The Online Citizen (TOC) reported on 15 August that the People’s Action Party (PAP) may have contravened the constitution of the Sunshine Welfare Action Mission (SWAMI) home.
Or rather, the home itself may have breached its own constitution under the Registry of Societies (ROS) Act.
On Friday, 14 August, the PAP held a press conference in the premises of the home to introduce its candidates for Sembawang GRC for the upcoming general elections.
The event was headed by the chairman of the PAP, Khaw Boon Wan, who incidentally is also the Minister of National Development.
Mr Khaw and his colleagues were decked out in the white uniforms of the PAP for the media conference at 5, Sembawang Walk, in the north of Singapore.
The PAP badge was pinned on their uniforms too.
As TOC reported, SWAMI home is a charity and a voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) which “cares for its elderly residents, provides dementia day care for the elderly, and medical, nursing and other support services to the elderly or sick elderly living at home.”
It is also a recipient of government funds.
According to its latest annual report, it received between S$6 million to more than S$8.5 million in government grants each year from 2011 to 2014.
The PAP Government has always insisted that voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), such as the SWAMI home, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which receive government fundings must not engage in political activities, or promote any political agenda.
Mr Ravi Philemon, a director of an NGO, had also pointed out that such societies and homes usually have a provision in their constitutions which would forbid its members or its premises from being used for such political activities or for political purposes.
Mr Philemon said:
“I have several years of senior management working experience in VWOs, and so I know that most VWOs’ Constitutions specify that such organisations shall not indulge in any political activity or allow its funds and/or premises to be used for political purposes.
“Is this clause also specified in SWAMI Home’s Constitution? If so, did SWAMI Home contravene its own Constitution by allowing its premises to be used for political purposes?”
TOC has managed to obtain a copy of SWAMI home’s constitution from the ROS.
Indeed, in clause 22.6 of the document, it states very clearly:
“The Society shall not indulge in any political activity or allow its funds and/or premises to be used for political purposes.”
The PAP’s press conference to introduce political candidates for an election to elect political representatives for Parliament was clearly a political activity held for a political purpose.
In 2013, Mr Ho Ka Wei, Director of Corporate Communications, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, reiterated that there must be a separation of politics and VWOs and NGOs which receive government funding.
Mr Ho was responding to a letter from Ms Braema Mathi, president of NGO Maruah, asking if the rules were the same for government MPs and for people associated with opposition politics.
Mr Ho replied that indeed the rules apply to all.
Mr Ho said:
“The rules are indeed the same for all. The Government supports many NGOs and VWOs. Government MPs who serve with them, as well as everybody else, must be clear that their role is to help achieve the particular social, cultural or educational goals of these bodies, and not to exploit these bodies for their own political ends.”
It is worth repeating the last sentence above:
“Government MPs who serve with them, as well as everybody else,… must be clear that their role is…not to exploit these bodies for their own political ends.”
If this was so, why then did the PAP find it alright to use the premises of the SWAMI home for a political activity for a political purpose?
And just as importantly, why did the SWAMI home allow its own constitution to be breached in allowing its premises to be used by the PAP for a political purpose?