Online commenters agree with MP Pritam Singh’s call for an overhaul of PA grassroots organisations

On Monday (29 July), Workers’ Party MP Pritam Singh took to his Facebook to mention that the ethos of community service in Singapore through the People’s Association (PA) requires a revamp after the politician highlighted a recent conversation between a grassroots organisation called Simply Eunos and a resident.

Simply Eunos claimed in its Facebook page that two of their grassroots leaders “attended a fire incident at Blk 602 Bedok Reservoir Road, as alerted Singapore Civil Defence Force myResponder app.”

However, a resident commented on the post to note that the fire was actually put out by a couple of cleaners and that no one else had ‘attended’ to the fire. The commenter, Ms Rosalind Lee, said the post was misleading as it is “giving credit to the grassroots leaders for the purpose of putting PAP in a good light”. Simply Eunos, on the other hand, was not aware that the fire was put out by the cleaners until it was informed by Ms Lee in the comment section. Ms Lee noted that she called the town council about the fire instead of SCDF because it was just a small rubbish chute fire which is pretty common.

Based on this incident, Mr Singh first narrated in his post his gratefulness for the PA grassroots volunteer in his constituency of Eunos in Aljunied GRC, where “some are incredibly fair-minded, independent” and “are cautious about associating themselves with the PAP or WP.”

But, Mr Singh explains that there were other Residents’ Committee (RC) or Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) chairpersons or members who are ‘PAP cadre members’, there simply to “do a hit job on the opposition” and “stirring the ground with half-truths”.

The politician then went out to highlight how “a fair number” of grassroots leaders would work as PAP polling agents on polling day which causes to residents to think that the help they’ve received came from PA volunteers who are volunteering for PAP. “One can imagine the political influence a PA grassroots leader and an unelected PA Grassroots Adviser can wield during elections,” penned Mr Singh.

As such, the WP MP highlighted his party’s proposal of doing away with the current structure of grassroots organisation and unifying the PA under the leadership of a non-political institution such as the President instead of the Prime Minister as it is now. This was mentioned in the Workers’ Party’s 2015 manifesto.

He added, “The outcome of such a review should substantively align the grassroots with values enshrined in our flag and represented by the stars therein, particularly values like justice, equality, democracy.”

Following the Workers’ Party victory in the 2011 General Election at Aljunied GRC, a large number of public places which were managed by the town council was transferred over to PA. WP’s chairman, Ms Slyvia Lim then wrote, “the unilateral decision by the HDB to lease these sites to the PA and to have them excluded from common property under the management of AHTC without any consultation with the AHTC or its elected members is politically motivated and an abuse of power.”

Despite being elected, MPs of Workers’ Party were not appointed as grassroots leader of the GRC but instead, candidates from the People’s Action Party, such as Victor Lye were put in place, claiming credits for town upgrading projects and attending community events organised by the grassroots organisations and community centres.

After reading what Mr Singh had to say about the PA grassroots organisations, many netizens wrote in the comment section of his post and supported his points, especially on the fire incident where they claimed credit for it. Online users highlighted that they’re not surprised that these grassroots “like to claim credit to everything possible” as they even did it for other events like the “HIP program at Hougang Ave 1”.

Others agreed that PA should be independent, non-partisan and not be associated with any political party. Some explained that ” in a true democracy they should serve the people and stay away from party politics”. However, since they don’t stay impartial, ” many turn away from RCs and CCs” because they’re not deemed as neutral.

A bunch of online users also noted that the “whole idea behind setting up PA was to push the PAP ideology” and they’re there to solely serve the masters. As such, they thank Mr Pritam for highlighting this issue and call for a change, which they believe can be done by voting for the right party in the next general elections.