The barrier-free-access (BFA) ramp at Blk 108 Bedok Reservoir Road is now open to the public, announced Worker’s Party MP Pritam Singh in a Facebook post, seven years after it was first proposed.
Mr Singh noted that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, which he chairs, has been waiting for documentation and additional pipe diversion to be completed before receiving approval to open the BFA for resident use.
Using this ramp as an example, Mr Singh explained how the government allocates about S$40 million to all Town Councils around Singapore for community improvement projects. However, for projects to be funded, MPs have to raise them to the Grassroots Advisers for consideration. This can be challenging as the losing PAP candidates are appointed as Grassroots Advisors in opposition wards like Aljunied and Hougang.
For example, the grassroots advisers to the Aljunied GRC include PAP members Victor Lye, Chua Eng Leong and Shamsul Kamar who contested Aljunied GRC back in 2015 but lost to WP as well as other PAP members Chan Hui Yuh and Alex Yeo.
Mr Singh wrote, “Through such upgrading projects, losing PAP candidates are made relevant for residents and can be said to campaign for votes well before the General Elections because they are embedded as leaders in various grassroots organisations that approve the dispensation of large sums of taxpayer dollars.”
As the next elections loom closer, Mr Singh said he’s hearing 4G leaders talk about the “dangers of a polarised society, dysfunctional politics with social media often blamed, amongst other reasons”. He notes that 4G leaders also often repeat calls for an inclusive society and co-creating policies.
However, he questioned if those same leaders would consider the PAP’s divisive approach to politics as the “elephant in the room that will make Singapore a politically polarised society”.
Mr Singh then highlighted the moment in 1981 when the PAP lost the Anson constituency to WP. At the time, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and his 2G leadership decided to transfer the Anson Community Centre and control of the grassroots organisations to the winners, JB Jeyaratnam “to be fair”.
“But their natural instincts were overruled. And here we are,” wrote Mr Singh.
Should PAP candidates be appointed as grassroots advisers, even in opposition wards?
In 2018, Mr Singh and fellow WP MP Faisal Manap raised some concerns over the politicisation of the grassroots due to the link between the PAP and grassroots organisations. Mr Singh has noted that all People’s Associations (PA) grassroots advisers are members of the PAP, even in opposition-held wards, asking if the policy of working with PAP MPs extends to the community development councils.
Mr Faisal added that it is “not right” for PAP candidates to become advisers since Meet-the-People sessions with them are held at PAP branches with appeal letters bearing the party letterhead and being signed off by them as party branch chairman.
In response, then-Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Mr Chan Chun Sing said that the PA, as a statutory board, supports the elected government of the day in implementing its policies and programs. This was the explanation given as to why opposition MPs are not appointed as grassroots advisers.
Mr Chan said, “We do not presume that opposition MPs believe that they would be willing or able to execute this role for the government of the day.”
Mr Chan said that grassroots advisers are appointed by the government to help the PA grassroots to carry out their mission of promoting social cohesion and racial harmony as well as connecting the people to the government.
“The key criterion is that we believe that the person can help contribute to the mission of the PA, which is to bond our people and to help the government of the day to govern the country to make us a much more responsive Government,” he said.
While stressing that grassroots organisations under the PA will work with both advisers and opposition MPs on matters relating to their respective roles, Mr Chan also said it’s the governments job to run the country and do its best for its citizens, which is why they select people to help make sure that the people and government are connected.
Going back to the BFA ramp, Mr Singh pointed out in his post that the project took years to complete when it should have only taken months.
“How many senior citizens, immobile, and yet others recovering from episodes such as debilitating strokes could have benefited from this facility earlier, but for how the PAP determines the People’s Association operates in opposition wards?” lamented Mr Singh.
“Other proposals by opposition MPs for the community are commonly ignored by the People’s Association,” he continued.
“This will not do, no matter who is in Government and who is the opposition. Singapore and Singaporeans deserve better.”