Grassroots leaders reminded of role in society

Grassroots leaders reminded of role in society
Madam Manuel Stella Consearo (second from right), 63, is paired with Mr Ricky Lim (extreme right), 67, as they learn Hokkien under the guidance of Madam Ng Lay Geok (in purple), 71, at the Nee Soon South Community Club. Grassroots leaders and volunteers from Nee Soon GRC are learning Hokkien as part of efforts to help them engage better with the elderly.

People's Association (PA) deputy chief Lim Swee Say doled out a history lesson yesterday to remind grassroots leaders of their role in the community.

Speaking to about 1,200 grassroots leaders at an annual grassroots seminar, Mr Lim displayed a Straits Times report dated April 26, 1960, that announced the formation of PA and its main task: "To keep in constant touch with the people".

This showed that the primary duty of grassroots leaders to act as the Government's touchpoints on the ground has remained the same over the years, he said.

Mr Lim later told reporters that the reminder was timely because of recent shifts in PA, which was officially set up in July 1960.

"Over the last four years, we have been introducing new concepts, new strategies to our grassroots movement," said Mr Lim, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office. These include decentralising community outreach efforts to individual constituencies and bringing back mass sports events such as the Community Games in 2011.

The changes are meant to strengthen the role of the grassroots movement, not to change its function, added Mr Lim. He said: "From time to time, we will always keep reminding ourselves that this is why PA was formed."

In recent years, PA has come under criticism for not accurately reflecting sentiments on the ground about policies in areas such as immigration and housing.

Grassroots leader Elendrus Osman, 66, said that while public awareness of government policies may have increased over the years, people will always be keen to find out more about the policies that directly affect them.

"With newspapers and TV, people know more about policies today, but they will always have questions," said the Tampines West grassroots leader of 28 years.

"My role is to help them get answers to their questions. That is still the same, after all these years."

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