A Facebook post by former Senior Minister of State Lam Pin Min last Sunday attracted criticism from members of the public, who questioned why he was invited to officiate a Residents’ Committee (RC) project in Sengkang GRC instead of the elected Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MPs).
In his post on 27 September, Dr Lam wrote that he had “[o]fficially opened the Sengkang West Zone B Community Garden”, which is located Block 320B and 320C in Anchorvale.
Dr Lam in his post last Sunday said that the community project was kickstarted by the RC “many months ago after receiving many requests from residents for a place to showcase their green fingers”.
“Glad that it is finally ready and hope that residents will enjoy the communal gardening experience!” He said.
Dr Lam, however, was part of the People’s Action Party (PAP) team that lost to the WP team comprising lawyer He Ting Ru, economics professor Jamus Lim, equity analyst Louis Chua and social activist Raeesah Khan in the general election this year.
He contested alongside National Trades Union Congress chief Ng Chee Meng, former Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin and lawyer Raymond Lye.
Dr Jamus Lim is the MP in charge of the Anchorvale division. Ms He is the MP in charge of Buangkok, Mr Chua is the MP in charge of Rivervale, while Ms Khan is in the MP in charge of Compassvale.
Sengkang GRC is the newest GRC to be formed to date. It is a merger of the former Sengkang West and Punggol East SMC, and parts of Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC.
Dr Lam is previously the MP Sengkang West SMC.
Many commenters questioned the RC’s decision to “invite a losing MP” to the opening ceremony instead of the elected representatives.
“Where is the respect to the elected Mp ? People made a decision who should represent them,” said one commenter.
One commenter said that Dr Lam should have backed away “gracefully” and instead begin “doing ground work again”.
“Hanging around when you’ve been told you’re not wanted just makes you look pathetic,” they said.
A couple of commenters joked that residents in the area are getting a good deal with Dr Lam being present as a grassroots advisor.
“Buy 4 get 1 free,” they said.
One commenter highlighted that it is baffling that the WP MPs were not invited to the opening, given that the RC as a grassroots organisation under the People’s Association’s (PA) “is supposed to be non-partisan”.
Aljunied GRC MP and WP chief Pritam Singh earlier this month disclosed in Parliament that he has been asked by residents on why the elected opposition MP is not made present at the community club in the ward.
“Isn’t that elected MP who is an opposition candidate not part of this larger political firmament? Isn’t that unfair?” he illustrated, among other questions that have surfaced among residents.
Mr Singh was responding to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s anecdote on a middle-aged woman’s conversation with Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean during the election campaigning period, in which the woman had reportedly asked Mr Teo on whether voting for the opposition would mean “two persons working for you instead of one” as the PAP’s plans for the constituency would still materialise regardless.
The Leader of the Opposition also addressed claims on how WP is allegedly “trying to engender sympathy from the public” by conducting Meet-the-People sessions at the void deck at public housing blocks.
“People come up to me when I go on the ground and they say, ‘Mr Singh, is it true? Actually, the government says you can build your own offices.’
“Prior to 1991, HDB built offices for everybody, every MP, including opposition MPS. And then they stopped in 1991.
“Why did they stop? Because the argument was that there was a competing need for void deck space,” he said.
Thus, when Singaporeans say that they want the PAP in the government but also an opposition presence in that government, “they are giving voice to the situation many Singaporeans actually feel”, said Mr Singh.
Previous Hougang MP Png Eng Huat had to “contend with the presence of the losing PAP candidate everywhere in the estate” despite having been elected twice
In July this year, WP’s then-MP for Hougang SMC Png Eng Huat highlighted that despite having been elected in the constituency for two terms, he had to “contend with the presence of the losing PAP candidate everywhere in the estate”.
He attached an image containing alleged letter replies from ministries and government agencies which were addressed to the unelected PAP candidate Lee Hong Chuang as the MP for Hougang SMC.
“The civil servants are not to be blamed. They are not the architect of the GRA scheme. Were there even any attempts made by the PAP or GRA to correct these errors over time?
“The PAP had come up with the Grassroots Advisor scheme to perverse the one-man-one-vote system so that its losing candidate will remain relevant and visible, despite not having the mandate to run the constituency. The PAP is basically slapping the voters in face and telling them, “It’s my choice for MP or none!” said Mr Png.
Over a year ago, Mr Png drew attention to how Mr Lee had allegedly tried to claim credit for certain upgrading programmes in Hougang.
In a Facebook post about an ongoing Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP), Mr Png noted that PAP itself has clarified that “if a candidate is not elected as MP, he and his party’s TC basically cannot carry out the NRP plans for the estate”.
“The PAP added it is the TC that prioritizes and nominates the neighbourhoods for NRP, when it applies for government funding. The PAP candidate for the by-election also said that the implementation of NRP was incumbent on “whoever Bukit Batok residents choose… to lead the town council.”
“The HDB also said on its website it is the TC that implements the NRP,” he explained, in reference to the Bukit Batok 2016 by-election.
Highlighting that some Hougang residents at the time have asked the same, Mr Png subsequently questioned how it could have been possible for “a defeated PAP candidate” to carry out the NRP if PAP itself said that only the elected candidate could enforce such measures.
“Has the PAP gone back on its word or was the defeated candidate misguided? If a PAP candidate is expected to implement the NRP, come what may, even if he is not elected as MP, then why did the PAP mislead the voters of Bukit Batok in 2016? The party has to decide which is which,” he stressed.
His successor Dennis Tan, who was elected as the sole representative for Hougang in this year’s general election, also alleged in July this year that Mr Lee had again attempted to claim credit for various upgrading programmes in the constituency, as seen in election flyers distributed to residents.
PA grassroots advisors should be selected among the ranks of non-partisan senior officers in civil service: Aljunied GRC MP Faisal Manap
In his maiden speech in the debate on the President’s Address at the opening of the 14th Parliament, delivered in the House on 2 September, Mr Faisal said that appointing such PA grassroots advisors, in his view, will resolve the issue of alleged bias and unfairness attached to the PA’s leanings toward partisan politics.
The WP MP, who spoke in Malay, said that the experience and knowledge of non-partisan senior officers — such as those who have held directorships or chief executive positions — in ministries and statutory bodies may prove to be “valuable and highly suitable” for the role of PA grassroots advisors.
“It has been reiterated many times in this House that the People’s Association is a statutory body and is non-political, is exempt and is non-partisan.
“It has also been shared previously as to why opposition MPs have not been selected as PA grassroots advisors, among which is that opposition MPs will not be able to effectively shoulder the role of communicating and explaining government policies [to the people].
“However, the explanation and reasons given in the past have failed to convince a great segment of political observers from the public, who still opine that the People’s Association is utilised as a platform to achieve the ruling party’s political interests. Mr Speaker, even I cannot be certain that the People’s Association is free from partisan politics,” said Mr Faisal.