Singapore — The Workers’ Party (WP) has to do everything itself in its wards, unlike People’s Action Party (PAP) town councillors and MPs, who have the resources of the People’s Association and its groups at their disposal, according to Aljunied-Hougang town councillor Kenneth Foo Seck Guan.
Sharing photos from a Christmas celebration at Aljunied GRC last month, Mr Foo wrote on Facebook: “In a recent interview by ST, I voiced out that the incumbent will have the PA, CC and RC to run the events. In WP, we do everything by ourselves which we also call “Bao ga liao”.
“Nevertheless, at the end of each event, you see the satisfied faces of our volunteers and also residents. That’s the greatest reward.
“We stick by the chosen path we took to support the MP’s work in the constituency. As the saying goes, if it’s not challenging, we are redundant.”
In November last year, WP Secretary-General and Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh said that organising community events are important to the WP but made challenging since the opposition party does not have access to facilities like Community Clubs (CCs).
CCs, which were set up to foster a sense of community among Singaporeans, run social, cultural, educational, sports and recreational activities for residents in the neighbourhood of the CC. They maintains facilities that they use for community events. They are run by a group of volunteers who form the CC Management Committee. CCs also serve as a channel of communications between residents and the Government.
CCs are under the purview of the PA, a statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY). Its Chairman is the Prime Minister. Like other PA organisations, CCs are commonly run by grassroots leaders, many of whom are members of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
CC facilities are commonly used to host community events organised by PAP politicians but the same benefit is apparently unavailable for opposition MPs, according to Mr Singh.
There have been concerns over whether the management of the PA should be less politicised. The PAP has fielded candidates who were active grassroots leaders in PA organisations in past elections and there are allegations that CCs and Residents’ Committees (RCs) have encouraged the public to support PAP candidates at rallies and electoral events.
Further, opposition MPs are not allowed to be advisers to government-run grassroots bodies since grassroots advisers who are appointed by the Government are expected to support and execute its programmes and opposition MPs are not expected to do so.
Shortly after the WP won Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election, party Chairman Sylvia Lim revealed that the WP was informed that 26 public sites, including fields and hard courts, had been leased by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to the PA and that the PA had informed them that “booking by WP will not be allowed”.
Veteran WP MP Low Thia Khiang also noted that temples were allowed to hold activities in his constituency only if they had supporting letters from the grassroots organisations, and not from him as the elected MP.
The Government, however, has held that the PA and its grassroots organisations are not politicised. PAP minister Chan Chun Sing said in 2016 that the PA “executes the directions for the Government of the day, as per any statutory board. The PA does not allow any political activity or canvassing on our premises or in our activities. And we certainly do not mobilise anyone for any political party.”