Sylvia Lim was wrong! PA never drifted from its original mandate

WP MP Ms Sylvia Lim asked in Parliament if the People’s Association (PA) had drifted from its mandate. Ms Lim said: “An unhealthy culture seems to have developed within some quarters of the PA, who see its role to include advancing the ruling party politically and undermining the work of Opposition MPs”.

Ms Lim also cited an incident when she was seeking information from the MND on plans for private-estate upgrading projects in her ward, Ms Lim said: “The ministry referred me to the CCC. I then wrote several times to the CCC, but it seems that my letters do not even merit a reply.”

Ms Lim’s is of course wrong if she thought that the PA drifted from its original mandate. In stonewalling and undermining the work of Opposition MPs and advancing the ruling politically, the PA is actually fulfilling its mandate – its ORIGINAL mandate as set out by the first of our Founding Fathers, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

This is from the CIA historical review programme:

“Singapore is a city without a countryside, with more than two million people packed into an urban area not much larger than Richmond, Va. In this environment social problems multiply. It came as no surprise when the large pro-Communist left wing of the ruling People’s Action Party split off in 1961 to form an opposition whose purpose it was to exploit these multiplying problems. As a consequence, there emerged two parties with almost equal strength in the legislature and an almost equal call on the loyalties of the people.

When PAP leaders surveyed their shrunken mandate after the split, they decided to meet the crisis head on with a nation-building program designed to wean pro-Communist voters away from the opposition. Their plan was unique in several ways. First, it was wholly an Asian creation and at no time depended to an important degree on idea,. or resources from outside. Second, the program aimed at two-way communication between government and ruling party at the top and the people below, and it aimed also to prove that the government could be responsive to the people’s needs. Finally, the program deliberately confused the roles of government and party so that the people tended to praise the party for activities undertaken by the government, Funded by the government but exploited by the ruling party, it cultivated an image independent of both. Thus Singapore’s unique People’s Association was born.” (emphasis mine)

Yes… the US Central Intelligence Agency wrote that. Ok fine. Maybe the CIA is biased against Singapore for whatever reasons and concocted that piece of fiction as a veiled attack on the integrity of Singapore’s government institutions.

Let’s hear from another source then:

“They discover that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has only a small office in Bedok. But everywhere they go, they see the PAP – in the RCs (residents’ committees), CCCs (citizens’ consultative committees), and the CCs (community clubs).” (emphasis mine)

Who said that? None other than our dear Founding Father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He said that in 2009 during a dialogue marking the second anniversary of networking group Business China. He was referring to one of the lessons the Chinese learn when studying the way PAP governs Singapore.

For those who don’t know, the RCs, CCCs and CCs are all structures under the PA.

So… clearly… Ah Gong’s original intention for setting up the PA was precisely to advance the PAP. And it seems that other PAP MPs agree too! One PAP candidate (now MP) even declared this during his rally speech, claiming that as an advantage he has that an opposition candidate will never have if she gets elected as MP:

This is Mr Lim Biow Chuan at about the 6-minute mark referring to Mrs Chong-Aruldoss in a rally speech during the GE2011: “someone with no experience to manage a Town Council and with no Grassroot Leaders to help. I can do so, because I have got 300 plus Grassroot Leaders to help me to connect with the residents to serve you to work with you to make this place better. What does she have?”

With all these pieces of evidence, how can anyone believe that PA isn’t partisan?

But Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Deputy Chairman of the PA still wanted to try convincing Singaporeans that PA is non-partisan. In response to Ms Lim’s question, he said this in Parliament: “If Ms Lim has any such evidence of wrongdoing, you can let me know, and I guarantee you I will follow up. I will be the last person to ever allow the PA to be politicised.”

Well… Perhaps Mr Chan Chun Sing can start looking at the Mountbatten ward, where Mr Lim Biow Chuan is the MP.

It’s true that the PA has done good work that benefitted Singaporeans. I don’t deny that. It’s true that there are many volunteers and grassroots leaders in the PA network who aren’t card-carrying PAP members.

I personally know a few. I have a friend who is a very active grassroots leader in constituency A. He stays in constituency B. He isn’t a card-carrying PAP member. Nevertheless, for the last two GE’s, he helped the MP of constituency A campaign, going on house visits and all that. But my friend voted for the opposition in constituency B, where he lives in. Why? Because he doesn’t like the PAP candidates in constituency B and he believes in giving the opposition a chance.

Why the incongruence? Why help out in the first place then?

Because, while my friend isn’t a card-carrying PAP member, he likes the MP of constituency A, his style of leadership and what he is doing for the residents there. He sees working with the MP of constituency A as a good way to give back to the community.

There are many volunteers and grassroots leaders who are like my friend. BUT. Their existence doesn’t change the fact that the PA is structured as a tool to advance the interests of PAP and win political capital for the PAP.

You know what I am hoping for?

I hope that we have politicians with the balls to say it as it is.

Come on. We know that the PA is partisan. Just admit it. Tell us why, even though it seems so wrong, it serves the greater good for the PA to be partisan. Try to convince us of that rather than feed us with a blatant lie.

Say something like: “Yes. PA is partisan. It serves the political party of the day. That is important and useful because [whatever reasons, I can’t think of any…]. If you don’t agree with us, you can vote us out at the next GE and whichever party that forms the government then can decide to change it. But I would advise against changing this system, because this symbiotic relationship between the PA and the political party that forms the government of the day benefits ordinary citizens and should trump whatever highfalutin notion of having a political level playing field.”

Saying something like that would be politically incorrect. It would be controversial.  It would no doubt cause a furore. But whichever PAP political office holder who would dare to say something like that would earn my respect for speaking the truth. And it would make for a far more meaningful discussion.

But. I highly doubt that any of the PAP politicians would have the balls to do something like that publicly. And that’s the greatest tragedy.

[Featured Image: PA Headquarters. Image credits: ST photo by Lim Yaohui]

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4 thoughts on “Sylvia Lim was wrong! PA never drifted from its original mandate

  1. The one thing that really disappoints me about WP is their constant laments on laxk of fair play. Its like, please, be realistic. Does thar exists anywhere. I really rather they focus on countering unfair play instead of lamenting out it.

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  2. If there is one aspect I would like to see change, it is that opposition politicians are given greater access to visit all kinds of residents, rather than as some said, being denied entry into condominiums, while the PAP candidates seemingly are able to do so with their links to the PA. Also, do away with the idea of a losing PAP candidate being appointed grassroots adviser. The PAP has enough reach and clout to still connect with the residents even without this.

    Beyond that, I see it hard for the PA to not be partisan. You can do away with all the red tape that you claim makes the PA a partisan organization but you can’t change the people who work or volunteer there. Do you think in the first place that many pro-opposition residents would actually volunteer with the PA, or RC, or become a grassroots member in the first place? Organize events, attend them, work with establishment figures? Not really. So the ones who do so are inevitably either hard core, or partial to the establishment. And come election time, who do you think they will volunteer for? The PAP of course. You can argue for them to not do so in the capacity of the PA, but you cannot change the fact that the PA is inevitably filled with pro establishment people.

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  3. I am not all surprised to hear from this wise guy again. It is really amazing that the MIW actually think this dud will be acceptable as a future PM. The boy did well in his studies, won scholarships, rose quickly in the Army; he ends up with nowhere to go ! So like magic, he appears and is willing to serve the society ever grateful for all the opportunities this nation has given him. The PAP has a real problem – they don’t have any more politicians. All they can attract are boys who did well in their A levels and became scholars. So the Army and the civil service must continue to provide the same kind of leadership we have seen all these years; exam smart people who cannot relate to the real world. And no, I have not forgotten the occasional Ipoh and Penang immigrant who is also grateful to Singapore for the wonderful opportunities this nation provides and remains a beacon of hope. Back to the subject, the PA never deviated from its original role – work for the politicians in power and be financed by the taxpayer. Another great invention of the Old Fogey.

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