SINGAPORE: New Housing Board flats and private developments will be served by one Residents' Network (RN), instead of having separate Residents' Committees (RCs) and Neighbourhood Committees (NCs) for HDB and private estate dwellers, respectively.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this on Friday (Jul 20) at an event held at the Singapore Expo to celebrate the 40th anniversary of RCs and 20th anniversary of NCs. Both committees are part of the grassroots network of the People’s Association (PA).
“This way, new flats and private developments can come under one RN, rather than one RC and a separate NC,” he said.
Explaining the idea behind having one combined entity, Mr Lee, who is also the PA chairman, said that “quite a few” RC and NC leaders suggested removing the distinction between the committees. RCs and NCs are no longer as separate or distinct as they used to be, he said.
“This will encourage residents from public and private estates to mix more freely," he said.
Mr Lee said that eight in 10 NCs have a neighbouring RC, because of private and public housing developments that were deliberately planned near each other.
EXISTING RCs AND NCs CAN DECIDE WHAT TO DO
Existing RCs and NCs can decide whether they want to rename themselves as RNs, or re-organise and merge into a single entity, said Mr Lee.
He acknowledged that many RCs and NCs have a long history, heritage and identity which they might want to preserve, and existing networks and bonds within their communities that are precious, which he said should be maintained.
"Nonetheless, I encourage you to look for new ways to work more closely and collaborate with neighbouring RCs and NCs. Perhaps one day, you will feel less of a need to have separate groups, and be more comfortable and confident with one another to decide to merge," he said.
During engagement sessions organised by the PA Headquarters with RC and NC leaders, one idea that was “intensively discussed” was how these committees can work more closely with one another, he said.
He added that working closer together can also help the committees pool resources and reach out to people more effectively.
FEWER YOUNG FAMILIES AND CHILDREN IN RC AND NC EVENTS
RCs and NCs have to understand their residents well, and organise themselves and their activities to meet their needs and interests, in order to continue being successful, Mr Lee said, drawing particular attention to young residents.
“Today, fewer young families and children participate in RC and NC events. They have more options for entertainment,” he said.
He noted that some traditional RC and NC activities may no longer be as attractive to this group, as younger people tend to spend more time at home, playing computer games or surfing social media, instead of being out with neighbours.
“We have to make a special effort to reach out to them, to get young people to join RCs and NCs, to organise activities that they find interesting, and also by using social media ourselves,” he said.
He suggested that RCs and NCs can also look out for opportunities to work with other groups that are not part of the grassroots network, such as other interest groups, clans, youth organisations, and religious bodies.
He also reminded grassroots leaders who are volunteers that they must always conduct themselves properly, “never pushing your weight around, or taking improper advantage of your position”, not just during official functions, but also in everyday situations.
“As grassroots leaders, people see you not only as private persons, but also as representing government and authority. So it is only natural that very high standards are expected, and these high standards must be adhered to,” he said.