The simultaneous attack on NTUC and PA. A perspective.


The recent unrelenting attacks on NTUC and PA have raised more than one eyebrow. Why such a concerted effort to attack the two organisations?

The Online Citizen (TOC) published 2 articles, one that claimed that the NTUC FairPrice ‘has been ripping off consumers for decades’ and another asking if PA and NTUC were ‘for the good of the people or the party’ – with pieces of falsehoods thrown in the articles.

As a social enterprise, NTUC FairPrice provides help to lower-income families through vouchers they distribute. Initiatives like ‘Walk for Rice’ encourages community and family bonding while achieving two good: good health through exercise and rice for needy families.

In a crisis, NTUC FairPrice helps to keep prices stable and maintain calm and peace.

At the start of the pandemic when items were cleaned off shelves through panic-buying, prices did not skyrocket out of the reach of lower-income families because FairPrice put a price freeze on 100 daily essential items sold under its house brand. This has helped to maintain calm and unity.

The claim that FairPrice has been ripping off consumers for decades is therefore simply absurd.

Panic-buying when the Government raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition to orange.

Its social mission is to moderate the cost of living, and not to provide everything at the lowest price in Singapore. Were it to do so, it would be the only flourishing supermarket chain in Singapore and that’s not what Singaporeans want. 

NTUC is more than just FairPrice

In a fast-changing technological landscape, it played a pivotal role spearheading efforts at skill-training and retraining of workers to ensure that workers remain valuable to employers, and therefore, employable.

Through its Job Security Council, it has helped to match thousands of workers to their future employers and thus avoided retrenchment for these workers.

Union leaders work tirelessly to negotiate with industry leaders for sector-based Progressive Wage Models that allow low wage workers to earn better wages AND enjoy a career path as well.

Such contributions have a significant positive impact on the lives of thousands of workers and should not be glossed over or ignored just because there is a political motivation to attack NTUC.

It’s not just NTUC that comes under constant attack. PA too has often been the target of attack.

WP had, in times past, charged that the PA was politicised. Their supporters in the alternative media were quick to follow up with allegations that grassroots advisors in WP-held wards were allowed to use PA facilities for Meet-the-People (MPS) sessions while the WP MPs were not. TOC repeated the same allegation in their latest attack on the PA. This, of course, is a lie. No PAP MPs or grassroots advisor can use PA facilities for their MPS. They use their own branch offices built with party funds or PCF kindergartens for their MPS with residents. You can read all about it here.

The latest follow-up attack on PA by TOC first arose from a mistake made by a vendor engaged to do a standee for a Hari Raya celebration at Radin Mas. Unfortunately, the photo used for the standee was the wedding photo of Ms Sarah Bagharib. She said it was used without her permission, and inappropriately for a Hari Raya occasion.

The mistake was clearly a case of cultural ignorance for which PA had publicly apologised.  As a forum writer to the Straits Times Mr Hanafi Ahmad noted, similar mistakes had occurred in the past, whether they be inaccurate Malay, Chinese or Tamil translations or cultural misrepresentations. These are mistakes rooted in sheer ignorance and not racism.

Disturbingly, a mistake of sheer ignorance by an individual vendor was spun into a case of racism by an organisation against a whole community, creating much consternation among people and threatening the social fabric of our society.

WP was vocal in voicing out against racism exhibited by a Ngee Ann Poly lecturer. In his Facebook post, Mr Pritam Singh had said that as a society, we have to call out bigoted racist views. The party, however, was noticeably and strangely silent in this PA saga with Ms Sarah Bagharib who, incidentally, is a supporter.

But TOC made sure they rode on the latest incident to repeat the WP’s line that PA has been politicised.

PA serves all without discrimination

PA’s activities are run by thousands of passionate Singaporeans regardless of their political affiliation or preference. They volunteer their time to serve in the community not to promote any party but because they care for Singaporeans.

When a COVID-19 cluster emerged at Blk 506 Hougang Ave 8, and viral fragments were detected in housing blocks nearby, PA volunteers visited residents in the affected blocks, distributing flyers to provide them with timely information. They serve the community without discrimination. From mask distributions to tokens and checking out on the vulnerable elderly living alone, they are there. There is nothing political in the work they do.

PA volunteer distributing flyers to residents of Hougang to provide them with timely and accurate information to allay their fears and uncertainty when a cluster was formed at Blk 506 Hougang Ave 8. PA volunteers serve without discrimination, whether you are from a PAP or opposition-held ward.

A main grouse of the opposition is that the grassroots advisor in the opposition ward is not the elected MP.

But what does the grassroots advisor do?

In this pandemic he goes knocking on doors with his volunteers to check on vulnerable seniors living alone, helping senior residents book their slot for vaccination, addressing whatever concerns residents may have on vaccines. In the past, the grassroots advisor had organised dialogue sessions to explain details of the Pioneer Generation Package – and later on, the Merdeka Generation Package as well – to seniors, visited homes of seniors unable to attend dialogue session, to do the same.

The work that the grassroots advisor does can be done by the elected MP if he so desires even if he is not given the title of grassroots advisor. 

When one argues for an appointment to be a grassroots advisor without demonstrating any appetite or desires for the duties and responsibilities of a grassroots advisor, it is just politicking.

Does any opposition MP want to get behind the government as grassroots advisors, fully supporting every government policy to forge a future together? The answer is ‘NO’.

Both the NTUC and PA have played very critical roles in nation-building. The effective symbiotic relationship between NTUC and the ruling PAP, and the well-oiled grassroots machinery in the PA have helped rally people together in times of need, galvanising them so that as one united people, Singapore was able to weather one crisis after another, emerging stronger after each crisis.

Their effectiveness in achieving good outcomes for Singapore is why they often come under attack by the opposition.  After all, the opposition is not there to help the government do a better job. Their aim is to take over the government.

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