The recent Edusave Awards at the Compassvale Villa RC held on 19 February (Sunday) was a moment of celebration for awardees.
The Ministry of Education’s Edusave scheme awards grants and scholarships to deserving students annually and these awards are given out by grassroots advisers.
The ceremony was graced by Dr Tan Kia King, Adviser to Sengkang North Grassroots Organisations (GROs). Ms Theodora Lai, the new chairperson of the People’s Action Party (PAP) Sengkang North branch, was also present at the event.
In March last year, the PAP announced that Ms Lai, along with two others, would replace the previous PAP team that was fielded against the Workers’ Party (WP) at the new Sengkang GRC which lost in GE2020 with 52.12% of the votes against PAP’s 47.88%.
The move came after former WP MP Raeesah Khan stepped down as a Member of Parliament for the GRC, following the revelation that she had lied in Parliament about an alleged experience with the Singapore Police Force involving a sexual assault victim.
Ms Lai’s attendance at the ceremony has piqued the interest of many, particularly since she was seen wearing the PAP party colours.
However, elected WP MPs have not been appointed as advisers to the People’s Association (PA) GROs contrary to how PAP MPs are in the other constituencies and are therefore not allowed to attend events like the Edusave Awards ceremony.
In a Parliamentary reply in 2018, Cabinet minister and PA deputy chairman Chan Chun Sing said that grassroots advisers were appointed by the Government of the day to guide the PA grassroots organisations in carrying out their mission to promote social cohesion and racial harmony, and connect the people and the Government.
He added, “This includes explaining difficult and sometimes unpopular policies that are necessary for the future of Singapore, such as the GST hike and foreign manpower policies. We do not presume that opposition Members of Parliament believe that they will be willing or able to execute this role for the Government of the day.”
This issue of non-PAP elected MPs being deprived of their connection to PA activities and difficulties in accessing Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funds issued by the Ministry of National Development (MND) to upgrade estates with facilities such as covered walkways, footpaths and cycling tracks.
In opposition wards, MPs looking to tap CIPC funds will have to submit proposals to the CCC, which is a grassroots organisation under the PA.
Associate Professor Jamus Lim, a WP MP, re-highlighted the issue on Facebook last year.
He explained that he was not able to attend the Edusave Awards ceremony to distribute the awards, and he received a number of email queries from concerned parents whose children were looking forward to interacting and taking a photo with their MP.
He also offered to write them a signed letter of encouragement that he could distribute to them in an informal mini-ceremony at his weekly meet-the-people session.
The absence of elected opposition MPs at events like the Edusave Awards ceremony is seen by some as a reflection of the ruling party’s attitude towards the opposition.
Despite the WP’s victory in Sengkang GRC, Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, elected WP MPs have not been given the same opportunities as elected PAP MPs in other constituencies.
The attendance of Ms Lai at the Edusave Awards ceremony raises questions about the apparent double standards, even if she was not there to give out the awards, as elected WP MPs are not even allowed to be present at the Edusave Awards ceremonies.
TOC has reached out to the PA for verification of Ms Lai’s relation to the GROs but has yet to receive any response.