Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Grassroots advisers are not accountable either |

This was a letter I sent to the Straits Times on 28 October, which the paper declined to publish.
I refer to the letter, “Advisers and MPs have different roles” (Straits Times, Oct 27), by Mr Lim Yuin Chien, press secretary to the Minister for National Development.

Mr Lim stated that “Opposition MPs cannot be appointed advisers, because they do not answer to the ruling party”.
The adviser to grassroots organisations is appointed by the People’s Association (PA), a statutory board under the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. The adviser therefore does not answer to the ruling party but to PA. It appears Mr Lim has confused a political party with a non-partisan statutory board.
Furthermore, nowhere in the People’s Association Act nor the PA’s rules and regulations does it state that “opposition MPs cannot be appointed advisers”. I am therefore confused as to how Mr Lim arrived at this conclusion.
Mr Lim further wrote that opposition MPs have no constitutional or legal obligation to carry out national programmes on the Government’s behalf. I would point out that neither do the grassroots advisers, since they are just volunteers, and not paid officers of the Government.
On the other hand, elected MPs are accountable to their constituents. If they mismanage the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP), they risk being voted out of office at the next elections, losing all the benefits that come with the job.
It would therefore be reasonable to conclude that the MPs have a far greater incentive than the advisers to manage the LUP well, for the benefit of residents. Furthermore, given their chairmanship of the town council, MPs would be more familiar with the estates under their charge, and in a better position to advise the Housing and Development Board (HDB) on how the LUP can best meet the needs of their residents.
It is unfortunate that the HDB has overlooked this reality and has chosen to work primarily with the advisers instead of the elected MPs to implement the LUP in opposition wards.
Gerald Giam