“After the recent elections, questions have been raised on whether grassroots activists had fully reflected dissatisfaction and feedback from residents to their Members of Parliament” (Opposition ‘Can Help De-Polarise Politics’, Miss Neo Chai Chin).
In the news article – “Opposition ‘Can Help De-Polarise Politics’” (June 8, 2011) by Miss Neo Chai Chin – Member of Parliament Mr. Yaw Shin Leong and Opposition politician Mr. Jimmy Lee touched on the roles and responsibilities of constituency-based community organisations, as well as their corresponding grassroots activists. In particular, Mr. Lee expressed scepticism over their effectiveness in the communication of feedback or policy sentiments, and asked for a study to be conducted to consider the aforementioned propositions, so as to make render them fairer and more productive.
Grassroots activism is primarily centralised in the respective Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCC) present in every constituency; and is expressed in a plethora of channels or platforms. First, monthly CCC meetings bring community stakeholders together to discuss communal problems – neighbourhood security, dengue cases, water and hygiene issues et cetera – and subsequently work with related agencies to devise solutions. Second, its management of the community centres allows volunteers to organise family events – from festival dinners to children carnivals – and introduce assorted courses for Singaporeans. Third, directing its efforts through the residents’ committees (RC) and various sub-committees allows it to reach out to specific group of target audiences, and gather on-the-ground dissatisfaction, broader socio-political or economic opinions, and heighten levels of engagement.
Therefore, taking into perspective the commitment and activities undertaken by the CCC and their sub-groups, it would make perfect sense to steadily disassociate party activism from grassroots volunteerism. A clear line must be drawn: initiatives managed by the CCC and its members are not in place for the benefit of any political party; instead, they are simply organised for the advantage of the community and residents.
The benefits of this distinction are aplenty. The disassociation would lower the barriers to entry for people – such as civil servants and students – who might have qualms with the status quo; which is currently seen as being too closely-aligned with the ruling party. Along the same tangent, participation in organised events – and in the administrative organisation of events – will consequently rise. In a broader political sense, grassroots activisms can then be positively perceived as an unbiased, neutral ground for Singaporeans to work towards the common good beyond political views or party lines.
Progressively, the CCC mechanism needs to become more accessible and inclusive, so that it can expand in critical mass, awareness and capacity levels. If it remains oblivious to the perceptions harboured by a significant segment of the society, it risks being gradually sidelined in time to come.