The Temasek Policy Review

A critical review of Singapore's policies from the ground

Elected MP should automatically be appointed as grassroots adviser of GROs and not losing candidates

Posted by temasektimes on May 29, 2012

Two days after he was soundly rejected by Hougang voters in a by-election, PAP losing candidate Desmond Choo is back at ‘work’ again conducting his weekly ‘tea sessions’ to meet Hougang residents at Hougang Community Club.

Though Mr Choo is not the elected MP of Hougang, he still has the privilege of hosting unofficial ‘Meet the People’ sessions in an air-conditioned office paid for by taxpayers while the elected WP MP Png Eng Huat has to meet them in a make-shift office in a HDB void deck instead.

In an interview with the media after his loss, Mr Choo pledged to work together with Mr Png Eng Huat to bring improvement to Hougang:

“Any project, as long as it benefits the residents, is in their best interest, is sound, is practicable… I am more than willing to support. I will also need support from him for some of the programmes that we run, especially places which require town council support.”

With due respect to Mr Choo and his contributions to Hougang so far, his work should be undertaken by the elected MP of Hougang who should automatically be appointed as its grassroots adviser.

Having two persons holding two different positions – MP and grassroots adviser performing the same task is not only counter-productive, but leads to duplication of unnecessary work and waste of public resources.

In PAP-controlled constituencies, its MPs hold the position of grassroots advisers in their respective wards, why shouldn’t this be the case for non-PAP constituencies?

All grassroots organizations are under the ambit of the People’s Association (PA) which is supposedly a non-partisan statutory board funded by taxpayers.

As such, it should respect the choice of the voters and not make a distinction based on political affiliations. A non-PAP grassroots adviser can perform the same role equally well, if not better if he or she is given full support by the PA.

In the light of the ‘new normal’ in Singapore politics which sees Singaporeans clamoring for more alternative voices to represent their interests in parliament, the present arrangement of appointing PAP losing candidates as grassroots advisers in non-PAP wards not only runs contrary to the PA’s aim of fostering community bonding and national unity, but will potentially divide the nation along political lines in the long run.

It is also not feasible or viable should the opposition win more seats in future elections. Imagine the additional number of grassroots advisers the PA will have to appoint to ‘compete’ with the elected MPs to do the same job should the opposition wins another few SMCs and GRCs in four years’ time?

As a result of the exclusion of its MPs from the PA, the Workers Party have to set up two separate grassroots bodies – the Hougang Constituency Committee and Aljunied Constituency Committee to take charge of grassroots affairs in Hougang and Aljunied respectively.

How much public monies can be saved and put to better use had they all come under the same umbrella of the PA?

It is about time the government show some respect to the voters by appointing their elected MP as grassroots advisers regardless of which political party they come from.

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