Civil society's state of play

Civil society's state of play


By the nature of their cause, civil society groups tend to draw passionate individuals with strong opinions.

When they do not see eye to eye, a hostile takeover bid can erupt, like the 2009 saga at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

Aware had previously survived the "Blueprinters" group's opposition in the 1990s. "They had a blueprint of how a feminist organisation should run and wanted every member to attend a feminist course," executive director Corinna Lim said. "But others disagreed and the Blueprinters (numbering four or five) eventually left."

A splintering is inevitable when "those who have a shared purpose differ on shared values such as working with authorities", said Singapore Management University associate law professor Eugene Tan.

But splintering can help groups raise their game, so they stay relevant.

Said Prof Tan, who is also a Nominated MP: "Those unable to find a niche, garner broad support or make a difference will eventually exit the scene or reintegrate with other groups."


Being gazetted as a political association in 2010 has clipped the wings of human rights group Maruah.

It has been a struggle finding enough Singaporean-based donations since then, said Maruah president Braema Mathi.

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