a community of singaporeans

TOC Youth activism perspective

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 1, 2007

By Jorina Chai

My first foray into grassroots work was in September 2005.

Bored with the run of the mill MOE-mandated community service activities organised by my school, I decided to get involved in something which would have a broader impact on the community.

Raising funds and selling flags was not my idea of meaningful and purposeful community work.

Joining the Youth Executive Committee (YEC) of my constituency appealed to me greatly as I believed it would have more far-reaching effect in terms of having a positive impact on the lives of citizens.

Passion for serving the community

I chanced upon the website of the Punggol Community Club YEC and decided to join it, purely out of my passion for serving the community. Altruistic as it may sound, that is the reason many of my fellow committee members joined the YEC.

Sadly, after a term of two years in the YEC, I am not satisfied with how it works. I feel that many YECs exist mainly to organise activities for citizens but nothing is done to help improve their lives or address the more fundamental problems they may have.

Recreational games, sports, children’s parties etc do serve to enrich the people’s lives, but I believe they can only enjoy these fully when their basic needs and fundamental difficulties are addressed.

I speak of the lower-middle income and low-income families whose interests are often overlooked as the rich get richer and the country is focusing much more on how it can ride on the economic boom.

Grassroots and politics

Currently, there are channels for these families to seek help, and one of them which I would like to commend is the regular Meet-the-People sessions held by Members of Parliament of various constituencies. However, these sessions have a political slant to it and the people involved are members of the PAP or the Young PAP. Many people firmly believe that grassroots and politics should not mix.

I beg to differ. I am one of them. I have not joined the YPAP yet but I am currently involved in its activities and am likely to become a member, because I feel the government can improve on its policies and can do more to engage certain strata of society such as the youths and the poor. I am hoping that being part of YP can open up doors for more efficient and effective communication.

The YEC comes under the umbrella of the People’s Association Youth Movement which is not affiliated to the People’s Action Party.


Grassroots work is often viewed as either blindly carrying out tasks for the ruling party or doing volunteer work with a seemingly altruistic aim but actually harbouring thoughts of entering politics in the future. This may be a gross generalisation but judging from the response I received when I told others about my involvement in the grassroots arena, this is sadly a misconception held by many.

Grassroots and politics should remain separate entities, but I feel that it is only with knowledge and involvement in both areas that one can have a better perspective of things and be better able to effect change.

I believe that one can affect change through both the grassroots and politics. However, it is important that those who aspire to do both should be candid about the nature of the intertwined interests of the needs of the community and how it relates to the political process.

Jorina Chai is a first year law student who has just served her first full term on her constituency’s YEC. She’s also contemplating joining the Young PAP.


10 Responses to “TOC Youth activism perspective”

  1. sevenleleven said

    you are either for or against – as in Ms Catherine case, if you want to speak politics, join a political party

  2. grass-roots said

    Grassroots activities have been abused for 40 years by the ruling party for its own gains despite funded by PA and taxpayer’s money.

    You will end up with no result if you try to change the status quo from inside. You will only end up heart broken if you go any further deeper.

  3. Perhaps youths are idealistic and it is natural for them to seek their own career path by wanting to join grassroot organizations which one day may offer a stepping stone for personal progress as opposed to being altruistic and wanting to truly serving the community at large.

    The ulterior motive behind all the CDC, RC, etc was part of the total scheme of ruling party to depoliticize, co-op any one with intellectual abilities and set up machinations (grassroot) in order to contain dissent and independent views for their own control purpose.

    Go and ask party insider whose idea was it to control political process in this manner and you will know many youths are being used of.

  4. RaymondChua said

    If gov want to change, why wait for 40 years to make a incremental change ? Gov make incremental change in society but make a radical change in term of getting money from citizen. So why talk about joining PAP to change the society ? Change yourself to receive bigger salary ?


    PAP’s political or governing philosophy is in the final analysis despite all the claims to the contrary is “to tax, recover costs of governing with whatever means at their disposal in the name of avoiding welfarism and hoard taxes, as surpluses enabling them to do as they like like buying votes with material benefits which perpetuate their rule.

    Opposition parties do not yet to come up with any governing philosophy.

    If oppositions are to to take over the rule from the PAP they should make known their governing philosophy such as ” to tax reasonably to provide for basic needs and services without profiteering on such services and maximize whatever tax monies they collect and surpluses created to benefit the people e.g. building up their retirement funds, medical needs and lowering costs of living and creating jobs for the citizens.”

    Monies spent on foreigners and foreign investments under such a governing philosophy will be eventually returned in the form of endowment funds to support various needs of the people, job creations and lowering costs of living or doing business”

    In this way citizens will be looked after and monies from taxes and surpluses will be put to good use where the mouth is instead of being spent on extravagant projects, self-rewards or lost in overseas unwarranted self-glory ventures like shin corp or suzhou which do not truly benefit the people.

    Given this alternative governing philosophy, any opposition party wishing to form the government on such agenda will easily accepted by the people who will no doubt support such wisdom.

    When the day comes, there is no doubt that PAP will lose its power which is basically one of enriching themselves and the elites and talking about rewarding talents and keeping themselves indirectly.

    Such an opposition will find its thinking miles ahead with ability to energize and motivate people as they will treat people as the centre and all policies and will put monies and taxes to good use instead of rewarding only the rich and controlling people’s freedom and undermining democracy to perpetuate their self-centred control philosophy.

  6. scb said

    Mr Robert Teh Kok Hua, You are one who has the ability to galvanize an opposition and even form an opposition yourself to fulfill the ideas that You have suggested(mentioned) so far. I am not instigating or challenging You to be in opposition politics. For all your writings that I have read, You have consistently shown comprehensive understandings of the predicament the general public of Singapore are subjected to. Mr Teh; You have also highlighted in your writings what can and should be done to alleviate the hardships of the people. There is no doubt that those ideas are practicable, viable, good and may even be improved upon when implemented. I detact your commitment thus far to the wellbeings of the people and the country and would like to express my respect to You. Personally, I am 56 year old, lower secondary educated, as such there is not much I could do in politics, however I contribute as much as I could. Regards from scb.

  7. Hello Scb,

    I am just contributing my two cents’ worth or ideas. Fortunately for the internet, there is a rising awareness among citizens of their right.

    The first criterion of a successful government is perhaps the quality of the people. If people are weak and only preoccupy themselves with their own rice bowl and keep promoting government’s propaganda just to be given some positions or advantages all will have to suffer the consequence one day.

    That is perhaps why people are about to lose their own retirement CPF quite soon as they are no longer a factor to reckon with and been long taken for granted by a all-powerful government which could simply proclaim people’s CPF as their own monies to solve their own CPF fiasco.

    A systemic political agenda for the opposition perhaps will answer to their problems now and it is not too late to adopt one.

  8. scb said

    Mr Teh; I have no doubt in your reading and understanding of local politics and appreciate very much your dedications to make livings better for everyone. Hopefully more people will get to understand that it is imperative that they themselves(the general public) have to negotiate a better deal with the Leadership and not let it(Authority) dictates our lives; yours respectfully scb.

  9. Andrew Loh said

    The relationship between the grassroots and politics is so because the PAP govt made it so. Although the People’s Association and Community Clubs are supposed to be non-partisan, the reality is not so.

    One example is the PCF-PAP relationship with regards to kindergartens. Political parties cannot form their own kindergartens – unless they deposit a few million dollars with the govt.

    Of course, this effectively alienates the opposition parties. Coupled with the limitation on political donations (set at $5,000 per year limit for anonymous donations), only one political party is able to run kindergartens.

    While I applaud youths taking part in grassroots activism, I would be more heartened if youths look at the various biases and unfair rules and try to call for changes.

    Grassroots activism, if only sanctioned and approved by the PAP govt, will not allow spontaneity and creativity. Not to mention diversity as well – something which the Remaking Singapore initiative was suppose to encourage.

    Andrew Loh

  10. In Search of Excellence clearly found from a world-wide research of top-performing corporations that they all share the following common traits in their management:-

    (1) A bias for action
    (2) Close to Customers
    (3) Autonomy and Entrepreneurship
    (4) Productivity through people
    (5) Hands-on value driven
    (6) Stick to the knitting (never acquire a business you do not know how to run)
    (7) Simple form, lean staff
    (Cool Simultaneous loose-tight properties. (both centralized and decentralized)

    This has been the common characteristics of successful corporations and perhaps to a large practical extent of government too.

    Let the oppositions ponder over this program of change we are talking about and come up with their best practical vision for change.

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