SINGAPORE: A Reddit user shared what he/she deemed to be a “hack” that would allow Singaporeans to, in a sense, enjoy the best of two worlds: being represented by a Member of Parliament from an opposition party while enjoying benefits from the People’s Association.

u/Sure_heartsutra1221 wrote in a post on r/SingaporeRaw that it’s a hack many people are unaware of.

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“If (the) opposition wins in your constituency, the losing PAP will still be the main person, known as the Grassroots Adviser,” he/she wrote, further opining that “GRAs have more power than the MP, except appearing in Parliament.”

The People’s Association, responsible for overseeing neighbourhood communities and social organizations, is a statutory board under the purview of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

The PA appoints Grassroots Advisers to help foster social cohesion and connect with and engage people regarding the policies and programmes of the government.

The Reddit user added that it’s the GRAs that hand out disbursement and bursaries from the PA. “Are you surprised by this hack?” he/she asked.

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In 2011, Ooi Hui Mei, the PA’s director for corporate and marketing communications, said that one of its aims was to connect people with the government.

“The government has to appoint grassroots advisers who support its programmes and can play this role well.

She added that opposition MPs cannot be expected to do this and thus cannot become advisors” to grassroots organisations.

Ron Tan, part of the WP slate that contested in Marine Parade in 2020, said something similar to the Reddit user when he said in an interview with Yahoo!News that the residents of Aljunied and Hougang, under the WP, “have choices from both sides.”

Calling opposition victories “win-win situations” for voters, he added, “So why not Marine Parade?” One example of GRAs at work in opposition wards is when Edusave Awards are given out.

In Sengkang in 2021, instead of Workers’ Party MPs He Ting Ru, Louis Chua, or Jamus Lim giving out the awards, the former PAP MP for Sengkang West SMC Lam Pin Min did so. Dr Lam is the branch chairman of the area.

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In a Facebook post shortly afterwards, Assoc Prof Lim wrote that when a resident asked why he was not present at her daughter’s Edusave Award ceremony, he had to explain that:

“MPs from opposition wards are not simultaneously the grassroots advisers for their constituencies (who are the ones that actually give out these awards)”. /TISG

Read also: Faisal Manap: In opposition wards, it’s the losing candidate appointed as grassroots advisor despite having been rejected by voters