intelligence. For a 21st century public service, powers of persuasion, commitment, drive and most importantly, integrity matter alot. The PSC Chairman also alluded to empathy as a central trait, and on this count, many would not disagree. But it is important to remember that such traits are not solely the domain of the intellectually gifted – in fact, some may fall woefully short in these areas with arrogance and self-righteousness representing their commonplace personality traits. The PSC would be far better off with a flexible criterion that encourages –  polytechnic diploma holders, entreprenuers who seek a new challenge and even late-bloomers – to apply for its top scholarships or to join the Administrative Service at the mid-career stage. After all, public service requires a diverse skill set. In view of a more diverse Singapore in the years to come – a more varied human resource pool would not be out of the ordinary.

For their part, minority students do not want to be told that standards were lowered for them or that they require a crutch to qualify for scholarships or worse, to be told they qualify on the basis of a quota system.  I reckon the PSC has a challenging job selecting suitable candidates, and from a policy-making standpoint, it would be more propituous if the quality and number of minority applications was raised several notches.

This brings me to the second bit of news I referred to above. SINDA hosted a community forum over the weekend (Straits Times, 3 July 2011, “Indian students catching up, says Tharman”) which was attended by top-echelon government ministers, including DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and former Senior Minister S. Jayakumar. I understand MP Indranee Rajah was also present. The SINDA community forum represented “the last stage of a consultative process by a committee reviewing the progress and persisting problems of the community over the last 20 years and steps needed in the next 10 years.”

DPM Tharman also referred to the forum as a platform as “an opportunity to take stock, reflect, and think through our strategies afresh.”

With the DPM’s words in mind, it may be worthwhile for SINDA to consider benchmarking its new strategies against the number of Indian candidates who are awarded with Singapore government scholarships, and separately to track the total number of Indian applicants for PSC scholarships. I understand the Malay community is reviewing its educational strategies as well, and perhaps it may also consider benchmarking the future performance of its students similarly, and work on implementing programs that will get the community to its desired destination. The PSC Chairman was quoted as saying that some “may not want to join public service.” This ought to represent an opportunity for SINDA (any other minority self-help groups) to work together with the PSC to encourage more minority students to apply for government scholarships, especially since the civil service is a noble career.

But these benchmarks cannot be the only end goal. Not every bright Indian, Malay or Eurasian student may achieve the minimum requirements necessary to qualify for PSC scholarships. And SINDA, MENDAKI and other ethnic self-help groups have to an overarching duty to look after all students, regardless of their educational profile. Even so, drawing a connection between the number of minority applications and successful recipients of PSC scholarships would be one useful indicator of how far the minority communities have come in ten years time.

Written by singapore 2025

05/07/2011 at 3:28 am

Time to reform the People’s Association?

My recent post on the confusion among some People’s Association (PA) grassroots members of their primary loyalties (to the PAP or to Singaporeans?) generated many responses. I have copied the comments from members of the public for easy reference at the end of this article. I was encouraged to note that many Singaporeans appear acutely conscious of the perception of an unhealthy connection between the PA and the PAP. The question is what now?

The underlying issue is ultimately a straightforward one. A divided Singapore is in nobody’s interest. It is important that the PA represent a platform that serves all Singaporeans, regardless of which party you and I support. Many have argued that the PA should be substantively neutral, and should never become a tool of any ruling party, not just the PAP. I am in absolute agreement with this position.

After decades of PAP rule, it is perhaps unsurprising that the line between the PA and PAP has consciously become blurred. If so, it is not the fault of PA volunteers in the RCs, CCs, CCCs, CCMCs etc., some of whom are ordinary Singaporeans who only seek to return to society with no personal agenda, but only to serve their local communities.

Nonetheless, the perception of an unhealthy connection between the PA and the PAP is a systemic deficiency that must be corrected in light of the current circumstances facing Singapore and Singaporeans (see attached pictures of PAP MPs campaigning for votes in PA shirts during the 2011 General Elections. Thank you Andrew Loh).

Public expectations of government transparency and accountability have increased. A new generation of Singaporeans seek to raise governance standards to the next level. Politicisation of grassroots bodies will effectively divide Singapore if the PAP adopts a business-as-usual attitude as they did before 7 May 2011. From the feedback I have received, an overwhelming majority of fair-minded Singaporeans want elected opposition members to participate in PA activities and initiatives. This is wholly unsurprising.

The purpose of the People’s Association is clearly laid out in section 8 of the People’s Association Act (Chapter 227). It states:

8. The objects of the Association are — (a) the organisation and the promotion of group participation in social, cultural, educational and athletic activities for the people of Singapore in order that they may realise that they belong to a multiracial community, the interests of which transcend sectional loyalties; (b) the establishment of such institutions as may be necessary for the purpose of leadership training in order to instil in leaders a sense of national identity and a spirit of dedicated service to a multiracial community; (c) the fostering of community bonding and strengthening of social cohesion amongst the people of Singapore; (d) the performance of such other functions as may be conferred upon the Association by any written law; and (e) the carrying out of such activities as appear to the Board to be advantageous towards, or necessary or convenient for, the furtherance of the objects of the Association as set out in paragraphs (a) to (d).

In view of the opinions many Singaporeans have over the role of the PA with regard to its connection with the ruling party, there is an argument to be made that the objects of the People’s Association as laid out in section 8, are not necessarily being met. In fact, a more critical reading may posit that the unique style of operation of the PA in opposition wards in particular, weakens social cohesion among Singaporeans.

In 1996, a testy exchange took place in parliament, between Workers’ Party Sec-Gen and MP for Hougang, Mr Low Thia Khiang and then Minister Wong Kan Seng on the role of the PA. Other opposition MPs manfully stepped in to state the case (the full transcript of the exchange is at the end of this article). The PAP may well come out and use the same arguments to justify excluding opposition members from taxpayer-funded grassroots activities.

But to do so would be to live in the past. We are living in a different Singapore today, where ideals of justice and equality, recently painted as “aspirational”, are growing deep and firm roots. The PAP should not lose the opportunity of reaching out to all Singaporeans and reforming the PA. So what can the PAP do?

Section 4 of the PA Act, lists the constitution of the PA.

4. —(1) The Association shall consist of —
(a) the Prime Minister as Chairman;
(b) a Minister to be appointed by the Chairman as Deputy Chairman;
(c) 8 members to be appointed by the Chairman; and
(d) one member to be appointed by the Chairman in consultation with each of the organisations mentioned in the First Schedule.
(2) All letters of appointment to the persons mentioned in subsection (1) (b), (c) and (d) shall issue from the Chairman, who may revoke any appointment at any time without assigning any reason.
(3) Members of the Association appointed by the Chairman in accordance with subsection (1) (b), (c) and (d) shall —
(a) hold office for a period of 3 years from the dates of their respective appointments; and
(b) be eligible for reappointment on completion of that period.
(4) There shall be a Secretary-Treasurer, who shall be a person appointed by the Chairman from among the members appointed under subsection (1) (c).
(5) The Board may, from time to time, by notification in the Gazette —
(a) vary the number of its members and provide in what manner additional members, if any, shall be appointed; and
(b) add to or amend the First Schedule.

In the interests of a united Singapore, it was suggested to me that the Prime Minister as Chairman should appoint some opposition members to serve as PA Board members. In principle, this does not seem like a far-fetched suggestion, provided such a proposal is not construed as mere tokenism. For that to happen, all elected MPs should expect to serve as grassroot advisers. Currently, losing PAP candidates remain as advisers to PA grassroots organisations. This practice is an anachronism of the past and must be rendered obsolete in light of new generational expectations.

Just before polling day, Former Foreign Minister George Yeo told The Straits Times that “regardless of the outcome (of the election), I see the (PAP) taking a very hard look at itself and the way it does things.”

There is alot of scope for the PA to operate as a truly independent grassroots body all Singaporeans can be proud of. With an eye on reform, it is perhaps apposite that the PAP start with the PA, a critical national institution that ought to be substantively neutral. For now, the ball is well and truly in the ruling party’s court.



Online comments on the perception of an unhealthy connection between the People’s Association and the PAP, in response to a note by one PA volunteer (link below).

from The Online Citizen’s Facebook page to the question: “The RC Chairman did not cry uncontrollably, says CC Chairman.”

Lim Tee Heong: How to be non partisan if you were at Bedok Stadium?
Tuesday at 11:23am · LikeUnlike 35 people

Dylan Tang: 此地无银三百两。
Tuesday at 11:23am · LikeUnlike 3 people

Shawn Byron Danker: so how come the PA is tied hand and fist to the PAP to the point that LKY has said that the PA is pap. and that the WP are not allowed to use PA facilities for MPS?
Tuesday at 11:23am · LikeUnlike · 5 people

Keith Tan: isnt the sear guy the infamous pap lapdog?
Tuesday at 11:23am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Leslie Lim: And then…….. ?????
Tuesday at 11:24am · LikeUnlike

Shawn Goh: well, maybe ur area grassroots leader didnt hand out pap forms n leaflets but my area at pioneer certainly did!
Tuesday at 11:24am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Shawn Goh: rc demolished at potong pasir when mr chiam first won there? He have to build a makeshift office after tat?
Tuesday at 11:26am · LikeUnlike 1 person

Yeow-Tong Chia ‎@Lim Tee Heong: Precisely! Sear Hock Rong is definitely a PAP supporter.
Tuesday at 11:26am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Shawn Goh: pa is definitely supporting the pap, becoz its meaning gov body n the gov are the paps!
Tuesday at 11:28am · LikeUnlike · 3 people

Chazza Boags: liar liar pants on fire
Tuesday at 11:28am · LikeUnlike · 5 people

Shawn Goh: the more they explain the more unbelievable.
Tuesday at 11:29am · LikeUnlike · 6 people

Dylan Tang: If Seah said that PA does not belong to the PAP themselves, that is to say LKY is lying . Oh no ..
Tuesday at 11:30am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Eadric Ng: ‎@Dylan- 隔壁阿二未曾偷?
Tuesday at 11:31am · LikeUnlike

Nelson Chan: He mentioned those perks are not worth the time,effort to be in PA? He must be joking =)
Tuesday at 11:34am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Jayden Loh: I noticed that the word “partisan advantage” and “politicization of PA” is not mentioned in the article. I rest my case. 🙂
Tuesday at 11:42am · LikeUnlike

Pauline Sook Kuen Ho: It is not a matter of what one wears but the actions behind it. He is either too politically naive or politically blind.
Tuesday at 11:43am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

John Yap: Sear’s notes tried saying that PA and PAP are not associated and grassroots should whole heartedly serve the communit. I agree to the latter in principle but I find it strange enough he was in Bedok Stadium on polling night. Objectively, aren’t his note and his polling night actions contradicting one another?
Tuesday at 11:47am · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Low Soon Peng: As white as night. 😛
Tuesday at 11:49am · LikeUnlike

Grace Lim: Sear Hock Rong? Srsly?
Tuesday at 11:49am · LikeUnlike

Shaun Maximusp: Hmmm but didn’t WKS once said the following: “The People’s Association is a government organisation to promote government policies.” – Wong Kan Seng, Straits Times, 22 Mar 2003
Tuesday at 11:50am · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Eadric Ng: PA and PAP are not associated…but that doesn’t mean the grassroots leaders/members can’t support PAP wholeheartedly.
Whose fault is it if the GRL/members use their position to por/tripod the PAP MPs/advisors?? The PA or the leaders/members themselves?
Tuesday at 11:50am · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Rokiah Iz: ‎@Sear Hock Rong…so wayang!!!…u learnt well fr the PAP…:(
Tuesday at 11:52am · LikeUnlike

Shawn Goh: those working in pa are civil servants, if they dun support the paps, u think they be able to hang on to their jobs? Remember the gal who lost her town council job after she attended nsp rally? Stop kidding us, sear!
Tuesday at 11:54am · LikeUnlike ·2 people like this.

Teo Ching Soon: well… we can look at the situation at a bigger picture. transport system (MRT, Bus Stop etc) are been build to justify the effort of the PAP MPs. likewise. same for the admission of the primary 1 etc. we can bring the facts and put it on the table and at the end of the day, some die-hard supporter (u know who lah) will still insist that they are neutral.
Tuesday at 11:56am · LikeUnlike

Mei Yin Ng: I do not agreed with Sear Hock Rong’s statement: “Singaporeans don’t just listen to one side of the story and be misled to think that all PA grassroots leaders are from the PAP and they join the PA for job opportunities/free parking/priority for Primary One registration.”
I know of some pple who joined PA GRO only bec of priority for Primary One registration & biz advantages.
Tuesday at 12:03pm · LikeUnlike 7 people

Vernon Voon Thian Lye: There is nothing stopping opposition supporters from applying to join the RC. I did at my RC and openly identified myself as a WP member. They still appointed me as an observer. Maybe by doing this we shall take the RC at their word and turn it non-partisan. Object to all partisan activities they are doing.
Tuesday at 12:06pm · LikeUnlike 3 people

Ramaraj Rau Peru: Has he ever heard of this term called… Conflict of Interest.
His actions and statement shows us a nice example of the above term. Lets Thank him for letting us know it clearly.
Tuesday at 12:07pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Sg Capri: Has the PA ever invited elected opposition MPs to their events and functions as guests-of-honour?
Tuesday at 12:07pm · LikeUnlike 9 people

Mei Yin Ng: Why during election rally @ Mountbatten, pple wearing NSP T shirts were not allowed to use the PA CC toilet by the PA staff. Why some of the PA volunteers & members were ‘coerced’ to attend the PAP election rallies & went to these rallies in coaches after coaches. Ai ya … so many instances, too lazy to lay all out.
Tuesday at 12:13pm · LikeUnlike · 9 people

Chua Xi Lei: This is probably the joke of the day! Trying to deny an open secret that we all know?? Thanks for treating us like idiots!
Tuesday at 12:15pm · LikeUnlike

Jimmy Lee: Mr Sear seems to be earnest in the article. And say we forgive the fact that he was at Bedok Stadium despite being non-partisan. Going forward I think Mr Sear and his colleagues can do much to change the perception of partisanship by actively reaching out to the WP MPs, even appointing them as grassroots Advisers.
Tuesday at 12:21pm · LikeUnlike 6 people

Jen Lfb: ‎”misled by untruths” what rich irony. The people have been misled by so called painted “hard truths” for so many years by MIW and their supporters. The whole set up in the PA and grassroots is designed to promote the white party , their mi…nisters and party members who often front the events and act as media spokesperson and thus gain the publicity. Mr Seah mayfeel he is non-partisan well and good. But it is the entire system that is under scrutiny not one or two neutral grassroots activists.See More
Tuesday at 12:23pm · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Winson Lem: 林恩偉 Independent? What is the .gov doing in the PA web address? Go figure.
Tuesday at 12:50pm · LikeUnlike · 3 people

Weilun Hong: Sear to get his Public Service Medal very soon? Yeah!!!!
Tuesday at 12:53pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Keith Tan: trying to troll Sear now.. will post updates
Tuesday at 12:57pm · LikeUnlike

Harvey Neo: A disingenuous article of epic proportion.
Tuesday at 12:58pm · LikeUnlike

Bernard Tan: He forgot to write that he is a ypap member.
Tuesday at 1:07pm · LikeUnlike · 5 people

Rendall Koh: Liar
Tuesday at 1:13pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Kevin Lee: ‎’These privileges combined are not enough to make up for the time, effort and sometimes, money PA grassroots leaders have spent to give back to the society. We have sacrificed our family and friends for the community. For these privileges,… how many Singaporeans are willing to come forward and serve?’Is he complaining that perks given are not enough? Or is he hinting that rumour of perks given to grassroot leaders is true?
Tuesday at 1:13pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Harvey Neo: In another controversy a few months earlier, netizens had accused YP member Sear Hock Rong, 24, of a conflict of interest, as some of the grassroots organisations with which he volunteers were also clients of his company.

After receiving com…plaints, the People’s Association investigated and said it had found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Tellingly, both these spats originated on the YP Network that will be closed.

March 18 2010, ST.See More
Tuesday at 1:17pm · LikeUnlike

Harvey Neo: I think Mr Sear should not be the person writing about non-partisan status of grassroots organizations when he is a Young PAP member himself. Let others in the grassroots who are non-politically affiliated to write that article.
Tuesday at 1:19pm · LikeUnlike 5 people

Mark K Chee: As a prominent and active YPAP member, Sear Hock Rong’s criticism against non-PAP party will have to be heavily discounted. If he really believes PA has no links with PAP, he’s trying too hard to kid the people around him. Stop behaving like PAP in treating everyone else as idiots!
Tuesday at 1:26pm · LikeUnlike

Richard Tan: Mr Sear, go and find a unlock water tank to jump in … You are in deep shit !!! Some just came out of your mouth ..
Tuesday at 1:31pm · LikeUnlike

Black Templars: They (delegates from China) discover that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has only a small office in Bedok. But everywhere they go, they see the PAP – in the RCs (residents’ committees), CCCs (citizens’ consultative committees), and the CCs (community clubs).” – Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, The Straits Times 30 December 2009
Tuesday at 1:55pm · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Ramaraj Rau Peru: ‎@Richard, not another please. we need to drink the water.
Tuesday at 1:58pm · LikeUnlike

Thomas Lim: ‎25 years only want to kpkb! He must have been blind for his entire 25 years in Eunos!
Tuesday at 2:52pm · LikeUnlike

Azlan D SpYware: Who u trying to kid?
Tuesday at 3:16pm · LikeUnlike

Steven Tan: If u r genuine abt wanting to give back to society and volunteer your time , why u still expect people to wave hello and say thanks to you ?? Doubt most will stay on if without those previlages …
Tuesday at 4:56pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Dzulemryl Bachok: Bah! Humbug. Times like these i’m glad to have sites like TOC cause stuff like these would get printed in MSM and people wont know the more complete picture.
Tuesday at 7:31pm · LikeUnlike

Oh Boshun: it seems to me that he is more interested in mud-slinging than defending the neutrality of the PA. if he were truly neutral, he wouldnt have written this note to slam the workers’ party? surely a chairman of a YEC would have a higher EQ than this?
Tuesday at 7:43pm · LikeUnlike

Oh Boshun: anyway, let him say what he want to say! he want to kaopeikaobu also can! the real volunteers who truly have a heart to serve SINGAPOREANS (not the pap) wouldnt be engaging in silly flame wars or mud-slinging. we serve with passion, not PAPssion!
Tuesday at 7:59pm · LikeUnlike

Sebastian Mugger Tan: I suppose it’s just a coincidence that sooo many PAP people are GRL then. TOC’s quote line seems to be the most interesting part of the note.
Tuesday at 9:33pm · LikeUnlike

Robin Ho: What a load of bullshit…
Tuesday at 10:15pm · LikeUnlike

Ser Yunn: LHL is chairman of PA full-stop


from The Temasek Review’s Facebook page to the question “Sear Hock Rong is a YPAP leader of Eunos grassroots organizations. Do you believe him?”

Long Zijing: no.
Wednesday at 8:47am · LikeUnlike 1 person

Ian Jerico Lim: He look like a troll to me
Wednesday at 8:47am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Ivy Carcass Lim: He is a durian trying to convince Singaporeans that he is a sweet little lychee.
Wednesday at 8:48am · LikeUnlike · 8 people

Cradius Yuyuan: ‎3 words. Wait long long
Wednesday at 8:49am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Tee Ian Pang: PUI!
Wednesday at 8:51am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Arron Teo: Ohhhh really…
Wednesday at 8:55am · LikeUnlike

Ello Sponge: BULL lah
Wednesday at 8:57am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Angie Lim: Anyone connected to YPAP or NTUC – pls do not trust them at all!!!
Wednesday at 8:58am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Rayvest Toh: Serve the people of Singapore … then why thumbs up in front of Malaysia Flag ???
Wednesday at 8:58am · LikeUnlike · 4 peopleLoading…

Ello Sponge: EUNOS srsly needs upgrading
Wednesday at 8:58am · LikeUnlike

Kenny Chan: Nope. Not born yesterday.
Wednesday at 8:59am · LikeUnlike

Beyond Natural: Ha ha ha! *Sarcasm*
Wednesday at 9:01am · LikeUnlike

Joel Ng: Yes i believe he’s saying truth. 1% PA support opps perhaps.. this typical tactic of ensuring political correctness by having all signs of neutrality: logo etc
Wednesday at 9:02am · LikeUnlike

招福: just curious .. in the picture .. how come flying malaysia’s flag not singapore’s ?? ???
Wednesday at 9:03am · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading…

Michael Learns To Rot: just like a robber saying that he rob because he wants to help the singaporean…
Wednesday at 9:03am · LikeUnlike 2 people

Wee Keong Lee: lanjiao understand!??? _|_
Wednesday at 9:03am · LikeUnlike

Joel Ng: But their actions will speak otherwise.. CC/RC dun allow orange shirts to use their toilet etc during rally r just minor examples..
Wednesday at 9:04am · LikeUnlike · 5 people

Grace Yeo: all my life in singapore i have never benefitted from any RC or grassroot activities, EVER, neither have i seen the MP, not even during GE. Who else have similar experiences?
Wednesday at 9:05am · LikeUnlike · 16 people

Arnold Goh: It is hard for others to believe him and for him to be non-partisan. This is due to the fact that he belongs to one particular group. If he were to be completely unbiased, whether consciously or unconsciously, people would question his alle…giance and faith to his group, especially if he’s from PAP and the group has already built up so much bad rapport with the people. Usually people have a tendency to be ‘pro-employer’ i.e like if you work for Gardenia bread, you may say Sunshine bread not as nice.

Having said that however, I believe every organization has a few black sheeps, or in this case black shirts (pardon the lameness). While it’s not always a bad thing, they may actually be the deviant ones from what the general organizational culture is. I guess we have to admit that there were one or two good ex-PAPpies; i.e Dr Lily Neo. (Can’t think of any others liao.. LOL).

But then again, actions speak louder than words. Let’s see how much he does in this 5 years and we shall judge from there. I’m sure we people are smart enough, and have the mental capability to exercise criticial analysis on whether a person is wayanging and/or sincere in his actions. Or I might be wrong… Oh wells, just saying :PSee More
Wednesday at 9:06am · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Jason Lee He: I dunno but I have YPAP fren serving the people under Dr Lily Neo and they are really serving.
Wednesday at 9:07am · LikeUnlike 1 person

Jordan Lim: Its a known fact that PA was created by PA*beep*. So, not serving its creator, is simply not funny.
Wednesday at 9:15am · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading…

Samuel Joel Cheng: This is a picture of his holidays/vacation pictures in msia, that explains the msia flag, and the thumbs up to enjoying his time there. Those that questioned the flag, should have ur ans. 🙂
Wednesday at 9:15am · LikeUnlike

Mahfuz Wan Abdullah: How come during the election all hands of the Ccc, rc, are busy hanging PAPposters while I don’t see them helping to put up WP posters.
Wednesday at 9:21am · LikeUnlike · 10 people

招福: ‎@samuel looks like this is the only picture he has … he should take more picture .. take some infornt of our country’s flag and be PROUD of it (:
Wednesday at 9:21am · LikeUnlike

Alvin Poon: Still remember the SMS sent to the PAP volunteers and grassroot leaders, on giving any on-goings from the opposition parties, pre- GE 11? Just wonder if he’s one of them sending the SMS…
Wednesday at 9:24am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Colin Tay: Maybe he is saying this after he had repented.. ;p
Wednesday at 9:32am · LikeUnlike
Ira Khai
Quote from his facebook Page regarding this article, this guy wrote :-

“Mr Pritam Singh wants to make WP’s Aljunied Constituency Committee neutral. Have you seen their committee line-up?

Mr Low Thia Khiang is Chairman. Ms Sylvia Lim is Co-Cha…irman. Their key office bearers and members are all WP members. Their Aljunied Constituency Committee logo carries the Hammer logo. They sell their one-day tour tickets at the Meet-the-People Session. All these make a huge conflict of interest.”

Now, Do we see other constituency commitee controlled by PAP have oppo members in it? I dont think so.. So what did he expect? Pap members or grassroots to be in Aljunied committee?

On selling tickets during MPS, i think its alright since WP need to set up funds on their own, unlike PA who has a BIG FUND to dip their hands into. HUge conflict of interest?? I think PA grassroots/pap/town council has a more conflict of interest than that.

Lets face it PAP has been politicising PA grassroots for YEARS, directly or indirectly, is just whether the people are aware of it. Im aware, are you?

Who is this guy trying to kid with what hes trying to say here?

While some grassroots ppl join to really serve the community, some join have their own agenda, for the perks, to carry balls – khai
Wednesday at 9:33am · LikeUnlike · 9 people

Mohammad Nizam TransformingPap: Yes I believe him, and I also believe in UFOs and Aliens, and life on the Sun.
Wednesday at 9:37am · LikeUnlike · 8 people

Phia Moquuy: he more he trying to explian,he more untrue face is hiding behind him.
Wednesday at 9:37am · LikeUnlike · 2 peopleLoading…

Din Beramboi: bovine excrement
Wednesday at 9:38am · LikeUnlike

Sha Ika: Bullcrap. Hock Rong go fly a damned kite.
Wednesday at 9:38am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Royal Tay: His a nice guy people… Im anti pap and his pro pap but seriously he will help anyone who needs help
Wednesday at 9:40am · LikeUnlike

Ito Hiro มูน: haha. no.
Wednesday at 9:41am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Soh Kwong Hwee: Wait till Halley’s Comet comes again….maybe will believe…..
Wednesday at 9:41am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Royal Tay: But his still my friend
Wednesday at 9:41am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Fishy Cat: even PA staff told me privately that they are there to help organize the so-called “grassroots” to serve PAP’s interest. the problem is everyone in singapore knows it, LOL. Seah Hock Rong is either a brainwashed daft or a “three-legs” scumbag.
Wednesday at 9:44am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Terence Lim: As long as u are given a choice to choose, I doubt you have made a choice based on neutrality.
Wednesday at 9:56am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Alvin Ann: if WP MP are appointed as Advisor instead of from the losing PAP… i may bit of believe what he says.
Wednesday at 10:14am · LikeUnlike

Yan Hou: Talk cock la! Still tell people to wave at them! If you have genuinely served and ppl have felt it and benefitted from it, u don have to ppl to wave to you, they will do it automatically out of respect for what u have done.
Wednesday at 10:15am · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Samy Rajoo: hsa ha ha ha ha ha ha omg rofl 🙂
Wednesday at 10:21am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Leon Yap: Yes…0.1% of me believe you while the 99.9% of me don’t.
Wednesday at 10:23am · LikeUnlike

Jeric Tan: Full of crap from him..
Wednesday at 10:27am · LikeUnlike 1 person

Jamaluddin Majid: Mmmmmmm…..nope…nxt!!!
Wednesday at 10:40am · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading…
明天: ‎_l_
Wednesday at 10:43am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Bhakt Yap: Cheap publicity. Period.
Wednesday at 10:43am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Ronald Lim: Sear, you article had reveal your hidden agenda, to explain your passion to serve the citizen, you do not require to mention a single word about how Worker Party works. It turn me off once i read about the hammer logo thingy in your article, you are just trying to smear the Worker Party. You are not serving PAP? Then you are serving TNP or SPH.
Wednesday at 10:44am · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Meiling Lim: A volunteer must know which group he stands for. If he chooses yPAP, he must stand by yPAP objectives.
Wednesday at 10:44am · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Wynn Ng: Ya volunteer!! Who believe! I have a frd who is a grassroot member gg to get flat soon then the MP asked which area, which floor he want, he will help him write letter to hdb for that particular unit. Volunteer??? My foot!!
Wednesday at 10:44am · LikeUnlike · 3 people

Neo Thiam Leng: Another joker after MG CCS.
Wednesday at 10:47am · LikeUnlike

House Sparrow: I feel like little red riding hood.
Wednesday at 10:48am · LikeUnlike

Russell Teo: What is wrong with having party logo on CC and T-shirt and have e same party colour on r shirt?

Do u all really think PA will really serve Aljunied after their master lost?

Look at PP for last 29yrs and Hougang for last 20yrs.

There is not a single PA activity unless there is election
Wednesday at 10:49am · LikeUnlike · 3 people

Brian Tan: If you are really into community work, you can join organisations like NKF or Cancer Society, you can even advertise in the papers for free tuition. Why grassroots?? You want to save on season parking is it ?
Wednesday at 10:52am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Meiling Lim: You have to ask, whether a PAP volunteer equates to PAP supporter. Why do they want to serve PAP and not other volunteer groups? Why Sear Hock Rong chooses to be a non-partisan, but join yPAP? He needs to make a public clarification. There …is a conflict of interest here in what he does and represents. This is not what I know when I attended the recruitment drive at yPAP. Is there a political climate change within PAP?See More
Wednesday at 10:55am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Ronald Lim: ‎@ Russell Teo, yes you are right. Why aren’t they continue serving when Worker Party is their “boss”, When one are sincere in serving the PEOPLE, it does matter who the “boss” is or which “boss” can rewards them most.
Wednesday at 10:57am · LikeUnlike · 3 people

Bujang Teruna: ‎’We do not serve the PAP nor WP. We are volunteers who serve the people of Singapore…LIKE REAL ONLY….
Wednesday at 10:59am · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Meiling Lim: ‎@James Rodimus Prime, as we are non-partisan, I guess it is time we talk to PA grassroot leaders and recruit them under our arm. I believe there are indeed many non-partisans in there. I also believe what the article wrote is true. I guess we have to visit each PA site and do some checking. This can be our next task.
Wednesday at 11:09am · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading…

Royal Tay: trust me , he really serves the people, not the political bodies..
Wednesday at 11:10am · LikeUnlike

Wednesday at 11:11am · LikeUnlike

Royal Tay: ‎=) yeah
Wednesday at 11:12am · LikeUnlike

Royal Tay: our common enemy should be the FTs not our own people though
Wednesday at 11:12am · LikeUnlike 1 person

Leon Yap: ‎@Royal: What are you talking about? The real mastermind are the ones who let so many of the FTs in & those who serve their masters. Sadly, Mr Sear is one of their minions.
Wednesday at 11:32am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Zhao Sheng Xue: For someone who dun even dare to be open on their facebook profile, this “netrual” grassroots leader really has a lot to comment on.
Wednesday at 11:37am · LikeUnlike 1 person

Titus Leong: JIAO WEI
Wednesday at 11:39am · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Phia Moquuy: next time you see him,just point your middle finger at him
Wednesday at 12:06pm · LikeUnlike · 2 people

Pan Roger: Serving his own self interest,dun wan to trust tis guy.
Wednesday at 12:10pm · LikeUnlike · 2 people

John Loo: If the PA grassroots are truly impartial, then why does WP need to set up it’s own alternative grassroots. Now aljunid Grc has got two teams – 1. PA funded by govt and 2. WP volunteers funded by itself.
Wednesday at 12:11pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Vin Vincent: When doing the obvious but saying the opposite.
Ur words r doubtful.
Wednesday at 12:14pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

John Loo: Government funded PA not working with elected MPs to serve the people? Instead they appoint their own advisors who are PAP members. Shouldn’t they respect the people’s choice and work with leaders who has the people’s mandate.
Wednesday at 12:17pm · LikeUnlike · 4 people

HuiChuan Zhang: This guy dreaming or whar? Old man already said PA is PAP liao….
Wednesday at 12:19pm · LikeUnlike · 4 people

Wilson Tay: Wow “join the PA for job opportunities/free parking/priority for Primary One registration.” how to sign up ah?
Wednesday at 12:22pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

John Stuart Mill: Then why join YPAP and not other social groups?
Wednesday at 12:27pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Kenny Sg: if u are out to be a volunteer why must go around n ask people to wave n thanks the grassroot leader for serving the community?…typical PAP shit hock rong…lol
Wednesday at 12:54pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Erik Seeto: PA non partisan ? I guess their shit don’t smell either.
Wednesday at 1:41pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Larry Tan: Ooh Ngia Boh
Wednesday at 2:03pm · LikeUnlike ·1 person

Ng Poh Cheun: Fake. All Fakers. Young fart or old fart, all fakers!
Wednesday at 2:27pm · LikeUnlike

Derek Toh: Oh…………….. “YPAP”….. And you don’t support he MIW?
Wednesday at 2:32pm · LikeUnlike

Derek Toh
Wednesday at 2:35pm · LikeUnlike

Andrew Neo: Sear Hock Wrong
Wednesday at 2:47pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Akira Hideyo: They are all hardcore brown nosers. That ‘s how the “crooked” crumbles. 🙂
Wednesday at 2:58pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Ronald Lim: ‎@Phia Moquuy, Pointing Middle finger is an Universal Hand signal and had been overcome by the saying of ” there are actually four finger pointing at yourself”, give these guys your Ten finger pointing at him. ( can be further enhance by taking off your shoe and sock.)
Wednesday at 3:17pm · LikeUnlike

Faizal Maidin: He is just another PAP helper. Lee kuan yew has already admitted that all CDCs, CCCS, PAs and RCs are PAP.
Wednesday at 3:29pm · LikeUnlike

Muhammad Rahiz: Try this: Go to your constituency’s MPS. Introduce yourself as a supporter of an alternative party before bringing up your agenda and see how the MP or his/her assistants react.
Wednesday at 3:54pm · LikeUnlike

Royal Tay: We shud attack the master not the minions , without a brain , the minions will dissipate in due time
Wednesday at 4:53pm · LikeUnlike

Ong Weini Winnie: hopefully if wp becomes government in future, have to change the illogical laws. sometimes the volunteers or people working there can be nice but up up above it’s still controlled by pxx which is not supposed to be so. real losers, after losing the area they stop everything like upgrading etc tsk tsk tsk.
Wednesday at 8:40pm · LikeUnlike

Leon Dylen: ‎””…be misled to think that all PA grassroots leaders are from the PAP and they join the PA for job opportunities/free parking/priority for Primary One registration..”
Wednesday at 8:58pm · LikeUnlike

Leon Dylen: dont be misled indeed bcos there are much more benefits, such as priority in selecting hdb flats. go to the top of your flat (if u live in one), the top floor units usually belongs to…. guess?
Wednesday at 9:00pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Ng Poh Cheun: That Sear Idiot is an arrogant bully. Now PAP lost in Aljunied GRC then he says this kind of thing. When he thought PAP was infallible and invincible, he actually challenged me to help the oppositions bring down PAP.
Wednesday at 9:14pm · LikeUnlike · 1 person

Loo See How Micheal: Sear Hock Rong.. wait long long wave for YPAP
Wednesday at 9:38pm · LikeUnlike

Elizabeth Lim: Is the chief of YPAP still that fella who owns nuffnang?
Wednesday at 10:20pm · LikeUnlike

Abner Koh: wow, Poh Chuen seems to hate the PAP a lot 🙂
Wednesday at 11:29pm · LikeUnlike

Ng Poh Cheun: ‎@Abner, you another Sear? Which of your eyes saw I hate PAP?
21 hours ago · LikeUnlike


The People’s Association (Amendment) Bill

Parliament No:8
Session No:2
Volume No:66
Sitting No:8
Sitting Date: 1996-10-10
MPs Speaking: Mr Wong Kan Seng (Minister for Home Affairs); Mr Cheo Chai Chen; Mr Chiam See Tong; Mr Low Thia Khiang; Mr Tan Soo Khoon (Mr Speaker);


Order for Second Reading read.

The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Wong Kan Seng): Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a Second time.”

This Bill seeks to amend the People’s Association (PA) Act to enlarge its objects and powers and to provide protection from personal liability to grassroots leaders and staff of the People’s Association.

Establishment of the Community Development Councils

Sir, as Singapore progresses economically, it must constantly be on guard against social stratification. We must take active measures to mitigate this should it happen. To preserve and maintain social harmony, there must be social cohesion between the successful and the less successful. The more able Singaporeans must have a sense of obligation to society and to help the less able. All Singaporeans, regardless of race and religion, have a responsibility to help foster community bonding.

Hence, the Government proposes to set up Community Development Councils (CDCs) to strengthen the social glue that holds our people together and foster community bonding. The CDCs will allow Singaporeans a greater say in the development and management of the social infrastructure within their community. The more successful Singaporeans, especially those who are not already serving in grassroots organisations, can be inducted to serve in the CDCs to care for and help the less successful. Through this process of self-help, more Singaporeans will be involved in a localised form of participative Government. We already have the Town Councils to look after the estate management. The CDCs will look after the social infrastructure.

The CDC will:

(a) have responsibility and funds to develop bonding among members of each local community; and

(b) induct the more successful Singaporeans, especially those not presently involved in grassroots organisations, to serve, care for and help the less successful.

A few CDCs will first be set up as a pilot scheme. Eventually, CDCs will be established to cover the whole country.

Objects and Powers of the PA

Sir, the Government proposes to establish the CDCs initially under the People’s Association Act. However, the existing objects and powers of the PA specified in section 9 of the PA Act are not wide enough to cover all the activities of the CDCs. The proposed amendments will enlarge the functions of the PA Act to cover the activities of the CDCs. When formed under the PA Act, the CDCs will become committees of the PA. Clause 2 of the Bill amends section 9(1) of this Act to provide for this.

In time, as more experience is gained, a new legislation could be introduced for the CDCs after they have been in operation for some years and when their role expands. That was also how Town Councils were developed. The Ang Mo Kio Town Council, for example, was established about two years before the Town Councils Act was enacted in 1988. As a “pilot” Town Council, the Ang Mo Kio Town Council was managing and maintaining the common properties of the HDB estates in Ang Mo Kio, delegated by the HDB.

Protection from Personal Liability

Sir, in view of the enlarged functions of the PA, there is also a need to protect its grassroots leaders and staff from being personally liable while acting under the direction of the PA or its committees. Protection from personal liability is a standard provision in the Acts of statutory boards, including the Town Councils Act. The PA Act does not have this provision. Hence, clause 3 provides a new section 9A to protect grassroots leaders and staff of the PA from personal liability when they act in good faith under the direction of the PA Board.

Sir, I beg to move.

Question proposed.

Mr Low Thia Khiang (Hougang)(In Mandarin): Mr Speaker, Sir, the People’s Association is formed with the objective of fostering community bonding and enhancing the social cohesiveness of the people. In order to achieve this objective, it must be done regardless of race, religious and political beliefs. However, nowadays, the community-based organisations under the People’s Association such as the CCCs and RCs have become grassroots organisations of the People’s Action Party.

In the past, when there were no opposition parties in Parliament, the elected Members of Parliament were automatically appointed advisors to the grassroots organisations in their respective constituencies. However, since the Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party, Mr Jeyaretnam, was returned to Parliament, the arrangement was changed. A PAP Member of Parliament of another constituency was appointed advisor to the grassroots organisations there, and a second advisor was appointed to supervise grassroots organisation in an opposition constituency. As we all know, the second advisor would eventually become the PAP candidate in the next general election. Now the second advisors can work the ground in the constituency and gain political capital. On the other hand, the Opposition MP who was elected by the people to represent them in Parliament cannot make use of the facilities and resources of the community-based organisations. He is, in fact, excluded from these community-based organisations. This once again shows that the PAP Government does not respect the decision of the people. Are community-based organisations under the People’s Association really formed for the purpose of enhancing the cohesiveness of the people? Or are they actually enhancing the cohesiveness of the PAP supporters?

In order to remedy this, we should also amend the People’s Association Act to give the following effect: that elected Members of Parliament of all the single constituencies and GRCs shall be consulted in all activities carried out by the People’s Association in the constituencies, and the elected Members of Parliament shall be appointed advisors to the grassroots organisations therein, in order to achieve the objectives of the People’s Association.

Mr Cheo Chai Chen (Nee Soon Central)(In Mandarin): Mr Speaker, Sir, the People’s Association (Amendment) Bill 1996 seeks to enhance the social cohesiveness of the people. In order to enhance social cohesiveness, the elected Member of Parliament should be allowed to participate in the grassroots organisations because he is the representative elected by the people. He has the support of the majority of the constituents. Logically, he should be automatically appointed advisor to the grassroots organisations in the constituency to lead and motivate the residents into participating in activities organised by these grassroots organisations. However, there is no such provision in this Amendment Bill. Accordingly, I propose that there should be a provision in the People’s Association Act that the elected Member of Parliament for the constituency should automatically become the advisor to the grassroots organisations therein.

Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir): Sir, there is a glaring discrimination against the Opposition MPs. All Opposition MPs are not appointed advisors to the grassroots organisations whereas all PAP Members of Parliament are automatically appointed advisors to grassroots organisations. The Board of the People’s Association in this respect is going against the wishes of the people. The constituents want their elected representatives to be their advisors in the grassroots organisations but the People’s Association thinks otherwise. In fact, the PA has elevated a defeated PAP candidate at the polls to a higher status than the elected Opposition MP at Potong Pasir. The defeated PAP candidate is given all the facilities to win back the seat. He has been given special facilities such as a room in the void deck to hold meetings and to hold his meet-the-people sessions. That room is fully air-conditioned and fully equipped with computers and other clerical aids. On the other hand, the elected Opposition MP has to work from a table that is placed in the open void deck, no different from a fortune teller plying his trade on a five-foot way.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Another Singapore’s first.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Such is the humiliation accorded to an elected Member of Parliament. But the people of Singapore are mature. They know what is going on and such shabby treatment of an Opposition MP shall be counter-productive.

I support Mr Low’s suggestion that the Act be amended to allow all elected Opposition MPs to be appointed as advisors to the grassroots organisations. It is not just right to appoint a defeated PAP candidate to be the advisor of grassroots organisations, such as in Potong Pasir, it is an incongruity which must be put right. At Potong Pasir, as an elected MP, in fact I have to make applications for CIPC funds to the Chairman of the CCC for which the defeated candidate is the advisor. How do you think the defeated candidate will advise the CCC? To give support to the Opposition’s application? Naturally not. My Town Council’s applications for CIPC funds have been rejected. I am not surprised at those rejections. How can one expect a defeated candidate, who is trying hard to unseat the incumbent Member of Parliament, to support that MP in his community projects for which he will gain credit, and to make his own chances of success to be elected more remote?

If the Opposition Member of Parliament is not made an advisor to the grassroots organisations, the Opposition constituency shall be deprived of CIPC funds and other benefits and it shall be put in a most disadvantageous position. So I call upon the Minister to amend the Act.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, it came as no surprise to me that the three Opposition MPs have raised the same point. I suppose they may have discussed among themselves. But this is not a new point. It is a question which has been raised on many occasions, ever since I was the Minister for Community Development. A question was raised by Mr Chiam about the role of grassroots organisations and the advisors and the role of the Opposition. And I have explained many times too that grassroots organisations and the PA serve the interest of the Government. The Government’s objective is to ensure that its programmes are carried out, its policies are understood, facilities are open to the public, and to make sure that they come in and enjoy the facilities and at the same time to take part in discussions and feedback and various other activities. So, from time to time, the grassroots organisations carry out all these Government policies.

I have also said in the past that I find it very difficult to believe that Opposition MPs will serve this role well, compared to the people that the Government will appoint. And, in this instance, we happen to appoint all our Members of Parliament to be the advisors of grassroots organisations and people whom we think can carry out Government policies to be their advisors. So, for the same reason now, I am telling the three Members here that we do not think that they can really perform the role that the Government envisages of the advisors of the grassroots organisations and therefore they will not be appointed as advisors.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Mr Speaker, Sir, clarification. The Minister has just mentioned that the grassroots organisations serve the PAP Government’s interest. That is what he has mentioned.

Some hon. Members: Serve the Government.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: So perhaps the grassroots organisations should be separated from the community organisations. The Amendment Bill says “the fostering of community bonding and strengthening of social cohesion amongst the people of Singapore”. If the grassroots organisation is going to be termed as a community organisation, and where a constituency is held by the Opposition, the people clearly voted for the Opposition, how do you propose to bond the people of Singapore? I would suggest that maybe it is more appropriate to say, “the fostering of community bonding and strengthening of social cohesion amongst the PAP supporters of Singapore.” What is the view of the Minister?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, I mentioned the Government’s programmes and policies. Of course, this is a PAP Government. There is no doubt about that. But Government’s interest is to look after every Singaporean’s interest. Therefore, social cohesion is one of the objectives and you must find the organisation that will serve this objective. There is nothing to stop the four Members of the Opposition from having their own committees to do the same thing. But as far as the organisations that the PA has, these are to serve the Government’s interest and the Government’s programmes.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Mr Speaker, Sir, is the Minister saying that if the Opposition were to form a committee, it would be recognised as a community-based committee and thereby accorded the same status and privilege as those committees under the PA?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, right now, the Opposition already have facilities to do that. They have access to town councils. They can do projects within the town councils. If you look at the Town Councils Act, it gives you enough leeway to do what you think is necessary for this purpose.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Mr Speaker, Sir, my question was whether if such committee is formed by the Opposition, it will be recognised and accorded the same privilege as these committees under the PA. And I wish to remind the Minister that the Town Councils Act is going to be amended today as well which would make it difficult.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, the People’s Association Act does not provide for such committees to be formed outside the Act, as required by the Member for Hougang. The PA Act has its own committees and organisations.

Mr Low Thia Khiang rose —

Mr Speaker: Mr Low, may I remind you that the debate has ended and I have allowed you to seek clarification. But I will not allow you to continue with the questioning.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Mr Speaker, Sir, a clarification

Mr Speaker: All right. One last clarification.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: I wish to clarify. How does the Minister propose to foster community bonding and promote community spirit when the Opposition is excluded from the community by the Act and by the actual appointment of advisor?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, what he is saying is that the Opposition Member of Parliament is excluded. But by excluding the Opposition Member of Parliament from the grassroots organisations does not mean that these grassroots organisations cannot perform the role of fostering community spirit and social cohesion. There are other leaders and people whom we can find to do the job, and they are much better than the Opposition.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Further clarification, Sir. Does the Minister say that the people who are doing the community work should be politically neutral to serve the interest of the community or are they supposed to serve the PAP Government?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, the Government does not question the political inclination of the grassroots leaders. It is up to them. In fact, they may support the PAP.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Sir, may I have a clarification from the Minister?, I suppose fostering of community bonding would mean the bonding of the different races – Malay, Chinese, Indians and others. And with regard to social cohesion, this would probably mean the cohesion of different class levels – working class and people who are not in the working class and of different professions. Can I have a clarification on this, please?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Fostering community spirit and social cohesion cover all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language or religion.

Mr Chiam See Tong: What does the Minister understand by these two phrases? Can I have a clarification? What is community bonding and what is strengthening of social cohesion?

Mr Speaker: Order. It appears to me that the hon. Members are questioning the Minister when in effect the debate has ended. I would like to remind the Members that in seeking clarification, they should actually confine themselves to seeking clarification as defined under the Standing Orders. But it appears to me that they are putting new questions to the Minister under the guise of seeking clarification.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Sir, I was going to follow up with another question.

Mr Speaker: Mr Chiam, you should have asked these questions during the course of your speech. That is the point that I am trying to make to you.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Can I ask the Minister then, how does he intend to have community bonding and strengthening of social cohesion when he keeps out a representative who represents 70% of the constituents? How are you going to achieve your ends?

Mr Speaker: I think these points have been raised by the Minister in the course of his speech. Mr Wong, do you still wish to reply?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: I think Mr Chiam did not understand my answer. I have already answered the question.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Sir, the Minister, by practice and the Act, is keeping out the elected representative of the constituency from grassroots activities and he represents 70% of the constituents. If 70% of the constituents are not represented in these grassroots organisations, how is he going to achieve this end of community bonding and social cohesion? That is my question.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, I thought I have answered all these questions. He did not quite understand it. Let me repeat it one more time. These community organisations and grassroots organisations serve everyone in the constituency. It does not need the Opposition MP to be the advisor.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Sir, the leader that he is talking about only represents 30% of the constituents. How is he going to achieve the objectives?

Mr Speaker: Order. Mr Chiam, I do not think you are seeking clarification. I think you are repeating yourself. I will put an end to the debate now.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Mr Speaker, Sir, I have a further clarification.

Mr Speaker: Yes.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Under clause 2(e), it says “the carrying out of such activities as appear to the Board to be advantageous towards, or necessary or convenient for, the furtherance of the objects …”. I would like the Minister to clarify what are “such activities” referred to in the Bill. Is an activity like pasar malam considered as an activity to further the Board’s objects?

Mr Speaker: Order. Mr Low, you are not seeking clarification on the point raised by the Minister in the course of his speech. You are in fact introducing new material into the debate. I will disallow that.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed to a Committee of the whole House.

The House immediately resolved itself into a Committee on the Bill. – [Mr Wong Kan Seng].

Bill considered in Committee.

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 –

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Sir, I have asked the question just now. What do “such activities” refer to under clause 2 of the Amendment Bill? Is an activity like pasar malam considered as an activity to further the objects of the People’s Association?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, there are many kinds of activities that we cannot anticipate. That is why this clause is worded this way, ie, to carry out such activities as they further the objects of the Act. If pasar malam happens to help foster community bonding and gets the grassroots leaders to work together with the residents and if it provides them with an opportunity to get together, it will fall under the ambit of this Amendment Bill.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: A further clarification, Sir. What would be the principle in considering activities which would deem to be fostering community bonding? Are there any criteria or standards to decide on such activities, or just any activity as you wish?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sir, for example, if an organisation wants to have a gambling pasar malam, a session for gambling, that definitely will not be the kind of activity that we envisage. But if an activity that helps to bring people together, provides them with a place to go to and brings the people together so that they know each other better, that will be within the spirit of this Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported without amendment, read a Third time and passed.


Written by singapore 2025

02/07/2011 at 5:29 am

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