Calling for the People’s Association (PA) to be unified under non-political leadership like the office of the President instead of the Prime Minister, Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general has revealed that some grassroots leaders are PAP cadres who are “just there to do a hit job on the opposition, stirring the ground with half-truths.”
The PA is a Government statutory board that reports to the Prime Minister’s Office and is affiliated with the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
The PA oversees the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs), which is the umbrella grassroots organisation in each constituency in Singapore, which leads grassroots activities, oversee community and welfare programmes and act as a feedback channel between the government and the people.
The PA is also in charge of Residents’ Committees (RCs), which were established with the aim of promoting neighbourly interaction, good communal relations and overall cohesion. Like CCCs, RCs also serve as channels of communication between residents and the Government.
In a Facebook post published yesterday (29 July), Mr Pritam said that his party has been pushing for the de-politicisation of the PA and its grassroots organisations for years.
Mr Pritam highlighted an article published by the national broadsheet in 1992, which 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.”
Mr Pritam, who has been a Member of Parliament (MP) representing the Eunos division of Aljunied GRC since 2011, said that he has gotten to know PA grassroots volunteers in his ward over the past eight years.
Expressing his gratitude to the part they play in the community, Mr Pritam noted that “some are incredibly fair-minded, independent and work with the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, and are cautious about associating themselves with the PAP or WP.”
In other cases, however, Mr Pritam opined that some some RC or CCC chairpersons and/or their committee members who are PAP cadre members “are just there to do a hit job on the opposition, stirring the ground with half-truths.”
He added: “I also know a fair number grassroots leaders who would be at polling centres during elections – within the RC zone they serve – working as PAP polling agents on polling day.
“Inevitably, residents notice them and connect the help/assistance they may/would have received from these PA volunteers in the past. One can imagine the political influence a PA grassroots leader and an unelected PA Grassroots Adviser can wield during elections.”
The 1992 ST article had touched on how veteran opposition MP Mr Chiam See Tong accused the CCC of serving the PAP and not the people. The article stated:
“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.””
Referring to the 1992 ST article, Mr Pritam said that his party proposed revamping the structure of grassroots organisation and creating a unified PA under the office of the President instead of the Prime Minister, in the WP’s 2015 manifesto.
Reiterating this call, Mr Pritam said that such a move “would take the political element out of grassroots work and focus the MPs’ and volunteers’ hearts and minds to singularly serve the community, regardless which party forms government.”
Revealing that the WP is working on its manifesto for the next election, Mr Pritam said that such a review of grassroots organisations would “substantively align the grassroots with the values enshrined in our flag and represented by the stars therein, particularly values like justice, equality, democracy.”
He added: “It will be an uphill task. Because the status quo as it stands wholly benefits the PAP. It will take an enlightened leadership that puts the country and our parliamentary democracy first, to create a more caring, gracious and cohesive community.
“The WP will try its best. Because there are some things in life that are worth fighting for.”
Mr Pritam’s post came on the heels of an incident involving PAP-affiliated grassroots leaders, in his Eunos division of Aljunied GRC. The grassroots leaders were accused of publishing a misleading social media post and of trying to claim credit for the WP’s quick action in putting out a fire in the area.
On Sunday evening (28 July), Facebook page Simply Eunos – which is run by PAP grassroots members – shared that a fire erupted at a bin chute at Blk 602 Bedok Reservoir Road.
The page said that “our grassroots leaders Mr Kwek and Ms Alice attended to” the fire after they were alerted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s myResponder app but the fire had been put out before the SCDF or the grassroots leaders arrived at the scene.
Facebook user Rosalind Lee revealed that she was shocked to see Simply Eunos’ post on the fire. Revealing that she was the one who first spotted the fire and alerted Aljunied-Hougang Town Council who sent people to put out the fire, Ms Lee said:
“I was so shocked to see this post! I am the resident at Blk 602 to call Aljunied-Hougang Town Council the moment I saw smoke coming out from my rubbish chute area. Shortly after my call, cleaners were running to douse the fire after they bare-handedly pulled the rubbish bin out on ground level.
“Two police cars & a SCDF vehicle came to check the cause of fire. I was monitoring the activities below my flat and except for a few curious passers-by, I am sure NOBODY attended to this mishap except for the cleaners.”
Accusing the group of publishing a misleading post to give credit to the PAP grassroots leaders, Ms Lee wrote: “Misleading post giving credit to grassroot leaders for the purpose of putting PAP in a good light. Lest everyone who read this forgets. This is a WP ward and their quick action resulted in the fire being put out safely.”
Simply Eunos subsequently responded to Ms Lee and said: “The objective of our posting is to remind residents to be careful against disposing flammable items. Thank you for calling the Town Council to assist.”
The group also edited the original post to note that cleaners the Town Council had deployed put out the fire. Curiously, the group did not mention that the Town Council is Aljunied-Hougang Town Council which is run by the WP.
Mr Pritam’s post on the PA and grassroots organisations was published, partly to shed light on this incident. Sharing screenshots of the exchange between Simply Eunos and Ms Lee on his own Facebook page, Mr Pritam revealed that the cleaners who attended to the fire are well.
He asserted: “The screenshots of this post between a Eunos grassroots organisation and a resident today reminded me that the ethos of community service in Singapore through the PA remains in need of a revamp.”
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