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Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC): Waiting for the CCC

Facebook post 7 Sep 2016:

In the run-up to the Bukit Batok by-election, I posted a facebook note about the Neighbourhood Renewal Program (NRP). The PAP later confirmed that the NRP is “fund-neutral” and would be available to any Town Council, a subtle, but significant shift away from its earlier position that should it lose Bukit-Batok SMC, it would not be able to carry out NRP works for the affected precinct. Today is as good a day as any to talk about another source of “upgrading” funds for Town Councils – namely the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funding, one year to the date of an article published by the Straits Times last year. For the record, AHTC is still waiting for CIPC-funded works to begin.

Unlike the NRP, CIPC funding is anything but “fund-neutral”. In fact, my experience informs me that CIPC funds are used as a political tool to differentiate PAP town councils from opposition ones, not just physically through readily apparent town improvements, but to reflect better operating surpluses and/or minimise operating deficits for Town Councils in their financial statements too.

With generous CIPC injections, Town Councils are not restricted to to use their finite routine funds and surpluses for town improvement and upgrading. Instead, Town Councils can propose the use of CIPC funds to upgrade or replace older equipment including proposals to build new structures (such as linkways).

In short, CIPC funding is a treasure chest of public monies for Town Councils to tap on, subject to the enthusiasm and commitment levels of the various CCC Chairmen who oversee the ward hand in hand with the Grassroots Adviser (in the case of opposition wards, usually the losing PAP candidate) or MP of the ward.

Even so, the ultimate beneficiaries of CIPC funding have to be the residents of each constituency and town. To that end, AHTC has proposed to the People’s Association (under who the Grassroots Adviser and CCCs are organised) that for CIPC funding for FY16/17 available from MND, the Aljunied and Hougang CCC’s look to upgrading the playgrounds outside PAP Community Fund (PCF) kindergartens in the town in line with the Prime Minister’s call earlier this year for more “challenging” playgrounds in our HDB estates (see facebook post linked below). We hope the CCC Chairmen and Grassroots Advisers in Aljunied and Hougang work hard to deliver this – in AHTC, they will find a ready and supportive partner.

That Singapore is a democracy is exceedingly trite. But the substance of our democracy should evolve to deliver fund-neutral benefits for all our residents. As a PAP pioneer leader, Mr S. Rajaratnam once remarked, we should move to becoming a democracy of deeds, not words. It is time to put Singaporeans first, regardless who they vote for – with you, for you, for Singapore.

Useful Links

Parliament and the CIPC: see selected Hansard debates and questions below.

PM Lee on Playgrounds: https://www.facebook.com/leehsienloong/posts/1139832076079497

The Middle Ground: Now you see the CCC – http://themiddleground.sg/2015/07/28/now-you-see-the-ccc/

The Middle Ground: Thank you CCC (not your MP) – http://themiddleground.sg/2015/09/07/thank-ccc-not-mp/

The Straits Times: Budget 2015 – http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-budget-2015-maliki-wps-pritam-spar-over-upgrading-work-in-opposition-wards

Afternote:

Each year, the Ministry of National Development (MND) sets aside about $40m under its budget for all the use of the Citizen Consultative Committees (CCC) in Singapore for Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) upgrading purposes.

Each CCC in Singapore is formed on the basis of its political boundary – for e.g. in Aljunied GRC, there is the Eunos CCC, Paya Lebar CCC, Kaki Bukit CCC, Bedok Reservoir-Punggol CCC and Serangoon CCC. In the usual course of events, once projects are approved by the CCC, CIPC funds are then transferred the parent Town Councils to execute the upgrading works.

From 2009 to 2011 (prior to the 2011 elections), over the course of three years, the Government had pushed about $12m of CIPC monies to the then Aljunied Town Council under the PAP team for upgrading projects.

Over the course of a political term of five years, the Government can potentially extend up to about $200m of taxpayers monies to all the Town Councils under CIPC funding through the CCCs.

It has been suggested to me that the amount of CIPC funding extended for the 17 projects that were tendered out by the CCC sometime in May 2015 (as stated here: http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/singapolitics/ccc-rebuts-wp-claim-of-indifference-says-17-projects-being-implemented) amount to about $2m. If true, it would correspond that Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC were allocated about 1% of CIPC funding over a five year term. It would be useful to know how much taxpayer dollar was allocated to similarly sized constituencies over the course of FY2011-2016. Such questions, have been met largely been non-answers (see parliamentary remarks on CIPC issues below), arguably confirming the political nature of CIPC funding.

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PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS/ANSWERS AND REMARKS ON CIPC FUNDING

13 JULY 2015: DISBURSEMENT OF COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS COMMITTEE (CIPC) FUNDING TO TOWN COUNCILS

Mr Pritam Singh asked the Minister for National Development how much Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funding has been extended to each Town Council through their respective Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) from 7 May 2011.

Mr Khaw Boon Wan: The Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) provides funding support for improvement projects in HDB estates for the benefit of local residents. Such facilities include covered walkways, footpaths, cycling tracks and playgrounds.

CIPC funding is disbursed through the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs). CCCs are close to the ground and can help identify projects which will be most useful for the residents, and through that process, strengthen bonds within the community.

CIPC allocates its budget to the CCCs each year based on the number of HDB residential units of each Town. CCCs have the flexibility to allocate their notional budget and prioritise projects within their Towns based on local needs and which will be most useful for the residents.

Town Councils may approach their respective CCCs if they have any enquiries or proposals.

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11 MARCH 2015: HEAD T – MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY)

Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman: Let me address the issues raised on Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC). Mr Pritam Singh asked about CIPC. To set the issue in context, we must recognise that there is a difference between CIPC under the charge of Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs), and programmes like Home Improvement Programme (HIP) and Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) which are nominated by Town Councils (TCs). So, there is a difference….

In the case of the CIPC, Mr Singh would be aware that CIPC funds are disbursed through the CCCs, not the TCs. We have said this in this House many times before. It is therefore incorrect for Mr Singh to say that MND had previously given CIPC funding to the former Aljunied TC, but withdrew it from AHPETC. This is untrue. The funds were never disbursed through any TC. They were disbursed through the CCCs.

Just as we give TCs flexibility over proposals under the HIP and NRP, we give the CCCs flexibility to assess proposals under CIPC and to prioritise them for implementation. The CCCs are close to the ground and will be better able to decide on the projects which will be most useful for the local residents. CIPC is community oriented. Its key objective is to bond residents, working together with their community leaders, to improve the living environment. CCCs also have to raise the 10% co-payment for CIPC, and will have to be prudent in what they decide to do as they have the responsibility to raise the funds, thus the need to consult the residents and know what the residents want and whether the residents are prepared to support the CCCs in their fund raising efforts.

In the case of AHPE CCCs, I understand that it had earlier consulted residents on proposed CIPC projects in their HDB estates and received 90 project proposals. The number of projects residents proposed had busted the CIPC budget for the year and the CCCs needed therefore to prioritise these projects. Notwithstanding this, the CCCs reached out to AHPETC for its nominations; AHPETC proposed 52 projects.

This meant that there was a long list of proposals, 90 that the CCCs received from the residents, plus 52 with some overlaps between them. The CCCs, which comprised community volunteers, needed time to go through all these proposals. Eventually, the CCCs identified 17 projects which could be funded within the allocated budget: 6 were proposed by both the TC and CCCs that is the overlap; six were proposed by the TC and the remaining five were proposed by the CCCs. So AHPETC’s proposals actually accounted for 12 out of the 17 projects selected. And the CCCs have to raise funds for these AHPETC’s proposed projects. The CCCs would need a bit more time to implement the projects.

I do not know why Mr Singh would now turn around, blame the CCCs for tardiness, and unfairly paint them in such a negative light in the eyes of the public, when the CCCs took the time and trouble to seek, go through and as it is clear, gave significant consideration to the TC’s proposals and were prepared to support many of them. I think the grassroots and the local community leaders are fully prepared to work with the TC to serve residents better. But it takes two hands to clap.

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Madam, I refer to comments made by the Minister of State. According to the expenditure control document, about $40 million is allocated to MND for CIPC projects, these are national funds and every Town Council should be allocated these funds fairly.

Together, I reject the Minister of State’s call that my cut is a mischievous distortion of the facts. The allocation extended from MND to the CCC for CIPC resources are publicly available through the Government gazette. The facts are that for the previous Aljunied Town Council, about $12 million was allocated to the CCC through MND between FY2009 and FY2011. That is about $4 million a year. Nothing has been allocated to Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council since 2012.

The CCC can work much faster as shown by the previous Town Council management. The Minister of State has said that it takes two hands to clap, and he is right. He should be reminded that it was the Town Council that initiated contact with the CCC to seek CIPC funding to benefit residents. I have personally asked for information on the budget and timings of various nominations and when these should be put up to the CCC.

Now, having said that, it is quite clear that the system, the CIPC nominations system, can be improved in Opposition wards, and should be improved. Can I confirm with the Minister of State would be keen to pursue this, or at least to create a forum where CIPC nominations can be discussed more reasonably, and without any concern about some political interference or delay from one party to another because it does not benefit the residents.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman: Mdm Chairman, let me first start off with the issue of CIPC. Yes, it is Government funds, but I think Government decides on the nature of the programme based on different objectives. CIPC, as I mentioned in my reply earlier, is a community-oriented programme. It is community-oriented because we want to build community cohesion through an upgrading programme. Not all upgrading programmes are just purely upgrading.

CIPC is unique. We started CIPC with the intended objective of getting residents together, getting residents to come up and work with their community leaders – who amongst themselves are fellow residents – and bring about the cohesion in the community.

That is one of the reasons why we decided to allocate the funds through the CCC, and not to the TC. There is nothing wrong with the programme, and there is nothing wrong with that objective, because it goes back to the residents. The beneficiaries are the residents. It is a different objective from the other upgrading programmes, like the HIP or the NRP, the LUP and some of the other programmes. The original intent of CIPC must be seen in that context.

That is one of the reasons why community engagement is critical, and we continue to uphold this objective because we have seen it work. We have seen how community leaders engage residents, and how residents respond, and they also have to work towards their 10% co-payment component that has to be borne by the CCC.

The objective of the programme must be understood. It is not just about allocating funds to a TC, because CIPC funds have never been allocated to the TCs. It has always been allocated to the CCCs. The CCCs decide with the managing agent, and subsequently work or discuss with the Town Councils for maintenance of the project that has been completed.

I just want to clarify the objectives of the CIPC programme. It has worked and we will continue to uphold and continue to use this platform, because it is very important for us in building up our HDB estates. Community cohesion is important. Community bonding is important. Residents must want to own the projects that they require. And when we say “own the projects”, it means that they want to work with the community leaders to raise the funds that are required. There is some ownership; there is some issue of responsibility.

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10 MARCH 2014: HEAD T -MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY)

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): The Community Improvement Projects Committee Funding or CPIC funding is an important source of taxpayer funding to Town Councils to assist in the construction and upgrade of community facilities. The Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) is the entity within the CIPC framework which nominates projects to MND. While the CIPC Committee at MND has to ensure that taxpayers’ monies are prudently spent, in view of the finite amount available and different needs of each town, I would like to ask if there is a distinction made in the percentage of funds disbursed for upgrading existing facilities of Town Councils on the one hand and new projects on the other, for CIP nominations by the CCC. Would the Ministry consider the formation of an appeals forum under the CIPC framework where differences of opinion, if any, about an Opposition Town Council which manages and maintains the community facilities, and the CCC’s nominations can be ironed out?

The Senior Minister of State for National Development (Mr Lee Yi Shyan): Sixth, we are actively involving residents and grassroots organisations in shaping their living environments because it is only with the people’s involvement that towns become stronger, cohesive communities. We have been doing so through the Community Improvement Project Committee (CIPC) and more recently through new initiatives like the “Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living”. The Cool Ideas initiative aims to gather ideas from members of the public to improve the HDB living environment. We will be holding the Cool Ideas Exhibition 2014 later this month. I invite all Members and their residents to participate.

To encourage ground-up proposals for precinct improvements, CIPC was conceived to co-fund grassroots organisations to carry out their community improvement projects. Mr Pritam Singh asked if there can be a better way to nominate CIPC projects with the CCCs. I believe all CCCs consult widely to derive CIPC project proposals and they would be happy to take in Mr Pritam Singh’s suggestions.

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8 JULY 2013: GUIDELINES FOR UTILISATION OF COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS COMMITTEE FUNDING

Pritam Singh asked the Minister for National Development whether the guidelines for the utilisation of the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CPIC) funding will be made available in the public domain and furnished to all Town Councils.

Mr Khaw Boon Wan: The Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) provides funding support for infrastructural and recreational facilities, including general amenities for the benefit of residents in the whole constituency. Such facilities include covered walkways, footpaths, cycling tracks and playgrounds.

CIPC funds are disbursed through the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) as they are close to the ground and will be better able to decide on the projects which will be most useful for the local residents. We give the CCCs flexibility to assess the relevance of any proposal and to prioritise them for implementation so that the CIPC funds are optimally utilised. The operating principle for the CCCs is to ensure that the approved CIPC projects are useful, functional, represent value for money, freely accessible to the community and properly planned.

Town Councils may approach their respective CCCs if they have other queries.

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7 FEB 2013: INSTALLATION OF LIGHTINGS AT WALKWAY BRIDGE ACROSS KALLANG RIVER CONNECTING ST ANDREW’S VILLAGE AND POTONG PASIR

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin asked the Minister for National Development whether he will consider installing lightings at the walkway bridge across the Kallang River that connects St Andrews Village and Potong Pasir HDB flats.

Mr Khaw Boon Wan: The footbridge is maintained by the LTA on behalf of the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC). If the Potong Pasir Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) wishes to install lightings on the footbridge, it may tap on the CIPC budget allocated to it. The CCC may appoint the LTA as its implementing agent.

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27 MAY 2009: PRESIDENT’S ADDRESSDebate on the Address: (Third Allotted Day)

Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir): In his speech, the President said, amongst other things, “we must have social cohesion”.  Social cohesion is about arousing the emotions of people to feel a sense of togetherness, unity and closeness, but Government policies do not reflect this, especially in regard to Opposition MPs.  We practise one country, two-system policy in regard to CIPC funding for community works and no proper amenities to all the MPs although they are legitimately elected.

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12 FEB 2009: HEAD W – MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY)

The Senior Minister of State for Transport (Mrs Lim Hwee Hua): Town Councils can make use of their CIPC funds to further improve the connectivity within their estates if they choose to.

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28 FEB 2008: HEAD T – MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY)

Mr Ang Mong Seng (In Mandarin): Sir, the Community Improvement Projects Committee, or CIPC, fund is established by the Ministry of National Development for the purpose of improving and enhancing the public facilities to enable HDB residents to enjoy better basic facilities and, at the same time, enhance the cohesiveness among the residents, the so-called kampung spirit.

At the moment, the CIPC fund caters only for HDB residents but not the residents of the private estates.  I would like to ask the Minister whether MND would consider allowing the residents of the private estates to enjoy these benefits too.  If that can be done, I would like to know how much can each unit of the private estates be given and for what improvements can this fund be used.

Can the CIPC fund cover the full costs of such improvement items?  I understand the CIPC fund has to be applied for and executed by the CCC of each constituency, and if there is any shortfall, the CCC would have to bear the remaining cost.  The CCC is a grassroots organisation, a non-profit organisation, with limited capital.  I hope that the Minister would grant higher disbursement for these improvement projects.  I suggest that CIPC pay up to 95% or even 100% of the cost, so that the CCC can execute this job more effectively.

The Minister of State for National Development (Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien): To allow for smaller scale upgrading works to complement the EUP, Mr Ang Mong Seng may be happy to know that the Government will be introducing the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) scheme for private estates.  The scheme is similar in concept to the CIPC scheme for public housing estates, but will be adapted to suit the needs of private estates.  It will allow minor improvement works to be carried out on a timely basis.  The scheme will be rolled out in FY2008, and more details on this will be made available later.

Beyond EUP and CIPC, the public infrastructural needs of private estates are also met by the regular upgrading and maintenance work undertaken by various Government agencies on an ongoing basis.

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3 March 2007: MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY)

Mr Siew Kum Hong: Madam, the Government recently announced that it will make available $32 million over five years to implement barrier-free access in housing estates.  These funds will be disbursed through the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC). Based on media reports, Town Councils will be required to co-pay 5% of the cost of projects using these funds.

The use of the CIPC, coupled with the requirement for co-payment by Town Councils, effectively excludes the Opposition wards of Hougang and Potong Pasir from access to these funds.  CIPCfunds are channelled through the Citizens’ Consultative Committees, but the advisers to the CCCs in those two wards are from the PAP and are not the elected MPs, which is the case in the PAP Government wards.

So I think that is very unlikely that the CCCs and Town Councils in Hougang and Potong Pasir will be able to come to an agreement on how to use such funds. This penalises the disabled and elderly folks in those estates.  If we are serious about making society more friendly to the disabled and the elderly, then this method of disbursing the funds is unhelpful and unfair.  In fact, it directly contradicts the vision of an inclusive society for Singapore, knowing that the use of the CIPC will almost inevitably exclude Hougang and Potong Pasir from access to these funds.

Madam, these funds are for barrier-free access.  In an ageing society, that is increasingly a must-have and not a good-to-have, like upgrading.  They should not be subject to political considerations such as whether the ward in question is an Opposition ward. I would suggest that a better way to distribute these funds is to make direct grants to the Town Councils for their use. After all, the Town Councils would know the best ways in which to apply these funds and what are the most pressing areas of need for barrier-free access.  This would truly further our vision of an inclusive society.

Madam, these funds are for barrier-free access.  In an ageing society, that is increasingly a must-have and not a good-to-have, like upgrading.  They should not be subject to political considerations such as whether the ward in question is an Opposition ward. I would suggest that a better way to distribute these funds is to make direct grants to the Town Councils for their use. After all, the Town Councils would know the best ways in which to apply these funds and what are the most pressing areas of need for barrier-free access.  This would truly further our vision of an inclusive society.

The Minister for National Development (Mr Mah Bow Tan)Let me now talk about barrier-free accessibility which Mr Siew Kum Hong mentioned.  It is an important part of our programme to help the elderly to age in place to make sure that the environment is barrier free and more elderly friendly.  My MOS has already updated Members about the progress of the LUP which is also part of the barrier-free accessibility programme, and we are also supporting the Town Councils.  We will extend the barrier-free accessibility to all HDB precincts by 2011.

How do we fund it?  We have a CIPC fund.  The CIPC fund is meant to help or improve projects within the community.  So we decided that we will expand the CIPC fund to also fund the construction of the barrier-free accessibility (BFA) items such as ramps, railings and so on.  All Town Councils will be invited to draw up their BFA masterplans for their estates and apply for access to the CIPC fund.  I just want to make it very clear at this point that we are not excluding any Town Council from applying for these funds.  Everybody is welcome to apply for the funds and, in fact, we have written to every Town Council, including to Mr Low Thia Khiang, to apply for the CIPC funds in order to implement BFA.  So I do not think there should be any problem in so doing.  This is not subject to political consideration, it is just commonsense.  Here you have a CIPC fund and you are using it to improve the neighbourhood and the precincts and there we have a need to improve barrier-free accessibility.  Why do we not put the two together?  So that is the reason why we have expanded CIPC to allow for BFA and the simple procedure is to apply for it through the CCC.  Why the CCC?  Because they are the ones who are most familiar with the neighbourhood.  If all Town Councils do this, follow the procedure, draft their BFA masterplans and apply for access to the CIPC funds, I am sure that by our target date of 2011, all Town Councils will be redeveloped and all the BFA facilities will be put in place.

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3 MARCH 2006: HEAD T – MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY) 

Mr Chiam See Tong:  The Opposition MPs are completely deprived of CIPC funds while the PAP MPs get the full quota of those funds.  The injustice and unfairness is glaring.  I hope that the new leadership shall make a genuine effort to rectify the incongruent situation and give Opposition MPs their share ofCIPC funds.  There should not be any discrimination against any Singaporean who supports the Opposition.  They pay their taxes, observe the law and do their required time for National Service and why should they be treated so shabbily?  Also, the Government boasts that no Singaporean shall be left behind and it wants to build an inclusive society.  Those are high-sounding aims but we do not see them in reality.  The Opposition in Singapore is always left behind and is not included in such benefits like theCIPC funds.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for National Development (Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman): Finally, Mr Chiam asked again and pleaded that the Government not be discriminatory against Opposition MPs with regard to CIPC funds.  Let me just reiterate again that the objective ofCIPC funding is to improve the infrastructure, recreational facilities and general amenities of the whole constituency.  The budget is limited and is allocated to the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) based on the merits of the projects that they proposed.  This is because the CCCs interact closely with residents and are, therefore, in a good position to assess the needs of their residents.  In response to Mr Chiam’s point that we are being unfair to the Opposition MPs because we give PAP MPs CIPC funds, we do not give PAP MPs CIPC funds.  CIPC funds are give to the CCCs to operate the proposed projects for improvements in the constituencies.  These projects are then presented to the CIPC Committee which will then evaluate the proposals.  Town Councils are responsible for the management and maintenance of the common areas in HDB estates.  So if Town Councils wish to put up their improvement projects in their estates they can do so using their Town Council fund.

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1 MARCH 2005: ANNUAL BUDGET STATEMENT

Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir): Sir,  the Prime Minister speaks of building an inclusive society where nobody is left out.  Yet, in reality, the Opposition wards continue to be discriminated against.  In the last 15 years, millions of dollars of CIPC funds have been disbursed to all the PAP-controlled constituencies, yet not one cent of those CIPC funds has been handed to the Opposition wards.  Residents of Opposition wards are also Singapore citizens.   They do pay their taxes, they pay their fines probably, they do their stint of National Service, they obey the law and do whatever other citizens are required to do under the law.  Yet, they do not benefit from the CIPC funds.

I say that it is only right that all Singaporeans should be treated equally.  On my part as MP for Potong Pasir, I have applied for such funds many times.  Till today, I have not received any of such funds to benefit my constituency.  I urge the Prime Minister and his team to look into the matter of CIPC funds and make provisions for CIPC funds to be disbursed to Opposition wards, as all previous applications for support made to the PAP grassroots were futile.

Dr Wang Kai Yuen (Bukit Timah): Mr Speaker, Sir, Mr Chiam earlier lamented that ever since he became a Member of Parliament, he did not get a single cent out of CIPC funds.  I can also enlighten him that ever since I became a Member of Parliament together with him, all my requests for CIPC funds have never been fully approved.  It has been always partially approved.  And I have always complained how come my worthy project was not considered appropriately.  And since the Minister for National Development had deemed it fit to appoint me into the Community Improvement Project Committee (CIPC), I can say that when the Committee meets, there are always requests that are at arms-length, and before we can even approve all the projects proposed by the PAP colleagues, the budget had been exhausted. So perhaps, if Mr Chiam tries harder next year, the Committee might have a chance to review his proposals.

Mr Speaker, Sir, let me now proceed to my —

Mr Chiam See Tong rose —

Mr Speaker: Dr Wang, would you allow Mr Chiam to clarify?

Dr Wang Kai Yuen: Sure.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Thank you.  Sir, I have two comments to make.  Firstly, at least, Dr Wang has received some money.  I have not received any money at all.  The other comment is that: does he know that we have to pass through the first hurdle at the constituency level before we can go to the Committee in which he is sitting?  That means, we have to go through the person whom I defeated at the last election for permission.  What do you think his answer would be?

Dr Wang Kai Yuen: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am aware of the process in which the project comes to the review of the Committee.  My suggestion is that he works harder with the constituency Adviser so that he can come to see the virtue of the project proposed by Mr Chiam.

The Minister for National Development (Mr Mah Bow Tan) rose —

Mr Speaker: Dr Wang, would you allow Mr Mah to interrupt?

Dr Wang Kai Yuen: Yes.

Mr Mah Bow Tan: Sir, I just want to clarify for Mr Chiam’s benefit that I believe that Potong Pasir has indeed received CIPC funds.  CIPC funds do not go to the MP or the Adviser.  It goes to the constituencies.  I recall that all constituencies in Singapore do receive some CIPC funds.

Mr Speaker: Last interruption, Mr Chiam.  I do not want a mini debate on this.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Can I just clarify?  I believe the CIPC funds received by Potong Pasir was awarded to a PAP election candidate.

Some hon. Members:  No.

Mr Chiam See Tong:  Through him, at least.  And it was for two or three town signs, if I am not mistaken.  I think the amount was $6,000.  That is all.  And to date, I believe a PAP constituency has, on average, received about $1 million.

Mr Mah Bow Tan: Sir, I just want to reiterate that CIPC funds are made available upon the request of the Advisers of the various constituencies and they go to enhance the facilities within the constituency.  In the case of Potong Pasir, I believe funds have been requested for and have been given to Potong Pasir constituency.  Of course, the reason why we go to the Adviser is because the request is generated through the grassroots organisations.  These requests are assessed by a Committee of which Dr Wang is a member, and all the more deserving ones are given the funds.  Therefore, it is not true that Potong Pasir has not received any funds.

On Mr Chiam’s points about treatment of Opposition MPs, his first point was about his experience at the Istana party where somebody asked him where were his grassroots leaders.  I do not know what grassroots leaders he has. I know that Potong Pasir grassroots leaders were invited.  Maybe not his grassroots leader but, as far as the Government is concerned, the grassroots leaders are the ones who serve in our CCC, RC, CCMC and so on.  We did not consider Town Council as part of the grassroots, otherwise the PAP Town Councils would also be involved.

His other complaints about not having a room, having to work at the void decks, not being able to plant a tree, not being able to have CIPC funds, not being able to speak at a dinner, and not getting upgrading in his estate, etc, I think we have been through all that before.  Mr Chiam now finally finds a piece of ground to plant the tree, and the reason being that, as he said, that piece of land is managed by the Town Council.  But in the public housing estate, the HDB owns the land and, therefore, it is up to the landowner to decide who plants the tree.  And every year, we have the tree planting campaign and, therefore, the Advisor is the one who is allowed to plant the tree.  We have been doing this for the last umpteenth year since we have the tree planting campaign.  This is not something new.

On the conducting of the meet-the-people session, the PAP MPs do not have a room either.  The PAP MPs make use of the PCF centres.  The PCF is a foundation with $5 million or more of paid-up capital.  They set up kindergarten education classes, etc.  And, because of the relationship between the PCF and the PAP, the PAP was able to pay a rental to the foundation to make use of one room for our once-a-week meet-the-people session.

On CIPC funds, I am not sure why Mr Chiam brings up CIPC funds because, as far as I know, from what I was told, Town Councils already get grants from the Government and that is for the residents  But CIPC funds are for improvement of the whole constituency and therefore it is disbursed through the CCCs, and if they have projects, they can apply to the CIPC for funds.  From what I was told, Potong Pasir residents have not been deprived of CIPC project funding.  In fact, in 1998, CIPC funds were used for back-lane lighting of Jalan Wangi and Upper Aljunied Road.  In 2002,CIPC funding was available to build covered linkways in Potong Pasir Town, but because Potong Pasir Town Council failed to come up with its co-share of cost, the project could not be implemented.  Why is this so?  I do not know.  Only the Potong Pasir Town Council can answer.  But as far as PAP Town Councils are concerned, when the CCC gets funding for CIPC projects, the Town Council would have to chip in to pay for part of the cost.  It is not completely free, it is not completely at Government’s expense.

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11 March 2004: HEAD U – PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY)

Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir): Sir, I would like to speak on the unfairness of treatment to Opposition MPs. Once, at a function on the grounds of Istana, a PAP MP asked me, “Hey, Chiam, why did you not bring your grassroots along today?”  That PAP MP thought that I did not have any grassroots members to bring along to that function.  I did not want to embarrass him by telling him that, in fact, my grassroots members were not invited to that function although PAP MPs’ grassroots were invited.

Yes, Opposition MPs are treated differently from the PAP MPs.  I think it is appropriate that I speak out on this matter to educate PAP MPs on the matter.  I have already complained that I do not get a proper room to hold my MPS.  I have to see my constituents in the open at the void deck.  I do not mind doing so, but the only problem is that sometimes, I do not have the privacy to discuss some sensitive matters with the people who come to see me with a personal problem.  When working in the open, I am always subject to the elements.  Void decks, somehow or other, are very windy and I have difficulty holding my pieces of papers together.

When I was first elected MP, the situation then was even worse.  I was not even allowed to plant one tree. Today, of course, I can plant as many trees as I like in my constituency or on the land under the jurisidiction of my Town Council.  Things have improved a little for me, but on very basic things like application for Government grants, CIPC funds, I still have to apply to the person whom I defeated at the last election, and I believe he shall be competing against me at the next election.  In the circumstances, I wonder how I can ever get the support of my rival to support me in getting CIPCfunds which would lessen his chances of getting elected.  I would probably think that the answer shall always be never.

My constituency, in a way, has been subjected to scare tactics at election time.  They have been threatened that should they vote for me, they shall never get upgrading of their flats, kindergarten facilities shall be scaled down, the MRT station shall never be opened and any precincts that give 50% votes to the PAP shall get upgrading.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: I come to Mr Chiam’s question about the GRC.  After 16 years of operation of the GRC – we had our first election based on the GRC system since 1988 – we are still talking about the GRC system.  Unfortunately, even after 16 years, Mr Chiam is still contesting in a single constituency and has not gone into a GRC.  Maybe if he had led a team to the GRC he will then know how he can win a GRC.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Do you want me to be in the GRC?

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Sure.  Mr Chiam just asked me whether I want him to be in the GRC or not.  He is the leader of a party, he should really decide.  And, being the leader of a party, he should lead the charge and not leave it to others to lead the charge for him and he just follows behind and says it is very good.

But to be serious, there is a reason why we have GRCs, as the Deputy Prime Minister explained earlier on in answer to another question concerning the GRC.  The reason is that we need the GRC for multi-racial representation.  But whether a 2-man, 3-man, 4-man, 5-man or 6-man GRC is to the disadvantage of the Opposition or not, I think it is the same to both the Opposition and the PAP.  The PAP would need to put up candidates whether it is a 2-man, 3-man, 4-man, 5-man or 6-man GRC.  And so do the Opposition.  But the fact that since the Opposition cannot put up enough candidates that surely cannot be the fault of the GRC system.

Mr Chiam See Tong: That is not the only reason.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: That is the fault of the Opposition, for not being able to get enough people to contest for them.  Otherwise they would be there in the GRC.  And Mr Chiam had the by-election effect strategy, which says that he would rather not contest in all the constituencies.  I think that is a very good reason to give for not being able to get enough candidates to contest in an election.  But that is very clever.

The Prime Minister (Mr Goh Chok Tong): Ask him if he would like Potong Pasir to be part of a GRC.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: If Mr Chiam says he would like Potong Pasir to be part of a GRC, the Prime Minister just told me that he might ask the Electoral Boundary Review Committee to consider this.

Mr Goh Chok Tong: Ask again. Get an answer.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Does he want it?

Mr Lee Hsien Loong: Potong Pasir to become a GRC.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Give us time.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: Now, and we will tell him the answer.

Mr Goh Chok Tong: Better record this, Kan Seng.

Mr Wong Kan Seng: It is in the Hansard.  Mr Chiam will know that.  But, again, more seriously, whether it is a single-member constituency or a GRC, really it is up to the candidates themselves whether they can convince the voters to vote for them.  It does not depend on whether it is a 2-man, 5-man or 6-man GRC.

 

On Mr Chiam’s points about treatment of Opposition MPs, his first point was about his experience at the Istana party where somebody asked him where were his grassroots leaders.  I do not know what grassroots leaders he has. I know that Potong Pasir grassroots leaders were invited.  Maybe not his grassroots leader but, as far as the Government is concerned, the grassroots leaders are the ones who serve in our CCC, RC, CCMC and so on.  We did not consider Town Council as part of the grassroots, otherwise the PAP Town Councils would also be involved.

His other complaints about not having a room, having to work at the void decks, not being able to plant a tree, not being able to have CIPC funds, not being able to speak at a dinner, and not getting upgrading in his estate, etc, I think we have been through all that before.  Mr Chiam now finally finds a piece of ground to plant the tree, and the reason being that, as he said, that piece of land is managed by the Town Council.  But in the public housing estate, the HDB owns the land and, therefore, it is up to the landowner to decide who plants the tree.  And every year, we have the tree planting campaign and, therefore, the Advisor is the one who is allowed to plant the tree.  We have been doing this for the last umpteenth year since we have the tree planting campaign.  This is not something new.

On the conducting of the meet-the-people session, the PAP MPs do not have a room either.  The PAP MPs make use of the PCF centres.  The PCF is a foundation with $5 million or more of paid-up capital.  They set up kindergarten education classes, etc.  And, because of the relationship between the PCF and the PAP, the PAP was able to pay a rental to the foundation to make use of one room for our once-a-week meet-the-people session.

 

On CIPC funds, I am not sure why Mr Chiam brings up CIPC funds because, as far as I know, from what I was told, Town Councils already get grants from the Government and that is for the residents  But CIPC funds are for improvement of the whole constituency and therefore it is disbursed through the CCCs, and if they have projects, they can apply to the CIPC for funds.  From what I was told, Potong Pasir residents have not been deprived of CIPC project funding.  In fact, in 1998, CIPC funds were used for back-lane lighting of Jalan Wangi and Upper Aljunied Road.  In 2002,CIPC funding was available to build covered linkways in Potong Pasir Town, but because Potong Pasir Town Council failed to come up with its co-share of cost, the project could not be implemented.  Why is this so?  I do not know.  Only the Potong Pasir Town Council can answer.  But as far as PAP Town Councils are concerned, when the CCC gets funding for CIPC projects, the Town Council would have to chip in to pay for part of the cost.  It is not completely free, it is not completely at Government’s expense.

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27 Feb 1998: DISBURSEMENT OF CIPC FUNDS

Mr Chiam See Tong asked the Minister for National Development (a) whether, in light of the economic downturn, the CIPC funds will be disbursed to grassroots organisations in the PAP-controlled constituencies at the same level as previous year; (b) how much CIPC funds will be allocated this year; and (c) what is the amount of CIPC funds paid out last year.

Mr Koo Tsai Kee (for the Minister for National Development): Mr Speaker, Sir, CIPC funds are allocated to all the CCCs and not only to grassroots organisations in the PAP-controlled constituencies. It is up to the CCCs to decide which community improvement projects within their constituencies they want to support. Since its inception, the CIPC scheme has benefited all the CCCs, including the hon. Member, Mr Chiam See Tong’s area. In view of the economic downturn in FY 98/99, the Government has trimmed its expenditure on some projects. CIPC has also carried out a review of its budgetary requirement for FY 98/99. Under this review, useful projects from the CCCs will still continue to receive CIPC funding.

The amount of CIPC funds allocated for this financial year, that is, FY 97/98 is $40 million. My Ministry has asked the Ministry of Finance for a budget of $36 million for the coming financial year. The amount to be allocated for the coming financial year will be tabled for Parliament for debate and approval by the Minister for Finance.

The amount of CIPC funds paid out in FY 96/97 was $39.9 million.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Can I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, in regard to Potong Pasir, whether the CCC has any outstanding request for CIPC funds?

Mr Koo Tsai Kee: Mr Speaker, I did not catch the question clearly. Can he repeat the first part again?

Mr Chiam See Tong: I understand that the CCC has been applying for CIPC funds.

Mr Koo Tsai Kee: Which CCC?

Mr Chiam See Tong: At Potong Pasir. I am only interested in Potong Pasir. I understand that they have been applying for CIPC funds for two covered linkways. Is it still on?

Mr Koo Tsai Kee: Mr Speaker, Sir, my Ministry has not received a formal submission from the Potong Pasir CCC. So I have no record of a submission on the walkway. But the Potong Pasir CCC was given CIPCfunds in financial year 1995 for five estate landmarks in the signposts in Sennett Estate, which is a non-HDB common area. If the hon. Member for Potong Pasir is asking whether his CCC has applied for a walkway, I have no such record.

Mr Chiam See Tong: I wish to clarify. I have got no CCC at Potong Pasir. I am talking about the only CCC that is existing in Potong Pasir and whether they have put in a request for funds. Because I know they have circulated notices asking whether they will get the support of the residents there. I imagine that they would be putting in their case.

Mr Koo Tsai Kee: My Ministry has not received any formal submission. It could well be lobbying for support to put in a project.

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7 JULY 1995: COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS COMMITTEE FUNDS

Mr Cheo Chai Chen asked the Minister for National Development for the period from January 1992 to April 1995, how many Citizens Consultative Committees (CCCs), in both the Group Representation Constituencies and the Single Member Constituencies, had received funds from the Community Improvement Projects Committee; which were the CCCs which had received such funds; on what projects were the funds given and what was the sum for each project.

Mr Lim Hng Kiang:

a) For the period from January 1992 to April 1995, 77 Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) from 15 GRCs and 17 SMCs had received funds from the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC).

b) The CCCs which had received the funds are listed at Appendix C (Cols. 1413 – 1414).

c) The types of projects that were given the funds are listed at Appendix D (Cols. 1415 – 1418).

d) As there have been already more than 3,000 projects, it will not be a productive exercise to list out each and every project with the expenditure. The sum for each project varies from $86 to $446,687.
7 JULY 1995: APPENDIX – COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS COMMITTEE FUNDS

https://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic.jsp?currentTopicID=00064795-ZZ&currentPubID=00069742-ZZ&topicKey=00069742-ZZ.00064795-ZZ_1%2Bid045_19950707_S0010_T00361-written-answer%2B#

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23 MARCH 1995: HEAD U – MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY)

The Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Acting Minister for National Development (Mr Matthias Yao Chih): Sir, allow me to continue. The Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) started life in 1965. Then, it was known as the Urban and Rural Services Committee (URSC). At that time, and since then, the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs), on the ground, will determine what amenities are needed in the constituency and they will consult the PWD, Ministry of the Environment and other departments to request for improvements. If those works are within the budget and within the work plan of the departments, then those works will be carried out. If the requests are reasonable but the budget provided is not sufficient, then the CCC would apply to the CIPC for funding.

The CCC does not decide what they can have. They put in an application and the CIPC will evaluate and consult the relevant departments whether these are feasible, whether they can serve the residents effectively and efficiently and based on the budget available, the CIPC will decide whether the constituency can have the money. This money is given to the CCC to be disbursed.

The Opposition Members asked: why not give this money to the town councils? The answer is very simple. The town councils, by law, can only work within the boundaries of the HDB estates, in particular, within the common areas of the HDB estate and if we give the money to the town councils, then the private estates and privately-run commercial and industrial areas will never get this money.

Why not give it to the MP? The answer is no again because CIPC funds are public funds and in disbursing public funds we have to give them to a public body to be disbursed. No money is given to any MP, Opposition or PAP, for such purposes.

Mr Low Thia Khiang (Hougang): Sir, may I seek clarification? First of all, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary has gone back to the old story and standard answer of the CIPC. Mr Chiam and I did not say that the money should be given to the MP or the town council. What we are asking is simply the procedure of application to CIPC. Yes, money should be given to a public body because it is public money. Is the town council not a public body?

Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir): Sir, may I clarify? The situation from 1965 has changed tremendously. There are at the moment four constituencies held by the Opposition and probably there will be more in time to come. If you keep to this procedure, on the face of it, it would appear that all these Opposition constituencies will never get CIPC funds for community projects because members of the CCCs are all selected by the People’s Association (PA). Unfortunately, PA is not under the Ministry of National Development. It is under the Ministry of Community Development.

If you look at PA, which is a statutory board, the Chairman of PA is the Prime Minister and Ministers are on the board. It is a very high-powered board. This board will select the members of the CCC. The CCCs will, in a way – I would not say beholden – have to look to the people who have appointed them. These are all political figures. Their action will definitely be politically-biased. They will certainly not approve something which will help the Opposition MPs. I think that is the crux of the matter.

When we wrote to the CCC for support to apply for CIPC funds, they not only refused us but they have not even got the courtesy to give a reason. The usual standard Government answer: We have looked at your application. We are unable to accede to it. We asked three times for reasons because Potong Pasir has so far not benefited anything at all from CIPC funds and there is a need for community projects, because community projects, especially linked walkways, are built in other constituencies. If other constituencies have a need for covered walkways, why not Potong Pasir? It is within the guidelines. That is the problem.

Unfortunately, when I brought up this problem the last time, the Minister conveniently said that CCC was not under his charge. So I should not ask him how they approve and not approve. The Ministry of National Development is the ministry that disburses the funds and yet it is another ministry that gives the approval. Again, there is some irregularity here. Perhaps the CCC should not be made an approving body in the first instance. Maybe, as we have suggested yesterday, it should be the MP himself. Normally, the MPs are the advisors in other constituencies and the CCC in a way will take the advice of the MP. So why not cut away the CCC and let the MP, who is the elected Member, make the application or approve it? If the MP does not know the wishes of the grassroots, then he should not be the MP at all. If he cannot read the ground, I am afraid
he will probably be voted out in the next election. There is no other person who has got more interest in these projects than the MP himself if he wants to remain an MP.

I would suggest that the procedure be corrected and put the MP to be the person either to approve or to make the application. The town councils can make the application and approval given by the MP, just like MPs have approved many other applications. I would suggest this to the Minister.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, I have listened to the comments by both Opposition Members very carefully but they have not listened to my comments carefully. I have said why the money should not be given to the town council. By law, the town council is confined to working within the boundaries of an HDB estate. It cannot do work outside of the estate and it cannot spend money outside of the estate. So giving CIPC money to the town council does not help those who live outside of HDB estates. So that is out of the question.

Mr Chiam’s quarrel with PA and how the CCC is structured, I suggest he raise this under his cut on the CCC. But to suggest that because he is in Parliament, therefore, we must change a long lasting and long established practice which has worked very well is not necessary. The point is, from MND’s position, we have got these funds to subsidize improvement projects. We look for a body within the constituency that can coordinate various requests and help disburse the funds. Where is this body? There is one, which is the CCC, and it was established a long time ago. The URSC had worked very well with the CCCs all this while.

Mr Chiam says conditions have changed. It is not the same as 1965. I am glad conditions have changed. There were more Opposition Members in 1965 than there are now. So his suggestion about changing the rules is not based on sound arguments. All he wants is the control of the money. The CIPC and URSC have never given money direct to MPs. We do not give them to PAP MPs. We do not give them to Opposition MPs. I do not think we need to change the rules.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Sir, on this point that in 1965 we had more Opposition MPs, I think if you read the history of the PAP there was a split at that time and the Barisan Sosialis MPs were no longer interested in being MPs. In that period, they were trying to work their way out and, in fact, they did. In 1965, they all walked out of Parliament. So they were not interested in any community projects. But we are. The present Opposition Members are keen to improve all their constituencies.

My quarrel is that under the present system it would appear that no Opposition MPs will get any taxpayers’ fund through the CIPC. That is my contention. As long as you have this checkpoint at the CCC, none of the Opposition Members can get through this checkpoint. They will be blocked right from the start, and no funds will be disbursed to any of the Opposition MPs. That is really unfair, because those funds are not PAP funds. They are taxpayers’ funds. I think there should be a new system. Probably you allocate the fund pro rata. For so many voters in your constituency they will give you this amount. I think that is the fairest system.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Sir, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary says it is not fair if funds are not allocated for improvements in private estates. Is it not true that CIPC also provides funding for community projects which are done in HDB estates? The funds are used for HDB estates.

As regard private estates, is it not also the elected MP’s responsibility to look after the private estates? They could also suggest improvements in the private estate should the need arise. So why is it that application for funds should be given to the CCC for approval because we are also looking after the private estates?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, Mr Low does not understand my answer. I shall repeat it. We cannot give the money to the town council because the town council can only spend money and work within the HDB estate. So if we give the money to the town council, none of this money can be used in private estates.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: No, I am not saying that.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: He is not clear.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: The Senior Parliamentary Secretary does not understand my clarification. So far, the CIPC has never given any money to town councils, even for the PAP wards. You provide funds for upgrading community projects to the HDB estates. The fund is used for improvement works in HDB estates. What we are asking is that you allow the town council or the MP concerned to submit the application directly to CIPC for funds and the CIPC decides whether it is going to provide the funds for a particular project. That is what we are asking. The Senior Parliamentary Secretary has called for fine-tuning of the system yesterday and a proposal has been put forward by us. I would like to know his position on that.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, the town council cannot put up a proposal and ask for money for improvement works outside of an HDB estate. That is the simple position, as provided by the law. Mr Chiam understands that.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Yes.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Thank you. On Mr Chiam’s question, all I want to say is this. Mr Chiam does not want this money to be used in a politically motivated manner. So the best solution for all of us is, let us give this money to the CCC, as we have done since 1965 and let the CCC recommend and decide on its priorities. The money does not go to the PAP MP and it does not go to the Opposition MP. It is fair for all. So my position on Mr Chiam’s and Mr Low’s suggestion is that there is no need to change the present system.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: First of all, yes, the town council’s funds cannot be used outside the HDB estate. The town council could, through the MP, look at the private estate and put up a proposal to the CIPC for improvements. Why can it not be done? Or the MP himself can put up the proposal. What is wrong with that? The fund is not going to the town council. It is a CIPC fund. I am not saying that you give the money to the town council. What I am saying is that you allow the town council to apply. There is no need for the CCC to apply. Allow the town council or the MP to apply for funds for certain projects and you consider whether it is viable. If you do not think so, explain why. Rather than going through the CCC and the CCC says, “We do not support your application.” When we wrote in and asked for the reasons, they replied, “No need to give you the reason.” I think this is not fair.

Mr Chiam See Tong: The Minister talks about the CCC. I have an amendment on the CCC and I will talk more about it. But he says that the CCC is not politically motivated. I think most CCCs, if not all, are highly politically motivated. This is proven by the fact that I have been an MP at Potong Pasir for nearly 10 years and the CCC has not lifted a finger to apply for CIPC funds. The best person to get things moving in a constituency must be the MP. It cannot be anybody else. If he wants his seat, he must do something. If he does not do anything, he will be kicked out. Whereas for the CCC, it makes no difference to them. So the CCC is not the best body.

I am going to repeat myself. As the system exists now, all the Opposition wards will not get any CIPC fund, and that is the reality. I have already mentioned that even in Hougang, before the Opposition MP came in, they were eagerly applying for funds. As soon as the Opposition Member came in, they say, “No, withdraw all the funds.” That proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the CCC has got no interest to improve the constituencies under Opposition MPs. So if you have this system, Opposition wards will not get one cent of the CIPC fund. That is the problem. So if the Minister can solve this problem, I shall be very happy.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: May I suggest to Mr Low that he discontinues with his line of questioning because it makes no sense and he knows it, but he does not want to give up.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: No.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: I suggest that he goes to the library outside, take a look at the Town Councils Act and see whether the town councillors are charged with the responsibility of looking after the entire constituency or looking after the common areas of the HDB estate. After that, he may wish to file another motion or Question and we can have another debate on it.

As for Mr Chiam, his quarrel is really with his CCC in Potong Pasir. I do not hear this quarrel from the other Opposition Members with their own CCC. He has got an amendment under the CCC subhead and I suggest that he brings this up under that amendment.

Mr Chiam See Tong: An easy way out.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: It is not an easy way out. I have said this before, and I say this again. Public funds are involved. Here is the CIPC fund. What do we do with this fund? We want to let the constituencies enjoy the use of this fund. We go to a public body that can disburse this fund and coordinate the projects in a proper manner. The CCC exists for this purpose and we will continue to keep contact with the CCC, look at the recommendations and decide whether they should get the money or not.

Mr Chiam’s proposal does not get the support of the CCC of Potong Pasir. It is not the concern of the CIPC. The CIPC’s job is to look at applications and make sure that the applications are reasonable, feasible and effective, and give the fund in support of these projects.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: I do understand the town council’s main responsibility. It is for the HDB estate. It is under the Act. But the private estate is part of the town. Is it not part of the town? You call it a town council. It is part of the town. You cannot, of course, apply for funds for improvement works in a private estate.

An hon. Member: It is only for HDB estates.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Yes, it is only for HDB estates. I understand that. I have no quarrel with that. What I am saying is that private estates, being part of the town, the town council can show concern and put up a proposal if the CIPC allows. We are not talking about using town council’s funds. We are talking about putting up proposal on behalf of a private estate within the town to CIPC for consideration.

Mr Choo Wee Khiang (Jalan Besar GRC): There is no basis.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Why is there no basis? It is part of a town.

The Chairman: Order. Yes, Mr Chiam.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Sir, I think the answer from the Senior Parliamentary Secretary is rather unsatisfactory. His Ministry controls the fund and of the two Ministries, MCD and MND, I would say that MND should be the Ministry that should initiate a change on the procedure of application for CIPC funds because it is controlling the purse strings. It is not MCD. So I would urge the Minister not to pass the buck over to MCD and say, “It is none of my Ministry’s concern. Let them solve it.” I would say the buck ends with MND.

I would urge the Minister to take the initiative to change this system of application for CIPC funds. I repeat myself again. If this system is not changed, none of the Opposition MPs would get any assistance fromCIPC for funds for community projects. Can I urge the Minister to initiate the change?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Information and the Arts (Encik Mohamad Maidin B P M): Sir, I just want to clarify from the Member. Before we debate further on whether the responsibility of approving funds for improvement works in the Opposition constituencies should fall with MND or MCD, I think we should get back to the basic question. The general care of the constituency must be the responsibility of the MP. I do not think the Member should pass the buck from our shoulders to MND or MCD. Sir, the complaint made by the Opposition Members, Mr Chiam and Mr Low, is basically that the Opposition wards could not get funds from CIPC for improvement works in their constituencies. In other words, because of this situation, the Members now complain that they cannot do anything to improve the surroundings of the housing estates in their wards. I thought that was the question that was raised because of the current position of funding by CIPC.

Sir, improvements in many constituencies have been made even before CIPC was formed some years ago, and Members of Parliament in this House, whether PAP or Opposition, have done whatever they could to improve their constituencies. The Members of the Opposition have just said that without the CIPC fund, they are ineffective as MPs. They are now trying to pass the buck to MND and MCD. It is not fair.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Sir, we did not say that no improvement works have been done. I think Mr Chiam will agree that the crux of the issue is the system of application which allows only the CCC within the constituency to submit the application. The CCC, given its affiliation to the PAP, will never support Opposition wards and therefore the application of public fund is biased towards the PAP constituencies. As a result, it is unfair. That is the crux of the issue. That is why I was very happy yesterday when the Senior Parliamentary Secretary said, “Well, put up a proposal to fine-tune the system.” Yes, we have put up a proposal to improve the system. Now I would like to know whether the Senior Parliamentary Secretary agrees with our proposal. If he does not agree, why does he not agree that we change the system to allow town councils or MPs to apply directly to CIPC? Of course, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary, being the Chairman of CIPC, we may not get the fund applied for because he can reject it. But never mind. At least he is in Parliament. We can come to Parliament and ask him for justification as to why he refuses to approve certain projects. It is better than going to MCD and MCD says something else. I would like to have an answer.

Mr Choo Wee Khiang: I have actually applied for CIPC funds. I am an advisor to the grassroots organisation as well as the MP. As far as most of us are concerned here, I think we are very happy with the system and if we are so happy with the system, why change it.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: The answer is very simple. This is because you are from the PAP.

The Chairman: Order.

Mr Choo Wee Khiang: Let me finish. I think the grassroots organisations know exactly what is happening in the constituency. They have RC and CCC members, most of whom are local residents. They know exactly which spot to be improved. It is not the MPs because we do not stay in our own constituency. So I think it is better to leave it to RCs and CCCs to come up with proposals which we all are very happy. If Mr Chiam has any proposal in regard to the application of CIPC fund, he should approach Mr Gan and Mr Gan will decide in consultation with the RC and CCC members. If it is reasonable, I am sure the Chairman ofCIPC will be more than pleased to approve.
1.00 pm

Mr Low Thia Khiang rose –

The Chairman: Order. I think hon. Members are repeating the same point over and over again. Unless Members have any fresh points to make, I would like to put the debate to an end. Are there any more new points?

Encik Mohamad Maidin B P M rose –

The Chairman: Do you have any fresh points to make?

Encik Mohamad Maidin B P M: Yes, Sir. This fresh point, in fact, was indirectly raised by Mr Low. Now he is saying that it is the responsibility of the PAP Government to help the Opposition Members so that they can win the next election. This was what he said. But that does not come under the MND budget, Sir.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Sir, I have a fresh point to make with regard to Encik Maidin’s comments. Of course, by virtue of the system of CIPC, it is the PAP Government’s responsibility to make sure that the PAP win the next election and thereby deprive the Opposition wards of funds to improve the estate. Therefore, during the election you can compare and say, “You see, the Opposition has not done much to improve your constituency.”

The other fresh point is with regard to Mr Choo Wee Khiang’s comments. I regret to say that it seems to me that Mr Choo’s grassroots know more about his constituents’ needs than Mr Choo himself. I advise him not to rely too much on the grassroots leaders. Of course, I respect some of them who are really working for the people. But I think that may be his downfall.

The Chairman: Order. We have taken 15 minutes yesterday on this discussion, and almost half an hour today. I will ask Mr Yao to reply and then Mr Chiam can give his concluding remarks.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, with your indulgence, I agree with my PAP colleagues in their unanimous response to Mr Low. Please read the Act and then come back.

Mr Chiam’s point, if I can summarise it, is this. The Ministry of National Development should change the system because under the present system, the Opposition constituencies will never get any funding fromCIPC. That is the point. The day the CIPC approves funding for any project in any Opposition constituency will prove his point wrong. When the day comes, I hope he withdraws all that he says. With that, Sir, at this point, it is not necessary to change the system. It has worked well and it will continue to work well.

The Chairman: Mr Chiam, would you like to wind up the debate?

Mr Chiam See Tong: Sir, Mr Maidin, I think, makes the issue stand on its head. He asked why the Opposition wards need CIPC funding when they can carry on with whatever funds they have and do something. I think he should reverse it and say that all the CIPC funds be given to the Opposition wards and let all the PAP wards do the funding on their own. Why does he not reverse the argument?

The other point is Mr Choo Wee Khiang of Jalan Besar GRC said that he is very happy with the system. Of course, he is happy with the system because he is having all the funds and we are not having it. I am astounded that he makes such a statement. As a senior Member of this House, I would advise Mr Choo that if he does not know his constituency better than his grassroots, I think he had better watch out at the next election.

With that, I thank you for your indulgence, Sir, and withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The sum of $498,806,550 for Head U ordered to stand part of the Main Estimates.

The sum of $11,345,011,200 for Head U ordered to stand part of the Development Estimates.

_____

5 DEC 1994: COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS COMMITTEE

Mr Chiam See Tong asked the Acting Minister for National Development: (a) what is the total amount of funds which have been disbursed by the Government for projects by the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) and how much of the said funds have been released to Opposition-controlled Town Councils for such projects; (b) why the CIPC comprises only PAP Members of Parliament and if non-politicians will be included in the Committee; and (c) if there are any guidelines for the Citizens’ Consultative Committees on how to process applications in support of a CIPC project.

The Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for National Development (Mr Matthias Yao Chih) (for the Acting Minister for National Development): Mr Speaker, Sir, the total amount of funds which has been disbursed by the Government for Community Improvement Projects Committee projects since the inception of the scheme in April 1990 is $51.2 million.

We do not have records on CIPC funds released to Opposition-controlled Town Councils as the funds are allocated to the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) and not to the Town Councils.

The CIPC comprises Advisers to the CCCs. The nine Advisers on the Committee happen to be PAP MPs.

As the system works well at the moment, there is no need to change the composition of the CIPC.

General guidelines have been provided to CCCs on how to request for funding support for their projects. However, the guidelines do not specify which projects the CCCs should submit. It is up to the CCCs to decide which projects within their constituencies they should support.

Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir): Sir, a question has been put to the Minister to specifically ask how much money has been disbursed to Opposition-controlled Town Councils. The Senior Parliamentary Secretary said that the money was disbursed through the CCCs. My question is: is it not incumbent upon the Minister, once a question has been asked, to find out how much money has been disbursed to Opposition wards in regard to CIPC projects? I think it is his duty to find out. How can he come to the House and avoid the question and say that it is the CCCs who are responsible for getting the funds?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, I did not evade his question. No money was given to any Town Council, PAP or otherwise.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Thank you. So no money has been given at all. The next question I want to ask is: is it the policy to refuse grants for CIPC projects to Opposition-held constituencies?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Not at all, Sir.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Then why is it that Potong Pasir constituency has not received even one cent from the Government in regard to these grants whereas PAP wards have obtained $51.2 million? Why was our request for support for a CIPC project, ie, a walkway, refused?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, as far as I know, the Potong Pasir CCC has not applied for any funds. Therefore, they have not been given any funds.

Mr Chiam See Tong: We have to apply through the CCC and that is the rule laid down by the PAP Government, and that is exactly what we did. Permission was refused outright and without reason. Is the Senior Parliamentary Secretary aware of the Potong Pasir Town Council’s request for support of a CIPC project?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, I am not aware of what transpired between Potong Pasir Town Council and Potong Pasir CCC.

Mr Chiam See Tong: In view of a question being filed in Parliament, is it not the duty of the Senior Parliamentary Secretary to find out whether an application has been made for support of a CIPC project at Potong Pasir? Is it not his duty to do so? He cannot just come to Parliament and say, “I do not know anything about it.”

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, I have answered all his questions, including the one on whether any money was given to Opposition Town Councils. His Question is: how much money was disbursed, plus the composition of the CIPC and other details. I have answered all of them. If he asked whether I knew what happened between the Potong Pasir Town Council and the Potong Pasir CCC, I would have found out. But he did not ask, so I did not find out.

Mr Chiam See Tong: The Senior Parliamentary Secretary appears to be rather naive.

Mr Speaker: Mr Chiam, could you get to the point and ask your supplementary question?

Mr Chiam See Tong: Yes. He says that since no such question was asked, it is not his duty to answer any question outside the Question asked. I want to ask him another question: do the grassroots leaders’ decisions reflect the policies of the Government?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: I do not know exactly what he means. But I think the grassroots leaders will decide according to the priorities of the residents in the estate and the constituency.

Mr Chiam See Tong: No. They must decide according to some guidelines. They cannot just arbitrarily decide on their own.

Mr Speaker: Mr Chiam, can you ask your question?

Mr Chiam See Tong: Yes. Do decisions made at the grassroots level reflect the policies of the PAP Government?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, if he is asking a question on how the CCC decides on matters pertaining to the constituency, I think this is the wrong Ministry to ask.

Mr Chiam See Tong: I am just asking a question in regard to your Ministry.

Mr Speaker: Mr Chiam, ask your question, please.

Mr Chiam See Tong: I will be more specific. Do grassroots leaders’ decisions made in regard to CIPC projects reflect the policies of the Government?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, we have not given any instruction to any CCC on how to process these applications.

Mr Chiam See Tong: The Senior Parliamentary Secretary has been reported over TV that most of the CIPC projects will receive Government support if they meet certain criteria and, if I can remember, he said that if they are useful and beneficial to the citizens, they will most probably be given CIPC support. I want to ask the Senior Parliamentary Secretary: is a walkway linking a block of flats to a bus stop a CIPC project?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: If an application for such a project surfaces at the CIPC, the secretariat will evaluate the proposal, whether it links between two points that are frequently used by residents, how much the proposal is going to cost, whether it is ostentatious, using tiles that are unnecessarily expensive. All these things will be evaluated. So I cannot tell him whether a linkway will be approved at all.

Mr Chiam See Tong: The Senior Parliamentary Secretary mentioned about the secretariat. What does he mean by that? Does he mean that once an application has been made to the CCC, the CCC will let the secretariat Ž I do not know what secretariat Ž know of this application? Is that correct?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: That is correct if the CCC makes the application to the CIPC.

Mr Chiam See Tong: What is this secretariat? Can he explain to me?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: The secretariat comprises civil servants and Ministry officials who will process the applications and advise the CIPC on whether the guidelines have been followed.

 Mr Chiam See Tong: Has the Potong Pasir Town Council’s application for CIPC support in regard to construction of a walkway been given to the secretariat for processing?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: No.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Why not, if that is the procedure?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Let me repeat the procedure. If the Potong Pasir Town Council or a resident or a RC or the Civil Defence Coordinating Committee or somebody in the constituency says, “Why not do this?”, the CCC will evaluate. If the CCC supports this proposal, it will draw up specifications, state the budget and submit it to the CIPC. The CIPC will refer it to the officials for initial evaluation. The Potong Pasir Town Council’s project never surfaced, so we are not aware of it.

Mr Chiam See Tong: I want to know why the Potong Pasir CCC did not submit the application for CIPC support to the secretariat.

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: First, I do not know why and, second, if he wants to know why a CCC makes a certain decision, the Ministry of National Development is the wrong ministry to ask.

Mr Speaker: Mr Chiam, do you have any other supplementary questions on this subject? You are straying from the substantive question.

Mr Chiam See Tong: As regards the composition of the CIPC, why should only MPs from the PAP be included in this Committee?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: Sir, if he heard my answer, the nine members are Advisers to the CCCs. They are in charge of CCC projects and whatever the CCCs wish to do for the residents. They happen to be PAP Members of Parliament. This question has been asked many times by Mr Chiam about him being an Adviser. The answer is that he is not an Adviser.

Mr Chiam See Tong: Anyone looking at the composition, with only PAP Members, would it not be deemed that it is very political in nature?

Mr Speaker: Mr Chiam, you are asking more or less the same question over and over again. Unless you have something new to ask, I intend to move on to the next Question. Have you got anything new to ask?

Mr Chiam See Tong: I will ask another supplementary question. Can I assume that Opposition wards will never get the recommendation of their grassroots’ organisation in relation to any application for support ofCIPC projects in their constituencies? Can I take that?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: I do not think he can make such an assumption. Anyway, I cannot answer this because the CCCs will decide on the merits of each application.

Mr Chiam See Tong: I do not believe that the Senior Parliamentary Secretary has no control —

Mr Speaker: Order. Mr Chiam, I think you are still asking more or less similar questions. I will allow you one more supplementary question because we have to move on.

Mr Chiam See Tong: All right. Do you have control over your grassroots’ organisation, ie, the CCC, and its Chairman?

Mr Matthias Yao Chih: That depends on what he means by “control”. Anyway, the Ministry of National Development has no control – if he calls it “control” – over CCCs. It is the Ministry of Community Development that is in charge of CCCs.

_____

The Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for National Development (Mr Lee Yiok Seng) (for the Minister for National Development): Sir, I am answering on behalf of my Minister.

The Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) Scheme was implemented, in its present form, in April 1990. The total funds available to the CIPC for community projects from FY 90 to FY 93 amounted to $65 million. The breakdown is as follows: FY 90, $10 million; FY 91, $15 million; FY 92, $20 million; and FY 93, $20 million.

CIPC funds are allocated to the constituency as a whole through the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs). The constituency has HDB areas administered by Town Councils as well as non-HDB areas which are not administered by Town Councils. The CCC decides on the priority of the various project proposals it receives and what items it should support and submits its requests to CIPC for funding.

From FY 1990 to 1st May 1993, a total of about $42 million or 65% of the $65 million available under the CIPC programme has been committed for various projects submitted by the Town Councils through the CCCs.

The amount of CIPC funds committed for Town Council projects varies from Town Council to Town Council, depending on the types of projects approved.

The Town Council projects which have been allocated CIPC funds fall mainly under these categories:

(a) Infrastructure facilities such as street lightings, covered walkways and footpaths;

(b) Recreational facilities such as cycling tracks, playgrounds, outdoor tables; and

(c) General amenities which include landscaping of roadsides and open spaces.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Sir, I think the question asked specifically for the amount given to each Town Council and for which projects were the funds given.

Mr Lee Yiok Seng: Sir, as I have stated, about 65% of the funds available under the CIPC programme had been committed for various projects submitted by the Town Councils through the CCCs. If the Member wants the details for each Town Council, he can write to me or to my Ministry. We will try to give the Member whatever information that is available after consulting the respective Town Councils.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Mr Speaker, Sir, the question asks for the “funds allocated to projects with town council participation and the amount given to each town council”.

Mr Lee Yiok Seng: The CIPC fund is given to the CCCs, not to the Town Councils, and I think this is fair. Town Councils receive direct grants from the Government, particularly for the residents in the HDB areas. We know that in each constituency there are many residents who are not in the HDB areas. So this fund also caters for those residents who are not in the HDB areas and it is for the CCCs to decide on the priority for improvements in their own constituency.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Is it true that though the fund was allocated to the CCCs, the Town Council uses the fund for their project development? The question here asks specifically for the amount for each project in each Town Council.

Mr Lee Yiok Seng: I have stated quite clearly that, under the CIPC programme, 65% of the amount goes to the projects submitted by the Town Councils. And this is the fund allocated to the CCCs. So for the individual Town Council, as I said, he can write to us. We will try our best to give him the information.

_____

30 July 1993: COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS COMMITTEE FUNDS ALLOCATION 1989-1992

Mr Chiam See Tong asked the Minister for National Development if he will state (i) the total amount of funds allocated by the Community Improvement Projects Committee to Town Councils for community projects in the years 1989 to 1992; and (ii) which Town Councils were granted such funds and how much was given to each of them in each of these years.

Dr Richard Hu Tsu Tau:  Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funds are allocated to the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) for projects in the whole constituency and not to Town Councils. Hence, no CIPC funds were allocated directly to Town Councils for community projects in the years 1989 to 1992.

Since the implementation of the CIPC scheme in April 1990, a total of $65 million has been allocated to constituencies through the CCCs. The amount of funds allocated annually ranged from $80,000 to $527,000 per CCC, depending on the size of the constituency. CCCs may propose community improvement projects in HDB areas administered by Town Councils as well as projects in non-HDB areas which are not administered by Town Councils, for funding under the CIPC.

_____

11 MARCH 1992: HEAD U – MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY)

 Mr Low Thia Khiang (Hougang)(In Mandarin): Sir, every HDB housing estate will be aging after some time. The facilities in the estate would need to be improved, for example, the children’s playground, etc. If these upgrading and improvement works, particularly in the older housing estates, are solely dependent on the town council without funding from any other sources, then more often than not, it will be inadequate.

The Ministry of National Development has a committee known as the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) which is responsible for handling and approving applications submitted by the town councils for community improvement projects. What surprises me is that the application must be submitted through the Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) to the CIPC, and the application must first be approved by the Adviser to the CCC. To the best of my knowledge, the establishment of town council is to represent the town concerned. Why is it that application to the CIPC must be made through the CCC? What is the reason for it?

Take my constituency of Hougang, for example. Prior to the General Elections, an application was made by the CCC of Hougang constituency to the CIPC for the construction of a covered link-way. After the elections, I wrote to the CIPC to make enquiry about it. The CIPC replied that the CCC of the Hougang Constituency had withdrawn its application. When I wrote to the Hougang CCC, the reply I received was that they had never applied. Of course, I understand the reason!

In this process, my experience is that the matter involves two very important questions. One, what is the role of the CCC? The CCC, according to my understanding which is also the Government’s open definition, is a community project consisting of community leaders. Since it is for community work, and improvement to town facilities is also for the good of the community, I fail to understand why they withdrew their application.

On the other hand, another matter which warrants our special attention is that the fund to be allocated by the CIPC comes from the taxpayers’ money. Should not all the town councils and all the tax-paying Singaporeans residing in the constituency be equally and fairly entitled to apply for such funds?

Sir, I hope that the Ministry of National Development will announce to the public the total amount of allocations approved by the CIPC, up till this date, and a breakdown of allocations approved for each individual town council. I would also suggest that the Ministry of National Development set up a Town Facilities Improvement Fund to allocate funds to the town councils for improvements to facilities within the constituency.

The Minister for National Development (Mr S. Dhanabalan): I would like to take the points raised by Mr Low Thia Khiang. Since he is a new Member, he needs some explanation about what the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) fund is all about. He may be aware that there used to be a fund called the Urban and Rural Services Committee (URSC) fund. This was really meant to build roads and put up  street lights in the urban areas as well as the rural areas. The CIPC is something that developed out of that, and the funds administered by the CIPC are not for Town Councils. I would like to underline that they are not for Town Councils. They are for the constituency as a whole. The constituency has HDB areas administered by Town Councils as well as non-HDB areas which are not administered by Town Councils.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Clarification, Sir.

The Chairman: Do you want to give way?

Mr Low Thia Khiang: Where do the funds come from?

Mr Dhanabalan: If the Member can just be a little patient, he will know where the funds come from. The funds, of course, are allocated to the Ministry and I am trying to explain to him what the funds are for. Where the funds come from, of course, all the funds allocated under the Budget come from the taxpayers as well as earnings from various investments. So the CIPC funds are for the constituency as a whole. And how the funds are to be allocated for various projects in a constituency has to be decided by some body which has responsibility for the constituency as a whole. Under the old URSC system, it was the Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) that decided what kind of projects should be carried out in the constituency. So we are carrying on with the system and if Town Councils have projects for which they want funding from the CIPC, they have to go through the Citizens Consultative Committee; and the Citizens Consultative Committee will decide what are the priority items, what items it wants to support and what it does not want to support. That is the system we have and that is the system we intend to continue to practise.

As to the particulars of the projects in Hougang that were submitted by the CCC and withdrawn, he should address those questions to the CCC in Hougang, because I do not know what priority they set for themselves, what are the more important projects, and how they want to use the money. So I cannot give him an answer why the CCC withdrew the application. The CIPC fund is a block vote. We have, of course, internal guidelines but this really need not concern Members. So far, no Member has complained that reasonable projects have been refused funding. I think I have answered all the questions.

_____

 

15 MARCH 1990: MAIN AND DEVELOPMENT ESTIMATES OF SINGAPORE FOR THE FINANCIAL YEAR 1

The Senior Minister of State for National Development (Dr Lee Boon Yang): Sir, the second category is more grants for improvement works. Dr Ho Tat Kin has asked for additional grants to provide the improvements in and about a town. For such works, town councils can apply to the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) for funding. This is a new Committee set up to take the place of the former URSC. Under this funding scheme, Government will pay between 50% and 90% of the project cost up to a limit of $1/2 million per project. Already the Committee has approved 16 such projects amounting to about a million dollars. More projects will be evaluated for funding. If Dr Ho has any plans for upgrading the amenities within his town, he is welcomed to apply to the CIPC.

Dr Koh asked whether reserve sites could be converted into recreational area, preferably funded by the Government. Sir, in planning these housing estates and new towns, HDB is always conscious of the need to provide recreational amenities for the residents. Hence, there are adequate open spaces in every HDB estate and new town. These open spaces include town garden, neighbourhood park, precinct garden, and in the case of new towns, sports and swimming complexes. There is no need to make additional provision over and above what has already been made available. Reserve sites are earmarked for future development, as I said earlier, for residential, schools or other commercial uses. These sites are turfed in the interim and residents are free to use the turfed area for their recreational needs, if they like to.

But if a town council is interested in developing additional recreational facility on the reserve site, then the town council should first write to my Ministry to find out what are the plans on the site, whether the piece of land will be available for interim use of about three to five years, or even more. If the land is not needed for immediate development, then my Ministry can consider proposals from town council to lease this land for development as interim recreational facilities. But since these are additional facilities over and above what HDB has already provided to the residents, I think the town council should be prepared to bear the cost of this development. Of course, if it is a project which the town council is very keen and feels that there is great merit, it can submit the proposal to the CIPC (Community  Improvement Projects Committee) and seek support from Government for funding such projects. But the town council must remember that if it is only for a short period of time, after which the site will be needed for redevelopment, whatever investment that has been put into it will be lost. This is a decision which the council must decide.

_____

 

Written by singapore 2025

07/09/2016 at 9:59 am

NUS Young Guns Forum 2014: Citizens’ Consultative Committee

YGF2014-banner

Dear friends,

Firstly, thank you to the NUS Students’ Political Association for the kind invitation.

I have been asked to speak on the topic – how has Singapore progressed as a nation and the direction Singapore should steer in the years ahead. From this main question, the organizing committee forwarded a list of sub-questions that I could speak in greater length on. These covered social media, political engagement, amongst others. I am going to speak on the topic of whether the quality of governance has improved with the emergence of a more active opposition.

But before doing so, I would like to suggest that governance occurs at two levels – at the national level and the local level. I am going to speak for the next nine minutes or so on the quality of governance at the local level, and I will be happy to take your questions on this subject thereafter.

Before I begin, can I ask all of you, how many of you know who is the Chairman of the Citizen’s Consultative Committee or the CCC of the constituency or ward where you stay in Singapore? Three hands (out of an audience of 150). Yi Da, that’s four. Mr Baey of course! That’s five.

Your answer does not surprise me. If I turn the clock back 15 years or so when I was an undergraduate, I would have responded similarly. In fact, I don’t know who my CCC Chairman is, even where I stay! Perhaps I should ask the question differently. Do you know what the CCC does? (Dr Paul Ananth Thambyah [in the audience] guesses they are involved in line-dancing!). Again, if I turned the clock back 15 years, and sitting in your shoes, I would equally clueless.

The CCC is the umbrella local grassroots organisation in any constituency in Singapore. Many sub-committees come under it – including merchant and hawker sub-committees, aging subcommittees, and so on. CCCs plan and lead grassroots activities in a constituency, they oversee community and welfare programmes and they also act as a feedback channel between the government and the people. Quite simply, CCCs were envisaged as a quasi-local government in action, with the CCC Chairman acting like a village head or penghulu in the kampung.

Today, the main role of the CCCs to organize programmes to support the People’s Association. CCCs support the government in nationwide campaigns such as dengue prevention, Clean & Green Week, Racial Harmony Month and Good Neighbour Day. They also organise community forums and administer welfare assistance. Members in the CCC are volunteers appointed by the CCC Chairman once every two years and the Chairman’s appointment has to be approved by the Grassroots Advisers who is a PAP MP. But the question I want to put out to the audience is this – are CCC volunteers just volunteers?

IMG_1428In 1992, the Straits Times published an article titled, “CCCs at the crossroads, where it was stated, “Several grassroots leaders and advisers say that when they organize activities for residents, they also hope to win political mileage for the MP, and by extension, for the PAP. In those days, opposition MP Mr Chiam See Tong accused the CCC of serving the PAP and not the people.

What happened was that the Potong Pasir CCC suspected that some of its CCC members were actually supporters of Mr Chiam’s party because they were seen at community functions organized by Mr Chiam. In response to this, the 1991 PAP candidate for Potong Pasir, Andy Gan was quoted as saying, “we will ask them to leave if they are opposition supporters.”

The same Straits Times article goes on to quote a then Bishan North CCC Adviser who stated that the CCC and the PAP are indirectly linked by people who are members of both. The same article went on to say that sometimes, the link is spelt out even more clearly, with one CCC Chairman stating that he expects his CCC members to join the PAP, and wants an explanation if they refuse. To this CCC Chairman, the CCC is (I quote), “a voluntary organization for the PAP”.

This article was dated 1992. There has been no real significant change to the role of and function of the CCCs in all the constituencies in Singapore, be they PAP or non-PAP. But I look back to the incidents that took place in Aljunied GRC in 2013.

The first one concerned the by now infamous hawker centre dispute at the Kaki Bukit ward of Aljunied GRC. In both cases, the role of the CCCs were clear. The individual who wrote to the TC on behalf of some Block 511 hawkers, served in Kaki Bukit ward as a PAP member for over 20 years and another, a former Chairman of the Block 538 Hawkers’ Association, was a member of the PAP and the CCC for Kaki Bukit. The second episode concerned the petition by some Hougang shopkeepers against the organization of trade fairs. The petition was driven by the Chairman of the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol Shops Sub-Committee under the CCC once more.

When Town Councils were first set up in Singapore in the 1980s, then DPM Goh Chok Tong explained the politicisation of the Town Councils as giving MPs increased authority and responsibility as a result of which, voters would be more likely to vote “carefully and sincerely” and choose honest and effective MPs. But the reality at the local level is that there are grassroots organisations which can also be politically motivated to lower the standing of the local MPs.

It is my contention that in the years to come, the Government should steer the nation in a different direction insofar as local governance is concerned.

The problem with the existing system of People’s Association managed outfits like CCCs is that its fundamental purpose is to perpetuate a one-party state.

With a greater plurality of voices making themselves heard in Singapore, our local organisations should evolve in tandem with the democratic norms of a society where every voice has an equal right to be heard. Your local representatives, be they CCC Chairmen or RC Chairmen should be residents and ought to be elected by residents, and not appointed by the Grassroots Adviser. Local elections would determine what issues truly affect the people to bring these up to the elected MP.

A forum that brings the elected MP together with local leaders and representatives should be the platform through which municipal issues are discussed and addressed. The Government of the day should work with these locally elected leaders on national level issues such as dengue campaigns, blood donation days, emergency preparedness days, inter-racial confidence circles, etc. all of which currently come under the People’s Association. Political activities such as block visits by the MP or political candidates during elections should solely the purview of political parties and not local grassroots organisations.

At NTU’s annual ministerial seminar yesterday, Prime Minister Lee remarked that young people should take ownership of the country and lead it to greater heights. He also said that young people are not thinking of becoming billionaires but to change the world for the better, although not necessarily knowing what that change ought to look like. In the Singapore case, I say we can start by looking closely at the institutions which determine the contours of local governance that focuses on a better Singapore, so that we can create a more inclusive society, where the underlying philosophy of governance is not about power and the perpetuation of one-party rule, but about democratic norms and a mature democracy where the political choices of Singaporeans are respected by the Government.

Thank you.

Useful links

1. According to the Central Intellgence Agency’s World Factbook, the People’s Association had its origins as a national building programme ‘designed to wean pro-Communist voters away from the opposition’. Besides serving as a communication channel between the government and ruling party at the top and the people below – making way for a more responsive government – it was also intended for the PA to blur the boundaries between the government and the party, such that ‘the people tended to praise the party for activities undertaken by the government.

2. http://www.singapolitics.sg/news/four-highlights-young-guns-forum

Written by singapore 2025

02/02/2014 at 3:17 pm

ST Supperclub: Pritam Singh

Here is the full interview including questions and answers that did not make it to the print and online editions of the Straits Times.

Interview with RazorTV

In part 1 of this Supper Club interview, Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh reflects on where he sees the Workers’ Party (WP), its town council and local political developments about 2 1/2 years after the 2011 general election. He also speaks on whether the recent National Day Rally spells an ideological shift for the PAP.

We’re almost midway through this term of government. Looking back, has the WP delivered on its promises?

The best judge of whether we’ve delivered is our constituents. On Nomination Day, (WP chairman) Sylvia Lim told the public that if we are voted in, we would serve to the best of our abilities. We want to show Singaporeans that if you vote in an opposition party, it doesn’t mean your town is going to descend into chaos. If you compare the number of questions raised in Parliament for this 12th session to the 11th, the number of questions of public interest filed in Parliament has increased quite substantially covering a very broad range of issues. Do we always get straight answers from the PAP on these questions? Not necessarily. Is there room for improvement for the WP, be it in Parliament or at the constituency level? Most definitely.

What are the key areas for improvement?

I don’t think there’s a specific key area that we are particularly weak in. It’s also a question of being new, the first time an opposition party has held a GRC, the first time we’re managing a town of that size. Obviously there’s a lot of things we’ve got to learn very quickly. So far, my personal opinion is it’s been satisfactory but we do want to look into certain areas where we can make things better.

One thing we’re looking at now is, within the town council are our audit processes, beyond the statutory requirements of the Town Councils Act, for example, making sure that S&CC (service and conservancy charges) dollar is spent wisely. We’re looking at checks and balances within our own systems apart from the yearly audit conducted by independent auditors.

Have you set yourself any goals that you would like to achieve by the end of your first term?

I have set myself some goals. But the situation on the ground in Aljunied is very fluid. There are a lot of things happening on the ground. For example, the situation in Eunos is such that not only is there a grassroots adviser, the previous MP Zainul Abidin Rasheed, they also have a PAP branch chairman, Chua Eng Leong, the son of a former minister conducting his own Meet-the-People sessions. But I think I’m keeping my focus on making sure we can deliver both here on the ground in Eunos and in Aljunied more broadly and at least represent to people that it’s very important to also have an opposition in Parliament in Singapore by pushing hard on the parliamentary front as well. So I have set myself some targets, but like the WP’s philosophy with regard to our political strategies, we don’t articulate them, we execute them. So I’ll just leave it at that.

On leadership renewal in the WP, do you see yourself in the running for secretary-general in the future?

You know, when I joined the WP, I didn’t join with the notion of being sec-gen or coveting any sort of leadership appointment. I thank the party for allowing me to contest as a candidate. It is something I will forever be thankful to the party and the party leadership for. The opportunity of public service through the WP is more than I could have ever dreamt of – and at this age in particular, being able to serve in this capacity, I’m very, very satisfied with that.

The WP tends to have an image of being Chinese-dominated and appealing a lot to the Chinese-speaking ground. Has this image changed?

The WP now is not like the WP of the past. Especially after Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East, I think we are appealing to a very broad section of Singapore society, as any party that is establishing itself at the national level has to do. Because Singapore is a Chinese-majority country, it’s almost inevitable that we’d appeal to that segment, but I think we are broader than that also.

Every WP member can bring in a member of any race and religion. I think it’s probably healthy we do it that way rather than play up the racial dimension too much. I think we’re moving away from that and in the WP, no matter what our race, the only way we can move forward and play a role as an effective check and balance is to rally together as a team, regardless of race, language or religion.

Is your membership base more diverse now compared to the past, say in GE2011?

Absolutely. If I look at the volunteers at the grassroots level, I would definitely say it is a diverse bunch.

How would you say the town council has performed so far?

I think it has been satisfactory. Yes, there is definitely room for improvement. I don’t think there is one perfect town council anywhere in Singapore. But we keep a close eye; internally, we look at certain indicators, and we are our own worst critics at the end of the day. I’m quite assured that we’re keeping to Ms Sylvia Lim’s promise that we will serve residents to the best of our ability. That’s what we are striving to do all the time.

Looking back, do you think the hawker centre cleaning episode could have been handled better?

It is my view that most Singaporeans felt this issue could have been resolved with a phone call, being an issue ultimately of sanitation. But the last major article that The Straits Times ran on the issue reported that the hawker representatives pushing the issue at Blk 538 and Blk 511 were PAP members. Ultimately, I saw the episode as an administrative issue that could have been resolved in a very straightforward manner. While I feel that communication between the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the town council could have been much better, ultimately there was a political angle to it that no one can deny.

If, like you said, it could have been resolved with a phone call, why didn’t that happen?

NEA is the Managing Agent of our hawker centres. There was an expectation that they would play a role to bridge differences and be a positive and neutral force for what the Prime Minister called the “right politics”. I would have thought that if something unusual was stated by some member of the town council, anybody in NEA could have picked up the phone and said, hey, I think we’re not sure about this little fact or representation that some property officer has made. Vice-versa, if we were not sure about what NEA had said, we could have done the same. So communication could have been better.

Some of the hawkers asked why the WP MPs didn’t go down to speak to them earlier. Why was that?

At the 511 and 538 markets, the issue had been politicised because the Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) under the People’s Association, a political entity, had come into the picture very early on. It wasn’t out of disrespect to the hawkers, but we wanted to have a very clear channel of communication to resolve the matter with NEA, the main agency we were dealing with, since the Town Council is not represented on the CCC. We are on good terms with the hawkers. This talk about the WP treating the hawkers badly, that was a completely political statement. The hawkers became a pawn in a political game, unnecessarily so. This point was made very clearly to me by hawkers in my own market at Blk 630 Bedok Reservoir Road, who said they did not want to be embroiled in any political fights and just want to carry on their business.

On the issue of hawkers becoming a pawn in a political game, do you think the WP contributed to politicising the issue as well?

This whole issue need not have been politicised. Once it was clear that it was not going being resolved administratively, there was not much room for the WP to manoeuvre. As the smaller player in the larger political scheme, if the agencies of the state are being used against you politically, what do you do?

In the course of this episode, you were also criticised by the PAP, including some ministers. There was a chance to stand up in Parliament and defend yourself?

To my knowledge, only one Minister did so. In fact, Ms Lim had already answered all the questions that the Minister (Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan) had asked, and the Minister himself did not wholly address her queries. If the minister had asked me directly, “Mr Pritam Singh, I want to hear your response on this matter”, I would have stood up in Parliament and given him my response – which would essentially have been a repetition of what Ms Lim had already said and asked. But the Minister did not do so in Parliament. He did so through a Facebook post by querying my silence! I am sure if my response was that important to him, he would have asked me for it in Parliament. But like I said, the hawker centre imbroglio was a political issue. I rhetorically asked myself after this month’s parliamentary hearing, surely Dinesh Raman Chinniah’s death in official custody deserved at least the same level of scrutiny, if not more.

This year’s National Day Rally has been billed as a strategic shift. Do you agree with that?

Well, we have to reserve judgment until the details of the policy changes are fully revealed. That said, I would not refer to rally as marking a strategic shift as yet. I expected the PM to address the issue of the Population White Paper, because if there’s going to be a change to any major policy, it will have to be seen through the lens of (that). For instance, when PM spoke of MediShield Life, I expected some reference to an important reality: the number of elderly people is going to grow and immigrants are not raising the fertility rate very much either. Somewhere down the road, Singapore host more elderly people and fewer younger ones. I’m wondering how MediShield Life and front-loading will work in that context.

I didn’t see too much of a shift in education. PM talked about putting aside 40 places for P1 students who don’t have any connections. I expected that to be at least 50 per cent, to be honest. I also expected him to say something like we’re going to move good primary schools out of the rich belts of Singapore or at least that we’re going to move in that direction. That to me would have been a strategic shift. A lot of our education policies are still very eugenically inspired – well-to-do parents produce well-to-do children and put them in these good schools. I don’t get a sense that we’ve really moved away from that.

Housing, there were two caveats: a. non-mature estates, b. the maths says you can afford a HDB flat with a $1,000 income, but the reality on the ground for people who are in that income bracket is that they are usually in a contract job. I think PM’s examples work if you’re a Division 3 or 4 civil servant where, all things being equal, you will stay in that job and you don’t have to worry too much about getting or renewing a contract and you have a paymaster than dutifully contributes to your CPF account since you are not a freelancer, ‘temp’ staff or in a non-traditional work arrangement. Some other Singaporeans that earn around $1000 have many other commitments like raising and schooling children, worrying about the parents and their own health, amongst others – the insecurities with that kind of salary cannot be underestimated. All you need is to be out of job for a few months because of a retrenchment exercise or an illness, and a very depressing picture emerges. That said, whatever moves the government makes to address these insecurities are welcomed for they mean the world to people, especially those who live along the fringes of the poverty line.

The announcement I felt was close to a strategic shift was extending Edusave to madrasah students. Thousands did not receive this previously. But what are the reasons for the change now? Does it mean the Government is also looking into the long-standing gripes of the Malay-Muslim community in the military sphere in particular? I was hoping PM could tell us.

Some observers see this year’s Budget and NDR marking a shift to the left in the PAP government and that this overlaps with the WP’s political turf. Do you agree? Will the WP have to adjust its messaging?

That’s something the PAP will have to square with itself. My own view at the moment is, these are moves that the PAP has engaged in for the sake of political necessity. As far as the WP is concerned, I see ourselves as being consistent with regard to what our message and beliefs are. I don’t see us really responding to what the PAP are doing in that regard. I don’t think the PAP are ideologically changing. But as much as they say they don’t want to be populist, I think they’ve realised that they have to listen to the people. But that’s what government is about.

Earlier you mentioned the phrase, “right politics”. What does it mean to you?

This is one of the things that PM left hanging in the air. At the end of the day, who is the WP? It comprises ordinary Singaporeans who just feel that ultimately, all Singaporeans have a right to determine the direction this country is going. Of course, there are a lot more Singaporeans who believe that checks and balances are an integral part of society, especially now. In this context, what is the right politics? Do you suggest that an opposition party should not clamour for more checks and balances? I don’t think so. I think the right politics is acknowledging that the opposition has a very important role and you respect them for the role they play in ensuring that Singaporeans are looked after. Essentially we want to begin a process where we establish deep roots for the opposition in Singapore, where the presence of an opposition is permanent and it can contribute effectively and positively to Singapore and Singapore society.

You talk about right politics in terms of the ruling party’s attitude towards the opposition parties. But what role does the opposition itself play?

The thing is, it’s easier to answer that question if you look at how the PAP has dealt with opposition parties in the past. The opposition were essentially seen as troublemakers. Our point is, we are not troublemakers. When we believe and we practise a brand of politics which is rational, respectable, responsible, our commitment to that shows you really what the WP is willing to do to introduce the right brand of politics in Singapore. But if we’re going to spend time talking about hawker centres and politicising issues like that, then unfortunately we really have to think what the PAP means by the right politics.

What worries you the most about Singapore’s future?

Sometimes you meet Singaporeans who have this “tidak apa” attitude, the Government will sort it out for me. I think we’ve passed that point where we can give the Government a free hand. The way the immigration policy was introduced over the last decade is evidence of that. I think it’s very important for us to take an interest in politics in Singapore and to speak up when we are concerned and have questions about certain policies. It worries me when people say, it’s okay, let the politicians deal with that. I think we should all play a part in it, because this is the only country we have.

In part 2 of the interview with Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh, he talks about his life after entering politics: his biggest lesson, pet topics, battle scars, his marriage and his dream job when he was young.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since entering politics? 

Sometimes, you have to keep pushing a point to be heard. One example was the death of an inmate in custody, Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah. The state coroner discontinued the coroner’s inquiry, but I believe that decision, which invoked Section 39 of the Coroners’ Act, was wrong in law. Section 39 requires that in the criminal proceedings, the causes and circumstances of death are established. While the cause of death was established, I’m not so sure the circumstances were, as evidenced by the varied mainstream media reportage on the circumstances of Dinesh’s death. I went to the Subordinate Courts and applied for the notes of evidence and the prosecution’s statement of facts. After persuing them, there are more questions than answers that emerge. I’m quite disappointed with the response of the Government on this matter.

We took the sections on the coroner’s powers out of the Criminal Procedure Code and put it into a standalone Coroner’s Act a few years ago. One reason given in Parliament then was to serve the public interest – moving from a fault-finding to a fact-finding regime. But with that as the backdrop, you wonder why if we’ve moved to a fact-finding regime, the facts are not so apparent in Dinesh’s case.

If you say you’re disappointed with the response, how did pushing the point advance the issue?

It’s on the public record, it’s something people will remember. It’s also noteworthy that other people, especially in the online space, started talking more about it. It reminds us that all of us as citizens have a right to find out what’s happening in our system. The Government talks a lot about trust. But trust is a two-way street. The currency of trust is transparency. If there’s one important lesson I’ve learned in politics, certain issues have to be pressed not just by politicians but by ordinary Singaporeans, even more so in a one-party dominant state.

You’ve spoken a lot about transparency as an MP. Why is that so important to you?

I recall then-PM Goh Chok Tong speaking of a participatory democracy in the early 1990s. This is participatory democracy in action. For democracy to work, people must know what is happening. Information and transparency from the Government are critical. Only then can the system work and only then can you build strong bonds of trust between the Government and its people.

What are some measures you hope can be made to improve the level of transparency here?

A more proactive Government when it comes to episodes of public interest. The Government should on its own accord understand that people have a right to know what is happening in society and in the country. The most important thing is for the Government to instinctively release more information as the first resort and not have people and civil society question them repeatedly.

In other countries which have the Freedom of Information Act, there’s this recognition that the people are the ones that the government is ultimately answerable to. I’ve also spoken about whistleblower protection, whistleblower legislation, the ombudsman. I think all these are institutions which will buttress trust between the people and the government.

How do you think the WP fares itself in terms of transparency?

We tell people what we know and the facts we have on hand. We’re not in the business of trying to hide things for you simply cannot do that in today’s day and age. There’s nothing in our pockets that we don’t want to share with people.

One criticism of the WP is that it tends to clam up in a crisis – for instance, when allegations arose about former expelled, MP Yaw Shin Leong.

It wasn’t so much clamming up but giving someone the chance to compose themselves and then be accountable. We were willing to give Yaw as much space as he wanted for that. When it was clear that wasn’t going to happen, then obviously another course of action had to be taken.

In Parliament, you’ve been criticised by ministers a few times. Do you feel daunted by that?

Well, something would be wrong if I was not criticised! As a young MP, you reflect on it and look at ways to improve. But the majority of the criticism is nothing more than political posturing. It’s the cut and thrust of democratic politics and facing a dominant party in Parliament. It’s in their interest to identify members of the WP as somehow incompetent and not fit to be MPs. That’s the nature of politics in Singapore and you try to not feel daunted by it. If you’re daunted by the PAP, it’s probably better that you don’t join opposition politics. But there’s nothing unpatriotic or un-Singaporean about having a very different view from the PAP. As long as you have the interest of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart, you just move on.

What were the most rewarding and challenging moments of the past two and a half years?

Rewarding moments, when residents drop a note to the property officer in charge of their area and thank him or her for a job well done. Or I get a letter from a resident or government body which says an appeal has gone through. The most challenging times are when certain residents come up to you, they’ve been applying for job after job but they’re not getting what they want, and they become depressed. I try my best to convince them to not give up, to just keep sending out their CVs and not give up hope. It really can be difficult to deal with and I keep assuring them that they can come and see me any time they want and I’ll be happy to intercede on their behalf, write a letter to represent them if need be.

One episode of your political career that sometimes still crops up is the speech you made in 2011 on the ombudsman.

Yes. I put up a statement some time in July in response to this. As I mentioned in that statement, I should have just gotten up and said, look, this has been quoted from this individual and full permission had been given by that individual. In fact, the blogger was honest enough to do it on his own accord when he realised that a political issue was being made of it. But I suppose at that point, looking back at it, my own concern was keeping the identity of that individual anonymous because he was an anonymous blogger. Maybe the wiser thing to have done to prevent the PAP from making political hay out of it was just to say, look, I’ve gotten permission for it. It was an oversight. I learnt a lot about politics from this.

In Parliament, some say you can be quite aggressive. Do you agree?

I wouldn’t say my style is aggressive, quite the opposite – I mean, it’s not a rally. But certain questions have to be asked directly. If that counts as aggressive, then I don’t think things are going to change!

Do you have an interest or hobby that people may not know about?

My wife discovered during a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur that if you plonk me in a bookshop which carries magazines like Air Forces Monthly, Air International or Combat Aircraft Monthly, you can leave me there for 45 minutes and my shopping batteries will be recharged! I’ve always been a huge military aviation enthusiast. When I was young, I would fix model planes. If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I’d probably be a pilot. Unfortunately at a very young age, I suffered from a bad case of myopia like many Singaporean children, so that dream was dashed!

What films have you watched and what books have you read recently?

The last film I watched was Flight, starring Denzel Washington. I tend to watch a lot of movies starring black actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes etc. One of my favourite actors is probably Forest Whitaker – I enjoyed him in The Last King of Scotland. I also recently watched The Great Gatsby, which I enjoyed.

Since I became an MP, I’ve not read many books. Time is a bit more of a premium. Now, I tend to read shorter articles a lot more. I was in the Parliament library and there was this revealing article written by Lee Kuan Yew in 1982. It’s called The Search for Talent. In showed that even in those days, PAP MPs were raising the issue of professionals on visit passes being allocated public housing while Singaporeans had to wait for the allocation of HDB flats. Mr Lee’s message was, it’s ok, that’s the price you have to pay to get people over. I think to understand the PAP today, the heartbeat of a lot of these policies actually originates from Mr Lee’s thinking, and we have been slow to change course because of it.

What do you do to unwind?

When I run, my mind’s at ease and I really feel like I’m destressing. That’s the non-sedentary option. The sedentary option would be to watch sports. I like all sorts of sports except darts, but inevitably I’ll end up watching soccer. The teams of choice are Manchester United and – since they re-entered into Malaysian competitions – the Lions XII. I hope they qualify out of the group stages of the Malaysia Cup although they’ve done well to win the league. C’mon Lions!

You got married last year. How has married life been?

Marriage is a new chapter. I’ve been lucky because my wife is the one who spends a disproportionate amount of time on our marriage. Time is not something I have in generous quantities and she keeps the house in order. I’m very thankful to her for all she has done for our marriage. She knows that being the wife of an opposition politician is not easy, but she recognises that public service is also open to people who are not part of the PAP and she respects the decision I’ve made and is very supportive of what I do. She has been wonderful.

Do you talk politics with her?

She’s got a feminine perspective on social issues which one cannot ignore. Sometimes, she will look at a person and say, look, they’re saying one thing but their body language is revealing something else. She gives me tips too: you’re not standing straight, bad colour coordination, you’re moving too much – which is a bad habit I have.

Who would you consider your political hero or inspiration?

I’ve got a lot of political heroes. They tend to be people who have emerged from incredible darkness, hopelessness and challenges of their times. People like Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, who emerged out of the Cold War. Trade unionists, people in civil society who stood up against tremendous obstacles and still had an enlightened approach to what human society should be like. Closer to home, people like Chia Thye Poh, JB Jeyaretnam. They were among many leftists who paid a very heavy price for their beliefs. Whether you agree with them or not, I’m proud of people who stood up against the odds and tried to make things better. And in my heart, the man who stood in front of the row of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989 is equally, in my eyes, a hero.

But since I became an MP, I’ve developed an acute respect for politicians in office and what these people stood for. Like the socialist Brazilian leader Lula da Silva, whose message was “I cannot fail because if I fail, ordinary Brazilians will realise that the average person cannot dream or aspire to lead this country and contribute to public service”. Ordinary people who aspire to great heights because of a desire to serve – that’s very motivational for me, particularly if you juxtapose it with our society where our leaders tend to be of a certain class.

Do you see your role in politics here as something similar to your inspirations?

I suppose the WP’s message is, our doors are open to everybody. The main thing we look out for is people who are really committed to serve. It takes all sorts of people to make up a country and a good governing cohort. In the early days, the PAP also had people from all walks of life. I think that’s healthy. We should look at having more balance in our political realm. Everybody should be allowed to dream and aspire to contribute.

Has the PAP moved away from that kind of balance?

Most definitely. Whether you like it or not, the fact is you tend to see more of the scholars coming through the system and that seems to be already ingrained.

Do you think the WP and the opposition face a similar challenge? The electorate also seems to expect the opposition to produce people with “credentials”.

The short answer would be yes. But that’s because the PAP has set the bar as such. It doesn’t adequately represent the spectrum of our society. If you have a society that has all these elites in charge, then you question whether they can really have the pulse of the common man at heart. I’m not suggesting they don’t, but I think it would be good to be more representative in the higher echelons, not just at the party level.

Is that something the WP consciously tries to do?

We try hard to get a mix that is broadly representative of society. But you always need some people who are incredibly intellectual yet so very down to earth – Show Mao is an example. On the other hand, you have people who are just very normal Singaporeans. I think most of us count ourselves in that bracket, including myself.

What was your first brush with politics?

I don’t think there was a first brush per se. But almost 10 years ago, I had a first cousin who ran a transport business. Almost overnight, you had a situation where the doors to a lot more foreigners were opened. Incorporate a company today, buy a lorry on hire purchase tomorrow, and you’re in business. They would undercut the locals. The Singaporeans couldn’t match the price because they had families to feed. A whole industry was ravaged by cheap foreign labour. The only real skill my cousin had was a class five license and some basic qualifications in logistics and supply management. With three children, he realised he couldn’t sustain himself. So he migrated to Canada.

If you have the capacity, are willing to start again and slog, host a network overseas, you can migrate. But for many Singaporeans, that’s not an option. They have to eke out a living in Singapore. It pained me to know that this was the lot of Singaporeans like my cousin. Why should anyone want to leave a country they call home? I can’t say that this was a turning point but it did play on my mind for quite long. I understand the argument of globalisation, but I do feel we ought to look after our locals.

How did you come to settle on joining WP? Did you consider other parties?

I liked the fact that the WP was always measured in its approach. Given the political climate in Singapore, the reality is that the PAP is in control of many different agents and actors in society. So obviously, the PAP’s reach is very broad and widespread. But I looked at the WP and the work that Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim did, and that was quite inspirational to me. That’s how I decided. At the end of the day, I’m a moderate, and I felt that the message of rational, responsible, respectable politics was one that I identified with very naturally. We can have differences, but how we deal with the differences is important. With no disrespect to the other parties, the WP’s brand and what it stood for just appealed to me more.

What’s your assessment of the Singapore system?

There are a lot more areas where it can improve. I think we can be a much more egalitarian society. We can pay a lot more attention to people below the poverty line and the elderly. It’s that old “tough love” concept. Sometimes I think we are too tough. I’m not suggesting we move to a system where we are profligate in public spending, but I think more avenues should be made for exceptions to the norm. Middle managers in the civil service must have the confidence and the assurance to say ‘hey, this is a deserving case, I will stand behind this person and go to my directors and say, look, I think this person needs to be given a chance’.

What encourages you the most about Singapore?

The fact that the younger generation are not afraid of speaking up and being heard. They are concerned about the direction this country is going. It’s also good to know there’s more concern about civil liberties. Take the Bukit Brown movement – I thought that was very encouraging.

You have a quotation by Mr Lee Kuan Yew on your Facebook page (“If you believe that men should be free, then, they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then, no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought.” – Lee Kuan Yew in opposition, 27 April 1955) What’s the significance of the quote to you?

I think it’s a reminder that our views change over time. So rather than be black and white about certain things, there are people with different opinions out there and let’s respect them. Nobody would think of Lee Kuan Yew speaking up for civil liberties the way that quotation expressed it. It just reminds me that even someone who people would later describe as authoritarian, even he had very different views in an era long gone by. But it’s also true that when you’re younger, civil liberties are very important to you. We’re seeing that in our younger generation and we should never lose that.

If you could change an episode of Singapore’s history, what would it be?

We probably would have institutionalised the importance of an opposition earlier had the Barisan MPs not walked out (in the late 1960s). While I respect their reasons, sometimes I get sentimental about the fact that an opposition would probably have taken root much earlier. I think Singapore would have benefited from it, without undermining the development brought about by the first generation of PAP leaders.

The second episode is, when we were in Malaya from 1963 to 1965, I wonder how things would have been if the Tunku and Lee Kuan Yew had been of similar ages. There was a 20-year age gap and I wonder if there would have been a meeting of minds about why each had to do what they did had they been of similar ages, particularly if Mr Lee was around the Tunku’s age.

How has life changed since entering politics, and how do you juggle politics with your legal career?

It’s very difficult to juggle a career and being an MP. I’m keeping my options open on how to achieve a better balance. But I would say that if it ever came to a point where it was difficult to manage, I would drop law and concentrate on the constituency. I’ve not reached that point yet, but if it comes to that, I think the decision would be a very obvious one.

Parliament: Ministerial Statement on Town Councils (Pritam Singh) – 13 May 2013

Thank you, Mdm Speaker. The Town Councils Act of 1989 was passed with reference to Singapore politics of the 1980s, when non-People’s Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament (MPs) were elected to check the government, ending the one-party rule of the PAP in Parliament. Whatever the stated intent and objectives of the Act, Government entities could make life difficult for elected non-PAP MPs from carrying out their duties. For example, by refusing to allow the non-PAP MP to use the existing Town Council (TC) office after securing the people’s mandate at the polls because governing legislation like the Town Councils Act provide no safeguards against direct or indirect actions by a PAP government that is intent on obstructing non-PAP TCs.

The Ministry of National Development’s (MND) findings have cleared Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM), a fully owned PAP company from any wrongdoing. But, in the minds of many Singaporeans, while the MND Report found nothing legally out of place with the AIM transaction, legal legitimacy under the Town Councils Act does not necessarily represent a commitment to good governance and the continuity of public services in the aftermath of general elections.

During the reading of the TC Bill, then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong explained the politicisation of the TCs as giving MPs increased authority and responsibility as a result of which, voters would be more likely to vote “carefully and sincerely” and choose honest and effective MPs. However, the years that followed saw other means used by the Government to lower the standing of a duly elected MP, even if that individual was able to run a TC competently. Denial of upgrading projects — such as the then Main Upgrading Programme and the Interim Upgrading Programme – was a ruthless psychological PAP tactic at the polls that pandered to the selfishness of the individual, at the expense of other higher order human instincts such as fair play and equality.

For all practical purposes, the PAP government of the day could jeopardise a candidate’s prospects at the ballot box and punish residents without even having to worry about the legal consequences of doing so, as there were none, forget about any protection under the Town Councils Act. So in spite of the original intent of the Act, even if an MP was honest and effective, the government of the day retained significant powers to cripple him, as it did in Hougang and Potong Pasir. Beyond the determination of the respective MPs in these wards, the thing that held the MPs in esteem was the wisdom, sense of justice and personal sacrifice of the majority of their voters.

It is through these historical lenses that many Singaporeans understood the AIM imbroglio that unfolded at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, after coming to terms with the revelation that the PAP incorporated and owned a private company in 1991 that was operating in the public sector.

While the MND Report saw a “fundamental tension” between the objectives of delivering good public service and the political accountability of MPs – in the specific case of AIM unfortunately, it fell short in exploring the source of this tension. Quite simply, the source of the tension was the political profile of AIM.

The right of a fully-owned PAP company to terminate a critical piece of the then Aljunied-Hougang Town Council’s (AHTC) infrastructure with one month’s notice was not in the public interest precisely because even by the PAP’s own admission, it would have taken up to two years or even longer to establish a new Town Council Management System (TCMS). The presence of this clause, in the political context of the Town Councils, ought to have raised a conflict of interest red flag because a PAP-owned company and the PAP TCs had defined their rights and obligations by virtue of a contract that ran the real risk of undermining and prejudicing an incoming non-PAP run TC.

Many Singaporeans wonder what would happen to a Town Council in the absence of a working and functional TCMS. Beyond managing maintenance records, feedback management amongst other critical day-to-day operational functions, the Town Council would not be able to efficiently manage the collection of S&CC fees from residents. Collection would have been a cumbersome exercise, part-manual, part-electronic, and the Town Council would have been overwhelmed by S&CC collection, leaving little time for other tasks. Until a new TCMS was established, there would have been numerous disputes pertaining to the accurate collection of S&CC fees and potentially, a whole list of unfulfilled contractual obligations with the Town Council’s contractors.

While the standing of the elected MP would be compromised, the real losers would be the residents who would be faced with delays with rubbish collection, dysfunctional amenities, and a very unpleasant state of affairs immediately outside their own homes, all unconnected to the competence of the incumbent MPs. The prospects of this reality would explain why the AHTC team worked in the months after May 2011 to stabilise Town Council operations and upscale the former Hougang Town Council’s IT management system, instead of allowing the residents of Aljunied GRC to be potentially held at ransom by a one-month termination clause in the hands of fully-owned PAP company.

The MND report justified its finding of the absence of any conflict of interest in terms of Town Council members having a pecuniary or direct interest in the AIM transaction, whether the interests of the Town Council’s residents were protected or impaired and whether there was any misuse of public funds. However, beyond the contention that the AIM transaction was not in the public interest, if one reflects on the historical context in the aftermath of the passing of the Town Councils Act, a fully-owned PAP company’s right to terminate the TCMS was in keeping with the philosophy that has defined the relationship of the PAP government with opposition-run Town Councils since 1988, and therein lies the inherent conflict of interest surrounding AIM – a conflict of interest that has been duly recognised by discerning Singaporeans.

In the more recent past, the PAP has moved away from denying upgrading to opposition wards, but the political calculations behind this move do not mean that a u-turn can never take place. The historical record shows that the public interest in the non-PAP Town Council context is usually a victim of PAP pressure on voters during parliamentary elections. There is significant opinion outside this House that this is an ethically unacceptable state of affairs.

It is for this reason that the remarks of the Permanent Secretary of the MND in his letter of 30 April 2013 to the Prime Minister, which called for a strategic and comprehensive review of Town Councils, ought to be welcomed. Of particular significance is MND Report’s recognition of public calls to depoliticise Town Councils, a point that was somewhat reinforced by a Straits Times poll of 7 May 2013 where 41 out of 50 residents called for the same, the main concern for some being the lack of a political level-playing field and its impact on residents.

The question of depoliticisation is significant because it raises not just the issue of a review of the Town Councils Act, but the substantive relationship of the Government towards wards which are not run by PAP Town Councils. For the specific purposes of this debate, depoliticisation must mean that companies owned by political parties should not tender for Town Councils contracts – a glaring omission from the MND report. In addition to the recommendations called for by the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC Ms Sylvia Lim, the report’s call for depoliticisation – if executed as imagined by most Singaporeans – would effectively entail inducting a new brand of politics into Singapore insofar as Government-Town Council relations is concerned, representing a hope and desire that goes far beyond the findings of the MND report, but one that is in line with public expectations.

Some members of the public have suggested that certain Town Council functions like the provision of the TCMS can be the purview of agencies like HDB and that governance would improve with MND’s oversight. However, putting critical infrastructure in MND’s hands would be self-defeating if agencies like HDB are open to political influence in matters concerning local Town Council administration.

If such agencies are open to political influence, they would effectively be operating like quasi-Managing Agents, as evidenced by the HDB’s decision to lease 26 common properties under the then Aljunied Town Council to the People’s Association in the aftermath of the 2011 General Elections, to the exclusion of the incoming Town Council and newly elected MPs. In the AIM context, the larger point is that critical assets like the Town Council’s IT system and its intellectual property must remain part of the Town Council and cannot be terminated unilaterally. Non-PAP Town Councils must be allowed to effectively manage the town without political interference by HDB or MND, or have its functions compromised by policies that serve a political purpose to the advantage of the ruling party.

Mdm Speaker, the findings of the MND report provides a rare opportunity for the Government to look into substantively depoliticising not just Town Councils, but the relationship between TCs and the government. The MND report at paragraph 59 states that there were some who opined that depoliticising TCs can improve their governance and that MND can “regulate and oversee Town Councils without perception issues.”

Unfortunately, as I have explained earlier, the historical track record of the PAP is not promising in this regard. Depoliticising Town Councils will not mean anything if political calculations continue to determine how MND or other agencies deal with non-PAP Town Councils. It will not guarantee a level playing field as sought by Singaporeans, nor will it be reflective of the “new normal” we operate in today where an expectation of transparency, accountability and equality ought to represent the guiding principles of good governance.

I look forward to the tabling of the Town Council amendment bill where these matters will inevitably be debated in greater detail. For the immediate term, it would only be appropriate, in light of the findings of the MND Report for the Minister to direct that companies fully-owned by political parties ought to have no business dealing with Town Councils.

Written by singapore 2025

13/05/2013 at 8:58 am

HDB’s Rental Housing Policy (Part 2): Reviewing the System

The profile of rental flat applicants

Rental flat appellants comprise of Singaporeans with widely varying circumstances. Some are victims of structural unemployment, moving from one contract job to another, where salaries can vary quite significantly. Others are divorcees with children, then there are also ex-prisoners who have been shunned by family members who need people to take a second chance on them, and want to be self-sufficient. Many come from families where family relationships have broken down and irreconcilable differences have come to the fore. I had one most unfortunate case where the applicant was a transvestite and who needed an accommodation of his own but was unable to find a suitable partner (the Housing and Development Board (HDB) does not allocate rental flats to individuals. A minimum of two applicants must apply together). And there are many other unique cases.

In fairness to the HDB, allocating rental housing is not a straightforward task. The most difficult part has to be making a judgment about which family or individual is in greater need since supply is currently incredibly finite (possibility explaining the Minister Khaw 2011 remark to build tens of thousands of rental flats). The progressive tightening of eligibility criteria has been devised to ensure that only the most needy are allocated rental flats. How one defines “most needy” is not a science, and remains a difficult balancing exercise.

Singapore-home-prices-upTo this end, the HDB has got its basic principles correct in disallowing sellers of HDB flats with significant cash and CPF proceeds from renting HDB flats. However, in the current “unhappy” phase of Singapore’s property cycle (We’re not in happy part of housing cycle, Tharman admits, ST, Apr 5, 2012), the high cost of resale flats and ever-rising COVs has made rental from the open-market increasingly unaffordable for desperate sellers. Those that suffer most are low-income households who have no choice but to sell their flats to settle mortgage arrears and debts accrued for a variety of reasons, not necessarily linked to individual financial profligacy. In the current property climate, these individuals represent a good example of the unique cases that seek rental housing from the HDB.

Serving needy Singaporeans better

What would an EIP review for rental housing look like going forward? What sort of expectations should Singaporeans have for it? Can we expect the quota for Malay applicants to increase? Or should the review consider removing the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) in its current form from the HDB’s rental housing policy, to a scheme that allocates flats to the most needy Singaporeans, regardless of race? As more low and middle-income jobs in Singapore go down the contract and freelance route, should the government review the requirement for more (and larger, like 3 and even 4-room) rental flats? Should the government relook the entire HDB rental nomenclature in light of moderate economic growth in future, by having a 5 or even 10% buffer of rental flats for a rainy day?

13404654675eef78Firstly, it would appear that the current EIP limits have been severely under-estimated for the Malay community, rendering the current limits obsolete. Accordingly, with the EIP figures for the rental flats in Aljunied-Hougang Town Council in mind, the relevance of the EIP limits for rental flats across Singapore ought to be seriously looked into afresh. If the government is tepid about the complete removal of the EIP quota for whatever reason, then perhaps one upper limit for all races would be a way forward – for e.g. 50% for any one race as a starting point. This would ensure that needy Singaporeans are not penalized because of a bureaucratic policy that makes race such an overly significant and restrictive component of its social welfare policy.

Separately, according to HDB rules, applicants with children who are able to provide accommodation for them in their own homes or whose children have the financial ability to provide alternative accommodation are not eligible to rent HDB flats. It is forseeable that the HDB has to assess applicants who try their luck and claim that relations have broken down with family members. What is not transparent today is how the HDB Appeals Committee verifies the status of these relationships.

Appellants whose family relationships are not deemed to have “broken down enough” to be allocated rental housing are usually directed to Family Service Centres to resolve their disputes. Quite a few of my Malay residents were advised to pursue this alternative.

HDB Logo (1)While it is not known if the HDB calls upon the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), and the Community Development Councils (CDCs) to assess the family history of rental applicants; such a whole-of-government approach, coordinated by one agency under the HDB should be considered as part of the current review so as to ensure that deserving applicants are not unfairly filtered out.

AIC-New-LOGOA whole-of-government one-stop approach appears to be working well in the case of the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) (www.aic.sg), an agency set up by the Ministry of Health to oversee, coordinate and facilitate the Government’s effort in care integration for elderly Singaporeans in particular.

wdaA similar approach ought to be considered for needy Singaporeans, regardless of race who require rental housing, with MSF, the CDCs (de-linked from the People’s Association, so as not to politicise the disbursement of social welfare and aid) and other social welfare entities working in a coordinated fashion under one agency. The objective of such an agency should be to allocated rental housing to needy Singaporeans with a view to equip them with workforce related skills to give them a leg up and to get as many of them to purchase their own flats in due course. A central pillar of an envisaged one-stop agency would also have to include elements of the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to look into and monitor the job prospects and employability of rental flat tenants with a long-term view to get them to purchase their own flats, be they studio or larger BTO flats. A critical role of this agency would be to make a deliberate and sustained attempt at breaking the poverty cycle for all tenants – and younger tenants in particular.

In tandem, in view of a tight labour market and the reduced number of quotas for foreign workers for the forseeable future, such a coordinated one-stop approach can also open the prospect of a large number of public rental flat tenants representing a sizeable local workforce for our Small and Medium Entreprises (SMEs), which have persistently provided feedback about the lack of Singaporeans to run their operations, and the high cost of hiring foreign workers. With 57,000 rental flats expected by 2015, rental flat tenants may well provide a useful respite for our SMEs from the cost pressures of increasing foreign worker quotas, provided rental tenants are paid a respectable wage consistent with the cost of living in Singapore.

p3Finally, as we move into a new phase of stable and developed-nation economic growth for Singapore, what is becoming apparent is that the demand for rental housing is not likely to abate. In such an environment, the expectation of transparency with regard to housing policy and information is not likely to abate either. The Government needs to seriously look into its longstanding reluctance about being open about non-security related information, a point iterated by its own Chief of Government Communications, Mr Janadas Devan.

In an ST article, “Government changing way it engages diverse society”, dated 15 Nov 2012, Devan was asked if the Singapore government would enact a Freedom of Information Act sometime down the road.

Mr Devan said he was not sure but he felt the Government’s current policy, where it deems most data confidential unless it decides otherwise, should shift to one “where you assume most of the information should be publicly available, unless you feel it should be confidential”.

While it is not known how the HDB or the Ministry of National Development (MND) feel about a prospective Freedom of Information Act or about making information public, revealing the EIP limits for rental flats public should be a safe place to start. If anything, a shift in attitude in favour of transparency, would put us in better stead as a nation to devise new policies and reviewing old ones to look after needy Singaporeans better. Substantive transparency would also empower Singaporeans to assist in the co-creation of policies and improve the quality of public feedback to state agencies.

The author would like to thank his colleague, Faisal Abdul Manap, MP for Aljunied GRC for his views.

Ends.

Useful Link:

Eligibility Criteria for HDB rental flats:

http://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10323p.nsf/w/RentDirectHDBEligibility

Written by singapore 2025

30/12/2012 at 6:04 am

Should opposition MPs be grassroots advisers?

Janice Heng

23 September 2011

The Straits Times (c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

The practice of appointing PAP candidates as grassroots advisers in opposition wards has been in the news of late due to disputes in Workers’ Party-held Aljunied GRC and Hougang. Insight digs up the history of this controversial practice.

ON OCT 31, 1981, Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam won a by-election in Anson and became the first opposition Member of Parliament to be elected since 1963.

It was a historic win, for the then Workers’ Party chief had broken the 13-year monopoly of Parliament by the People’s Action Party (PAP).

A peculiar question arose in the aftermath of his victory: Who would be made adviser to Anson’s grassroots organisations?

Uncertainty in Anson

BETWEEN 1968 – the year the last Barisan Sosialis MPs walked out of the House – and 1981, Parliament was an all-PAP affair.

Every elected MP automatically became his ward’s grassroots adviser.

Shortly before the 1981 by-election, however, there was a rule change. The adviser no longer had to be the MP. Instead, he would be chosen by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Mr Jeyaretnam observed then that as these rules were not gazetted, one could not tell exactly when changes were made.

For almost two months after the by- election, whom Anson’s adviser would be remained a mystery – at least to the public.

Mr Lee Khoon Choy was then a senior minister of state in the PMO and deputy chairman of the People’s Association (PA), a post he held from 1977 to 1984.

Mr Lee tells Insight that even then, he thought the elected MP should be appointed grassroots adviser.

‘I was in favour of allowing all elected MPs to be active in the centres,’ Mr Lee says, referring to community centres and others that come under the PA’s grassroots network.

‘They should be allowed to do so – after all, they were elected,’ he adds.

But as chairman of the PA, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew objected to allowing opposition involvement, he says. A line had been drawn on the matter.

On Nov 8, 1981, Mr Goh Chok Tong, then Health Minister, Second Defence Minister and deputy chairman of the residents’ committee (RC) steering committee, said RCs came under the PMO and would ‘continue to report to the PMO’.

Asked how Anson RC members should respond to Mr Jeyaretnam’s requests for help, Mr Goh said: ‘If the requests coincide with the efforts of RC members, which comply with what the PMO would like them to do, then I think they are legitimate requests. And I think RC members will comply.’

In his first post-election press conference, on Nov 13, Mr Jeyaretnam said he was unsure if he would accept the advisory role even if it was offered to him.

But he later said he would have to give such an offer serious consideration as he did not want any confrontation with the authorities.

A civil servant as adviser

ON DEC 23, the PMO finally announced its decision. Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had appointed PMO director Ong Kok Min as the adviser to Anson’s six grassroots organisations: three RCs, the citizens’ consultative committee (CCC), and two community centre management committees.

In response to the news, Mr Jeyaretnam told reporters that he intended to form his own grassroots committee.

‘I intend to get in a committee that will represent the residents and not the Prime Minister,’ he said.

Before the announcement, he had expressed his intention to make grassroots committees elected, rather than appointed by the Government.

In its statement, the PMO observed that since the PA’s formation in 1960, no opposition MP had been included in its committees and activities.

Advisers to grassroots organisations – which were government agencies under the PMO’s authority – were chosen for ‘their commitment to government policies’, said the PMO.

As an opposition MP, Mr Jeyaretnam was not expected to work for the success of the Government’s policies, it added.

The Government has not wavered from that line since. In PAP-held wards, it appoints MPs as grassroots advisers but in opposition-held wards, it gives PAP candidates that role.

Politics and the PA

IN PARLIAMENT in 1983, Mr Jeyaretnam disputed the neutrality of grassroots organisations – a topic which would recur in the House for the next three decades.

He claimed that the PA and its organisations had been put to use ‘in promoting the fortunes of a political party’ – namely, the PAP.

As an example, he noted that PAP candidates at election time were accompanied by officials of CCCs and RCs.

In contrast, he said, the RCs in his constituency had shunned him.

Then PM Lee Kuan Yew retorted that Mr Jeyaretnam had ‘disqualified himself’ from being made adviser by disdaining the unelected nature of RCs.

As for the PA, it was ‘an unusual association to meet an unusual set of circumstances’, he said.

When the PAP came to power in 1959, it wished to combat the communist threat, said Mr Lee. But one problem was that people preferred not to be involved in politics, out of fear of communist reprisal.

‘We therefore came out with this proposition which enabled community leaders not to identify themselves with a political party but to identify themselves with the Government of the day. There is a clear distinction,’ said Mr Lee.

That proposition was the PA, conceived as a non-partisan body.

Speaking to Insight this week, Mr Lee Khoon Choy regrets how the PA and its organisations came to be embroiled in political controversy.

‘The PA should concentrate not on politics, but on culture, and how to bring the people together,’ he says.

His views have not changed from 1981: ‘The PA is for everybody,’ he says. That includes the opposition, he adds later.

Opposition objections

GOVERNMENT explanations have failed to satisfy the opposition.

In the 16 years from 1981 to 1997, issues relating to the role of grassroots advisers were raised in Parliament no fewer than 10 times.

Mr Jeyaretnam raised them again in 1985, this time supported by Mr Chiam See Tong, who became MP for Potong Pasir in the 1984 General Election.

In an interview with Insight this week, Mr Chiam says his constituents were ‘very disappointed’ when he was not made adviser.

‘It was a slap in their faces. They elected me as their MP, and here came the PAP to take me away from them.’

Mr Chiam pursued the topic through the 1980s and 1990s. After the 1991 General Election saw more opposition MPs in Parliament, his complaints were joined by those of Mr Low Thia Khiang, then MP for Hougang, and Mr Cheo Chai Chen, then MP for Nee Soon Central.

The opposition MPs asked why they could not be made advisers to grassroots bodies; disputed the neutrality of the PA; complained about being denied the use of community facilities; and took issue with the process of applying for public funds.

The Government’s response remained the same through the years: grassroots advisers must help advance government policy, and opposition MPs cannot be expected to do so.

When Mr Chiam protested in 1987, then Minister for National Development S. Dhanabalan noted that any PAP MP who did not help to advance government policy would be removed as adviser.

If Mr Chiam could state that he was able to advance government policy, then the PA would be prepared to consider him as an adviser, he added.

Then PA deputy chairman Lee Yock Suan echoed that sentiment in 1989.

But opposition MPs said that stance painted too obstructionist a portrait of them.

In 1995, Mr Cheo said that opposition MPs like him support and promote government policies that are good.

‘But if the policy is no good, then we have a duty to point it out,’ he added.

Mr Chiam tells Insight this week: ‘We are all Singaporeans. If it’s good for Singapore, we will put our full backing behind government policy.’

Members of the public have recently made the same point.

In a letter to The Straits Times on Aug 31 this year, the PA noted that grassroots advisers have to ‘help promote government policies and programmes such as anti-dengue and active ageing’.

Opposition MPs could not be expected to play this role well, it added.

In response, a flurry of forum letters expressed scepticism that opposition MPs would not promote such policies.

And on its Facebook page, the Singapore People’s Party – of which Mr Chiam is secretary-general – posted photographs of Mr Chiam’s efforts in those exact two areas: serving senior citizens at a ‘durian party’, and holding an anti-dengue campaign when he was the MP for Potong Pasir.

Gaining a political edge?

ONE consequence of opposition MPs not being grassroots advisers is that their town councils’ access to public funds becomes more difficult.

Applications for Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funds must get the approval of the CCC.

In opposition constituencies, the CCC adviser is usually a PAP member – often the defeated candidate at the previous election, or the candidate intending to contest the next election.

Projects by opposition-held town councils are hence unlikely to be approved, Mr Chiam and Mr Low have said.

Both have called for the town council to be allowed to apply directly for funds.

In 1995, Mr Chiam noted in Parliament that before Mr Low was elected, the Hougang CCC had supported several recommendations for CIPC funds.

But this support was withdrawn after the PAP lost Hougang, said Mr Chiam.

The next year, noting that defeated PAP candidate Andy Gan was adviser to Potong Pasir CCC, he said: ‘How do you think the defeated candidate will advise the CCC? To give support to the opposition’s application?

Naturally not.’

He noted that his own town council’s applications had been rejected by the Potong Pasir CCC.

The defeated PAP candidate is elevated ‘to a higher status’ than the elected MP and ‘given all the facilities to win back the seat’, said Mr Chiam.

Meanwhile, Mr Low noted that potential PAP candidates were often brought into the constituency as second advisers to the grassroots organisations, allowing them to ‘work the ground in the constituency and gain political capital’.

Ill-fated advisers

EVEN if this was the PAP strategy, it does not seem to have paid off.

Before the 1984 General Election, Mr Ng Pock Too – then political secretary to the prime minister – was made adviser to the Anson CCC. He ran against Mr Jeyaretnam that year and lost.

The Anson seat disappeared after the electoral boundaries were redrawn ahead of the 1988 General Election.

In Potong Pasir, a string of PAP candidates became grassroots advisers – but electoral victory remained Mr Chiam’s.

Mr Mah Bow Tan became adviser to the Potong Pasir grassroots organisations after his defeat by Mr Chiam in 1984, but handed over the position to Mr Kenneth Chen in 1988.

Mr Chen ran in Potong Pasir that year, but was defeated. Two weeks before the polls in 1991, Mr Andy Gan became adviser. He ran and lost in 1991 and 1997.

In early 2001, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin took on the role. He ran and lost in 2001 and 2006, but finally won the seat this year, after Mr Chiam left to contest in Bishan- Toa Payoh GRC.

The story was similar in Hougang, where defeated PAP candidate Tang Guan Seng became a grassroots adviser after the 1981 polls.

He was followed by Mr Heng Chee How, who lost in the 1997 election; Mr Eric Low, who lost in 2001 and 2006; and Mr Desmond Choo, who lost this year.

Many of the defeated candidates later entered Parliament by contesting in other seats and GRCs.

Changing times?

MR CHIAM, in 1987, warned that excluding opposition MPs from grassroots bodies might divide the nation.

‘We cannot have two worlds in Singapore – one who is supportive of the ruling party and the other who appears not to be supportive,’ he said.

And if there are more opposition members in the future, ‘the difference will be greater’, he said.

Today, there are six opposition MPs in Parliament. An alternative grassroots body has been set up in Aljunied GRC, which is held by the Workers’ Party.

Some have suggested that this duplication is unnecessary, and a result of the exclusion of opposition MPs from grassroots bodies.

‘It’s unnecessary and a waste of energy,’ says Mr Lee Khoon Choy, who thinks the Workers’ Party MPs should be involved in the PA organisations. He adds that ‘our society needs more harmony’.

Others have turned the question around and asked: Why should PAP MPs themselves be grassroots advisers?

Having PAP members on the ground to explain the party’s policies was crucial in the volatile decade of the 1960s, when ideological battles were being waged.

But the justification for having a party member as grassroots adviser, rather than a grassroots leader with no political affiliation, may seem less strong today.

As members of the opposition – and of the public – continue asking these questions, the three-decade-old response might eventually have to be reconsidered.

janiceh@sph.com.sg

SAME WAVELENGTH

‘…the grassroots adviser has to be somebody who can work with the Government and help the Government achieve its goals on the ground. I think that’s necessary.’

PM Lee Hsien Loong (above). He was responding to media queries on the recent spat between the People’s Association and Workers’ Party MPs.

TIME TO CHANGE

‘A change is long overdue. If it doesn’t happen, it will be bad for the Government and bad for the PAP – the people can see the unfairness.’

Mr Chiam See Tong, former MP for Potong Pasir for 27 years, who thinks opposition MPs should be allowed to be grassroots advisers

Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Written by singapore 2025

23/09/2011 at 2:07 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.

Ends.

______________

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).

https://www.facebook.com/notes/sear-hock-rong/straits-times-sniffing-out-the-grassroots-divide-in-aljunied/10150224816389580

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 pa.gov.sg 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

Ello Sponge: TRUST MUST BE EARNED.
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 http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Wrong-Party-page-and-fans-are-rubbish/233500646675725
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
Title: PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION (AMENDMENT) BILL
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);

PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION (AMENDMENT) BILL

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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