SINGAPORE: The People’s Association (PA) is a statutory board that supports the elected government of the day in implementing its policies and programmes, said its deputy chairman Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Thursday (Mar 8).
The PA's mission is to promote social cohesion and racial harmony and to connect people and government, he said during the Committee of Supply debate of the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth.
The PA also explains and gathers feedback on government policies so that “we can be a responsive and responsible government” he said, adding that grassroots advisers are appointed to guide PA grassroots organisations in carrying out this mission.
This includes explaining “difficult and sometimes unpopular policies that are necessary for the future of Singapore” such as the impending GST hike and foreign manpower policies.
“We do not presume that opposition MPs believe that he would be willing or able to execute this role for the Government of the day,” said Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.
He was responding to questions from Workers’ Party MPs Pritam Singh and Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap.
Mr Faisal asked whether there was conflict of interest and “politicalisation” when PAP candidates who stood for elections and lose act as grassroots advisers.
He also asked if there were similar issues involved when a letter is written for a resident from an opposition party ward by a grassroots adviser who is also a “political party branch chairman”. The letterhead used for this letter bears the name of the political party, he added.
Mr Singh had asked about the role of Community Development Councils (CDCs) - overseen by PA - and the nature of the relationship between opposition town councils and CDCs.
Following his explanation, the MPs sought clarifications. Mr Singh gave the example of banners put up to convey festival greetings to residents, and asked if an opposition-run town council can tap some kind of "co-funding" for putting up those banners, as they sometimes include the logos of the town council and CDC.
In response, Mr Chan said: “Government agencies do not fund political outreach for any political party. Government agencies will work with various community partners to serve the needs of community.”
WP chief Low Thia Khiang then said: “Grassroots advisers, or PAP MP, or prospective PAP candidates, or appointed grassroots advisers, or previous candidates of PAP heading activities on the ground - are these activities not considered political outreach?”
Mr Chan went on to draw a distinction between political outreach and impact.
Using Sports Singapore as an example, he said its core purpose is to “inspire the Singapore spirit and transform Singapore through sport”. The body conducts activities on the ground with community partners, but it is not being political, Mr Chan said.
“When the statutory boards and Government agencies do their work properly, and do their work well, does it have a political impact? The answer is obvious,” he added.