They've been in the news lately since the Workers' Party called for their abolition in their manifesto. The PAP came out with guns blazing. Hey, I am not surprised. I expect nothing less from the PAP when their very legs are being threatened - how would they be able to stand up if that happened, right? So, we saw Mr Ng Eng Hen being pointman and Khaw Boon Wan his lieutenant coming out with their sledgehammers.
"They're time bombs!"
"They're poison! They need to be removed!"
Someone who claimed to be a grassroots leader also told me that they were 'suicide pills'.
Much ado over nothing? Mountain out of molehill?
In the coffeeshops and gossip corners, what the WP says is nothing new. Singaporeans - at least those I spoke to - have the impression that the GROs (Grassroots Organisations) are indeed tools of the PAP. Of course the PAP will not and have never admitted this.
But it is quite plain to see that the grassroots and the PAP are pretty much intertwined. An example is the PAP's own Eric Low (their candidate in Hougang SMC in the 2001 elections) saying:
"I would dare to challenge anyone who would say our grassroots are not doing their job. Frankly, without them, I can't be doing what I have....I would imagine that if anyone wants to take that away it's because they feel it as a threat, they are not able of putting up another system which is comparable to ours.... I am very proud of my GROs." (CNA 12 Feb 2006: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/192823/1/.html)
(Emphasis are mine)
So there it is.
Quite plain to see, really.
Some would ask, "What's wrong with the GROs being so closely intertwined with the PAP?". Well, the first reason of course is that GROs were set up to be apolitical, that is neutral. There purpose is to serve ALL Singaporeans in their constituency - regardless of their political affiliation.
Second, being politically neutral, Singaporeans who do not support the ruling party and those who have no political affiliations would be more willing to volunteer their time in the GROs and take part in the activities of the GROs. This is an important distinction. Again, I reiterate that the GROs are suppose to be apolitical - and not be affiliated to any political party, ruling or otherwise.
Third, the GROs should work with the MP who is elected by the people and not with the one who has lost an election, thus have been rejected by the people. If the GROs work with the loser of the elections, then what is the point of the whole elections? This would in effect make the loser the de facto MP of the ward! Wouldn't this be disrespecting the choice of the people?
Why then have elections?
In conclusion, GROs have to above party politics. It's that simple. They should and must work with the member elected by the people. To do otherwise is to make a mockery of the elections AND to make a mockery of the people who have cast their votes for the leader of their choice.
Just a note: It is interesting to me that all these years, no grassroots leader has brought this issue up. Are they so unaware of the impression singaporeans have of their political affiliations? If that is so, then they are not the 'eyes and ears' of the govt as claimed, are they? If they are however, aware of singaporeans' impression of their political affiliation, then why has no one in the GROs brought this issue up?