It all started with a picture of a flyer which listed the benefits for grassroots volunteers in the Residents Committee.
The flyers mentioned eligibility criteria and also highlighted some of the perks volunteers can get, such as car parking privileges and priority registration in primary schools for their children, drawing comments online implying that grassroots volunteers were motivated by benefits to volunteer.
This was a sore point with Workers Party because they have long accused PAP of using the resources in Peoples Association to increase their political mileage and coverage with residents on the ground.
Their argument is that the Workers Party do not have the resources to recruit as many volunteers and provide them with such ‘benefits’, thereby limiting their reach and efforts they can do for the residents.
So come elections time, residents do not vote for them because they think WP candidates have not ‘connected’ enough.
What do RC volunteers do?
The People’s Association (PA) was set up to bring the Government closer to the people. Grassroots leaders (GRLs) are volunteers appointed by the PA to serve in various grassroots organisations (GROs). As at July 2016, there are about 38,000 GRLs.
GRLs help to bring the people and government closer, gather feedback from residents, implement the government’s social programmes and help to explain government policies to residents to the best of their ability.
Why the grumble is really unnecessary.
Firstly, Grassroots leaders are volunteers who give their time and energy to build up a sense of neighbourliness and care for one another, to strengthen the community spirit. Grassroot leaders do not go around telling you to please vote for the PAP. In fact, many volunteers voted for opposition members. It is their choice. All your votes are secret.
Secondly, as the flyer says, there are benefits to volunteering in an RC, but it is hardly enough to compensate the hundreds of hours per month put in by the volunteers, just to knock on your door to check if you are doing okay and explain on policies which may help your household do better.
You know the free Carpark slots that you always bring up? – the scheme facilitates the volunteers to perform their community service, going various places to visit residents and organise events. GRLs who drive and live in HDB estates must first buy a valid HDB monthly season parking label. They may then apply for a special parking label, which allows them to park at designated car parks within the constituency where they serve, up to 11 pm
HDB flats you say? – Eligible GRLs with three years of continuous and active service in GROs can apply for HDB BTO flats and Executive Condominiums under the Scheme. The rationale for the scheme is to tap on experienced GRLs to start new GROs and activities in new estates. This is important as residents in new estates do not know each other. Hence, the experienced GRLs can act as catalysts for community bonding.
Less than 1% of GRLs apply per year, and the majority of successful applicants continue serving in the GROs for many more years.
Flyer was done in bad taste.
There will surely be ‘black sheeps’ who joined the RC because of the benefits, but there are many others who do it for a cause or did not qualify for the incentives but continue volunteering anyways.
In distributing these misleading flyers, Fengshan PA are belittling the efforts of hundreds of grassroots volunteers nationwide.
Fengshan PA ought to be shot for this.
Perhaps they are shorthanded, but this is the wrong way to get people to join the RC.
WP had more ‘followers’
They are the opposition party, they are the underdogs, they cannot keep crying foul for every single challenge that they face.
(See how Ex-WP NCMP Png Eng Huat claimed foul when PAP Minister gets his clearance expedited during an official visit.)
Gerald Giam whines about getting volunteers to distribute his flyers when thousands turn up for his WP rallies every election (overshadowing PAP rallies).
How come the WP never try to recruit these ‘followers’ to distribute flyers and go door to door, helping residents as part of their network?
Despite the allegedly ‘better incentives’ at PAP events, thousands turned up for WP rally and voted for them. This shows that incentives are only successful to a certain extent.
(WP rally in 2011)