From ‘Chen Show Mao ‘uninvited’ from communal event”, 21 Aug 2011, article by Benson Ang in tnp.sg and Chen Show Mao’s Facebook page.
CONTROVERSY has broken afresh online after Members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition ward of Aljunied were “disinvited” to at least one ghost month dinner events.
Workers’ Party (WP) MP for Aljunied GRC Chen Show Mao explained on his Facebook page yesterday that he had been scheduled to attend such a dinner last week, but the organisers had called to let him know that they could not have him show up as originally hoped.
Grassroots leaders are often invited to such dinners, held as part of the Chinese Hungry Ghost Month celebrations.
In this case, organisers had – according to Mr Chen’s post – been told by the Paya Lebar CCC (Citizens’ Consultative Committee under the People’s Association) that, as a condition for receiving CCC approval to use a planned venue in the HDB estate, they “may no longer” invite the Aljunied opposition MPs.
(Chen Show Mao): …It pains me that they felt so embarrassed to pass me the news. Regrettably, this is not the first time it has happened since I was elected….Many residents talk to me about the events they are organizing in the neighborhood: some of them wish to invite me to join them, others don’t see the need to. That is all fine by me … there is really no call to force our residents into a quandary over whom they may invite as guests to their own events.
According to the PA website, under the PA Act (Yes there are actually legal frameworks governing PA’s activities):
4 (1) The Association shall consist of -
(a) the Prime Minister as Chairman;
(b) a Minister to be appointed by the Chairman as Deputy
(c) 8 members to be appointed by the Chairman; and
(d) one member to be appointed by the Chairman in consultation
with each of the organisations mentioned in the First Schedule.
Other than our PM as Chairman, the current board of management also includes fellow PAP ministers like Lim Swee Say as Deputy Chairman, MG Chan Chun Sing and Grace Fu. It’s obvious that the PA is really a Recreation Club spin-off of the PAP, and should really be called PAPPA instead. If this ‘PAP who’s who’ line-up is not reason enough to see why Chen Show Mao of the WP was forced into a ‘No-Show’, a similar snub befell Chiam See Tong back in 1988. Chiam, then SDP leader, was not invited to the Potong Pasir National Day dinner, also organised by the Citizen’s Consultative Commitee of the constituency (I wasn’t invited to Potong Pasir dinner: Chiam, 17 Aug 1988, ST), which pretty much confirms that this PA party-pooper business is exclusive to Opposition MPs.
Is the reluctance of the PA to have Opposition MPs at such functions a form of preferential treatment, a wily tactic to prevent any sort of ‘recruitment’ of grassroot leaders into the Opposition camp, or for ‘security’ reasons? DPM Wong Kan Seng was quick to denounce any political link between PA and the PAP in 2006, though any outstanding grassroots work under the PA is a surefire way to get noticed by its predominantly PAP board members. In a heated debate with LKY in 1983, Anson MP JBJ described being ‘treated like a leper’ by RC members, and cited, in contrast, the entourage of 25 HDB and PA associates accompanying a PAP MP on his walkabout. In the same article, LKY had this to say about the birth of the PA in 1960, of which he was the Chairman (naturally)
…Therefore we came out with this association (the PA) which enabled people not to identify with a political party but with the government of the day. There is a clear distinction.
In today’s PA, the ‘government of the day’ resides in its Board of Management, which explains the behaviour of its staff, even if they’re under no obligation to support the PAP in any way. But dig deeper into the history of the PA and you’ll uncover a darker, deep-seated reason behind this aversion to the Opposition. In 1961, 17 PA members were dismissed for allegedly supporting former PAP members (who left to join Barisan Socialis) by distributing anti-government propaganda in CCs, resulting in a strike involving 200 PA members. One of the PAP ‘defectors’ was none other than Dr Lim Hock Siew, later detained for almost 20 years under the ISA. So you can probably understand why PA members aren’t exactly touchy-feely with Opposition MPs, because you never know when inviting one to dinner would be misinterpreted as an act of aiding ‘subversion’.
Of course if today’s PA members, supposedly a non-political body (despite its PAP bosses) decide to hold demonstrations at CCs to kick out WP MPs from their GRCs, they would probably be let off with nothing more than a warning. On the other hand, if they bootlick PAP MPs by helping put up campaign posters or ferry people to rallies FOC during the general elections, that would be judged as actions of their own free will. Therein lies the contradiction of a statutory board disclaiming any political links, and unless there is complete severance of PA from the PAP, or when MPs start wearing the same attire to NDP, this organisation will continue to fail in living up to its motto: Bringing People Together, because from what I understand about the word ‘People’, it means all Singaporeans, whichever political camp you belong to.
Postscript: Former PAP MP Cynthia Chua responded by criticising Chen Show Mao for ‘politicising’ the case. According to the rules in using open spaces, those managed by the PA are leased for its grassroots organisations, but their activities must not be ‘political in nature’. This means MPs are not allowed to attend, but PAP losing candidates in opposition-held wards get to attend such events as government-appointed ‘grassroots advisers’ e.g Cynthia Chua. Which means ousted PAP members, by retaining their ‘adviser’ status, get to mingle more with constituency residents while their very own MPs, the ones who can actually get things done, are banned. Surely, at the back of the minds of such ‘runner-up’ politicians would be getting re-elected, so how is having these ‘advisors’ grooming grassroots leaders at these events and making their presence felt as if to say ‘I’m still here in the running!’ NOT considered a political activity? If PA is serious about its non-party-political affiliations, it should not have any PAP backing at all, and ban all past, present or future MPs from all its grassroots events.
Filed under: 1960s, 1980s, 2000s, 2011, Bloggers, Bureaucrats, Festivals, Politicians Tagged: | bureaucrats, discrimination, facebook, festivals, hungry ghost festival, Lee Kuan Yew, MM Lee, PA, PAP, Politicians