The People’s Association (PA) was founded in 1960, and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was founded in 1961.
After 60 years, what is the verdict of the people? Have the PA and NTUC been entrenched in serving the interests of the People’s Action Party (PAP) or the needs of the citizens of Singapore?
The PAP must realise by now that Singaporeans do not see the PA and NTUC as independent, apolitical organisations.
For a start, losing PAP candidates in an election get to be appointed grassroots advisers under the PA, while opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) are shut out altogether from grassroots organisations.
They also cannot make use of publicly-funded PA facilities for meet-the-people sessions and community events, while unelected PAP grassroots advisers can do so.
Hands up those who buy the assertion by Minister Chan Chun Sing that he would be “the last person to ever allow the PA to be politicised”?
PA recently withdrew its offer of a meeting with Ms Sarah Bagharib, whose wedding photograph was used without permission. Just like a parent who withdraws privileges from a child for misbehaving.
But the irony is that in this case, it was the PA who misbehaved, upon committing an inexplicable error in the first place.
Is this the hallmark of an institution that professes that its mission is to “promote racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore”?
In light of recent incidents, there are concerns that racism is on the rise in Singapore. Shouldn’t PA take ownership of the issue since its mission for 60 years has predominantly been that of promoting racial harmony and social cohesion?
The same goes for NTUC. For people or for party?
It would appear that over the past 60 years, NTUC has become more adept at running businesses – from supermarkets and childcare centres to food courts, insurance, and golf course management.
The NTUC group of businesses are defined as social enterprises and do not pay any taxes. But while they are social enterprises in name, the big question is whether they are in reality being run like profit-driven conglomerates.
Most crucially, when was the last time NTUC sided with workers in any dispute with government or state agencies? For example, how has NTUC or its affiliates been helpful to workers such as the dozen or so bus drivers over employment contractual issues?
Out of desperation, a crowdfunding campaign has to be organised by bus drivers themselves for a lawsuit against SBS Transit that is scheduled to be heard in the High Court. This is despite NTUC professing that its vision is to be “an inclusive labour movement for all collars, ages and nationalities.”
Former Minister Ng Chee Meng was booted out of Sengkang GRC in the 2020 General Election, but got to stay on as secretary-general of NTUC. Hardly surprising because this is how the system works.
In 2011, Ong Ye Kung lost as a PAP candidate for Aljunied GRC, but he was also subsequently “parked” at NTUC before eventually returning to contest again as a candidate in the 2015 General Election.
NTUC – like PA – is the holding cum breeding ground for PAP politicians.
There is every possibility that Ng Chee Meng will take the same route as Ong Ye Kung. He will bide his time at NTUC and return to contest in the next election not necessarily in Sengkang GRC but back door via a safe GRC.
As a final reminder, the NTUC is never just a bystander at every presidential election – without fail, it throws its full weight behind the PAP candidate.
Again, for the good of the people or for the preservation of the PAP?