SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Public Service have to “politically sensitive” to their work effectively, but should “never become politicised”, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.
During his speech at the administrative service’s appointment and promotion ceremony on Tuesday (28 Mar), Mr Wong reminded that public service must always remain impartial and do work with professional objectivity, while recognising the political context in which Singapore operates.
He expressed concern about the challenges ahead for the country, including income stagnation, rising inequality, and social polarization.
To sustain Singapore’s exceptional story, Mr Wong emphasized the need for conviction of purpose and “all hands on deck” to chart a new way forward for future generations.
Mr Wong further implied that implementing the increase for the Goods & Service Tax (GST) is a “tough call” that he has to make, emphasizing the need to balance the budget and ensure sound and sustainable public finances.
“Believe me, it’s not something I would have liked to introduce in my first Budget as Finance Minister. But we have designed a unique system in Singapore that combines the GST with offsets, and that ensures the GST increase does not hurt the poor.”
Mr Wong asked public service to be “politically sensitive”
While the Public Service is not directly involved in weighing political considerations, Mr Wong reminded that the importance of understanding the government’s priorities, engaging stakeholders, and partnering in nation-building.
“In short, you have to be politically sensitive to do your work effectively. But you should never become politicised, ” he said.
“You must always remain impartial and do your work with professional objectivity, while recognising the political context in which we operate.”
“So, as I’ve said before, please do not try to second guess what you think I or your Ministers will find politically convenient. Instead, give us your best professional judgment, and be candid in sharing your assessments and views because we value your contributions in this manner.”
WP former NCMP urged DPM Wong to start with depoliticised the People’s Association(PA) and the Elections Department(ED)
Yee Jenn Jong, a former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from the Workers’ Party (WP), has “endorsed” the call made by DPM Wong to avoid politicizing public services in a Facebook post on Wednesday (29 Mar).
However, Mr Yee urges the government to take concrete actions, such as depoliticizing grassroots associations and the Elections Department. He has been consistently urging the government to address this issue since 2020.
Mr Yee also urged that elected MPs from alternative parties should have direct access to Community Improvement Projects funds, and called for shifting the Elections Department (ELD) under the purvey of a “more neutral” figure of authority.
Commenting in a Facebook post by Mr Yee, a netizen expressed disbelief at DPM Wong’s remarks, and questioned why all community centres cannot be used by opposition parties, even in opposition wards.
Another netizen pointed out that the issue lies with the fact that the chairman or chairlady of all these organizations are from the PAP party:
‘Why can’t Opposition use PA aircon room for meet the people sessions’?
Other netizens commenting on CNA’s Facebook post echoed Mr Yee’s opinion and urged DPM Wong to walk the talk, and start depoliticizing organizations like the People’s Association.
A netizen expressed “full agreement” with DPM Wong’s remarks, and suggested that the PA should stop appointing candidates who lost in the General Election as grassroots advisors, to begin with:
Other netizens also commented that the opposition should be allowed to use PA’s amenities to conduct their meet the people session:
Elected WP MPs not made GROs advisers in their constituencies
The PA’s Grassroots Organisations (GROs) do not appoint elected WP MPs in Seng Kang GRC, Aljunied GRC or Hougang SMC, as advisers, unlike their People’s Action Party (PAP) counterparts in other constituencies.
As a result, WP MPs cannot attend events such as the Edusave Awards ceremony.
Associate Professor Jamus Lim, WP MP for Seng Kang GRC, re-highlighted this issue on Facebook last year after being unable to attend the Edusave Awards ceremony to distribute awards.
This issue also affects their access to Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funds issued by the Ministry of National Development (MND) for estate upgrades.
In opposition wards, MPs must submit proposals to the The Citizens’ Consultative Committee (“CCC”), a grassroots organization under the PA, in order to tap into CIPC funds.
In 2016, Sylvia Lim, the Workers’ Party chairman, accused some members of the People’s Association (PA) of using the organization to advance the political agenda of the ruling party. Lim cited examples of PA activists being mobilized to campaign for the People’s Action Party during elections.
However, at that time, Chan Chun Sing, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and the PA’s deputy chairman, refuted the allegation.
He defended that PA is an apolitical organisation that “executes the directions for the government of the day as per any statutory board”.
“The People’s Association does not allow any political activity or canvassing on our premises or in our activities and we certainly do not mobilise anyone for any political party,” Mr Chan said.
It is worth noting that Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, also serves as the chairman of the PA and majority of the board is filled with PAP members.
PA Board of Management List for Intranet and Website (updated 3 Jan 2023)