Straits Times: No slur on community leaders, says WP

FORUM

I REFER to the letter, “Grassroots leader takes issue with Workers’ Party” (ST, Jan 24), from Mr Paul Wee, chairman of the Cantonment Towers Residents’ Committee.

I wish to clarify that WP has no intention to belittle the contribution and serving spirit of community leaders. I have come across community leaders who serve selflessly.

We proposed abolishing the current structure of grassroots organisations (GROs) exactly because we feel that injustice has been done to the dedicated community leaders Mr Wee mentioned, especially those with no political affiliation or ambition but just a simple desire to do their small part for the community.

WP believes that community service should not be politicised and there is a need to develop a more comprehensive community network to root the people in order to build a more cohesive society.

Voluntary community-based organisations should be allowed to grow. The Government should facilitate and support this bottom-up initiative instead of having the People’s Association operate a network of GROs top-down.

Members of residents’ committees and citizens’ consultative committees are appointed by “government” Members of Parliament (MPs). Why should respectable community leaders be appointed by MPs, whether government or not? At best, the MP should only be adviser to the community organisations.

Moreover, many MPs do not live in the constituencies to which they are elected. This is why in the WP manifesto we proposed that members of community-club management committees be elected in a local election and the elected MP serve as adviser.

It was also pointed out in the letter that many grassroots leaders have been “covertly ostracised” for being too vocal in their criticism. Why should this be the case? Is this situation helpful for both the people and the Government? Therein lies a question as to whether the current GROs are structured to serve as a political mechanism to manage public opinion on the ground and to allow the People’s Action Party to gain an unfair advantage in getting political support by using the big word “community”.

For Singapore to thrive as a country and for us to build a vibrant society, it is time that the spirit of serving and sacrifice be liberated from political control.

Low Thia Khiang
Secretary-General
Workers’ Party

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