People's Association (Singapore)

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People's Association
Logo of the People's Association
Agency overview
Formed1 July 1960
JurisdictionGovernment of Singapore
Headquarters9 King George's Avenue, Singapore 208581
Agency executives
Parent agencyMinistry of Culture, Community and Youth

The People's Association (PA) is a Singaporean statutory board that oversees neighbourhood grassroots communities and social organisations. The PA was established on 1 July 1960 to as part of the nation-building programme to promote social cohesion and multiracialism. It is currently under the purview of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

The former headquarters of the People's Association at the old Kallang Airport. As of 6 April 2009, it has been relocated to the old Victoria School at King George's Avenue.

To counter racial and political tensions in Singapore during the 1950s and 1960s, and foster closer ties among different ethnic groups,[1] the Government established the PA through an Act of Parliament, the People's Association Act.[2] The statutory board came into being on 1 July 1960. According to the Act, the objects of the PA are, among other things:[3]

(a) the organisation and the promotion of group participation in social, cultural, educational and athletic activities for the people of Singapore in order that they may realise that they belong to a multiracial community, the interests of which transcend sectional loyalties;

(b) the establishment of such institutions as may be necessary for the purpose of leadership training to instil in leaders a sense of national identity and a spirit of dedicated service to a multiracial community;

(c) the fostering of community bonding and strengthening of social cohesion amongst the people of Singapore;

(d) the performance of such other functions as may be conferred upon the Association by any written law; and

(e) the carrying out of such activities as appear to the Board to be advantageous towards, or necessary or convenient for, the furtherance of the objects of the Association as set out in paragraphs (a) to (d).

According to the Central Intelligence Agency of the US government, the People's Association had its origins as a national building programme 'designed to wean pro-Communist voters away from the opposition'. Besides serving as a communication channel between the government and ruling party at the top and the people below - making way for a more responsive government - it was also intended for the PA to blur the boundaries between the government and the party, such that 'the people tended to praise the party for activities undertaken by the government'.[4]


According to the People's Association Act, the Association consists of:[5]

  1. the Prime Minister, who is Chairman of the Association;
  2. a Minister (typically a member of The Cabinet Of Singapore) who is to be appointed by the Chairman as Deputy Chairman;
  3. eight other members to be appointed by the Chairman; and
  4. one member to be appointed by the Chairman in consultation with each of the organisations mentioned in the First Schedule to the Act. More than 80 civic organisations are listed in the First Schedule, ranging from the Football Association of Singapore, to the National University of Singapore Society, to the Singapore Stamp Club.[6]

The powers of the PA and the management and control of the Association and its property and affairs are vested in the Board of Management.[7] The Board consists of the persons mentioned in the first three categories listed above, and four members who are elected from among themselves by the persons mentioned in the fourth category at a general meeting of the Association. The Secretary-Treasurer of the Association is also the Secretary-Treasurer of the Board.[8]

Concerns on partisanship[edit]

Concerns have been raised as to whether the management of the PA, a statutory board, should be less politicised.[9] The governing People's Action Party (PAP) has traditionally fielded candidates who are leaders and advisors active in PA grassroots organisations before each generation election,[10][11][12][13][14] and Residents' Committees and Community Clubs have encouraged the public to support PAP candidates at rallies and electoral events.[15][16]

Opposition MPs were not allowed to be advisors to government-run grassroots bodies. A spokesperson for the People's Association clarified on a newspaper forum in 2011 that grassroots advisers are appointed by the government; advisors are expected to support and execute its programmes, and the opposition members were not expected to do so.[17][18]

In 2011, after the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency was won by the Workers Party (WP) in the general elections, WP chairman Sylvia Lim noted that the Housing Development Board had informed the incoming Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (won by the WP) that it had leased 26 public sites, including fields and hard courts, to the People's Association, and that the PA has informed them that "booking by WP will not be allowed". She argued that the move is a move to curtail the "ground presence" of the elected Members of Parliament (MP) in the opposition-held wards.[19] Opposition leader Low Thia Khiang added that temples were allowed to hold activities in his constituency only if they have supporting letters from the grassroots organisations, and not from him as the elected MP.[9]

Non-PAP endorsed politicians such as Chen Show Mao and Tan Cheng Bock (for the presidential elections) were uninvited to PA events.[20][21]

In response to allegations of partisanship of the association, minister in the Prime Minister's Office and deputy chairman of PA Chan Chun Sing stated in 2016 that the PA "executes the directions for the Government of the day, as per any statutory board. The PA does not allow any political activity or canvassing on our premises or in our activities. And we certainly do not mobilise anyone for any political party."[22]

Lapses in governance[edit]

On 15 July 2015, the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) flagged in its annual financial report, troubling lapses in governance, suggesting that the $1 billion taxpayers' money granted to PA is not being wisely and accountably spent. The AGO revealed that 35 Community Club/Centre Management Committees (CCMCs) had awarded $17.78 million worth of tenancy contracts without proper approval. Also, Admiralty CCC's Chairman had approved $114,767 worth of claims to himself. Conflicts of interest were also uncovered in the approval of two contracts worth $32,000. The AGO audits are conducted on a test check basis and do not reveal all irregularities and weaknesses. As such, the full extent of the lapses is unknown.[23]

Grassroots organisations[edit]

Starting with 28 community centres,[1] the PA has over 1,800 grassroots organisations (GROs) with more than 25,000 volunteer grassroots leaders as of 2017.[24] Grassroots volunteers visit residents to encourage community involvement, raise awareness about community issues, explain government policies and gather feedback, as well as help those in need.

Grassroots volunteers and leaders who have worked for more than two years qualify for various benefits, such as priority for their children's primary school placement, priority in application for flats and executive condominiums, free parking at government housing estates, and free courses paid by the government.[25][26][27]

Prior to each general election, prospective candidates of the People's Action Party are sometimes attached to the member of parliament for each constituency to do grassroots work at various GROs,[28] if they were not PAP branch activists, or had not worked with the National Trade Union Congress and government-linked grassroots previously.[29][30]

Staff at the PA are fully paid and do not take part in any decision-making processes. They are only to provide support to the GROs, which include the Citizens' Consultative Committees, Community Club Management Committees, Residents' Committees in public housing estates and Neighbourhood Committees in private housing estates.[citation needed]

Citizens' Consultative Committees[edit]

The Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC) is the umbrella grassroots organisation in a constituency in Singapore. CCCs plan and lead grassroots activities in a constituency, they oversee community and welfare programmes and they also act as a feedback channel between the government and the people.[31] The first CCC was created in January 1965 to carry out the following functions:

i. To transmit information and make recommendations on the needs of the people to the government, and to keep people informed of government action and policy in these matters.

ii. To promote good citizenship amongst the people of Singapore.[32]

Following the 1964 race riots in Singapore, village and clan leaders in the CCCs were mobilised to help maintain racial harmony.[33]

The committee helps to execute government campaigns such those for as dengue prevention, cleanliness and recycling, racial and communal cohesion. They also organise community forums and administer welfare assistance.[34]

Members in the CCC are volunteers appointed by the chairman once every two years and this appointment has to be approved by the adviser, which is the member of parliament for each constituency. In the case of an opposition-held ward, where the sitting MP is prohibited from being an adviser to the PA, the People's Action Party's candidate for the next general election will be made the adviser to the GRO.[35][36] Members usually have a background in politics, or are significant contributors in the Singapore scene.

In 2015, the Singapore Auditor-General's Office flagged several financial irregularities in procurement and payment in multiple CCCs.[37] The Admiralty CCC chairman had approved his own monetary claims of S$114,767, three of which had no supporting documents. He was also involved in approving of two contracts to a company where he held a senior management position. Another CCC member who was in charge of approval process was both a director and a shareholder of the company.[38] PA deputy chairman and cabinet minister Lim Swee Say defended the financial non-compliance by these grassroots leaders and said these irregularities were borne out of "good intentions".[39]

Community Club Management Committees[edit]

Community Club Management Committees provide recreational activities and learning opportunities. Each CC serves about 15,000 households or an average of 50,000 people. The CCMCs manage and oversees all the CCs. CCMCs are made up of volunteers who work with full-time staff to manage the CCs.

Residents' Committees[edit]

Residents' Committees (RCs) were first established in 1978 in two constituencies in Singapore (Tanjong Pagar and Marine Parade) with the aim of promoting neighbourly interaction, good communal relations and overall cohesion.[40][41] RCs also serve as channels of communication between residents and the Government. RCs, like CCCs, initially came under the Prime Minister's Office, and later, the Ministry of Community Development. In 1993, RCs and CCCs came under the purview of the PA. Currently, there are over 550 RCs. Each RC has an RC Centre to conduct meetings and programmes and activities for residents. RCs organise residents' parties, conduct house visits and other neighbourhood activities to reach out to residents. They also work closely with the government agencies to improve the living environment, safety and security of their estates. The Residents' Committee are run by volunteers.

Neighbourhood Committees[edit]

Neighbourhood Committees (NCs) were formed in June 1998 to encourage active citizenry and foster stronger community bonds within private housing estates. They also work with various government agencies to improve the social and physical environment in their private housing estates.

NCs' functions are to:

(a) Promote neighbourliness, harmony and cohesiveness amongst residents; (b) Connect with and make recommendations to government authorities on the needs and aspirations of residents; (c) Disseminate information and obtain feedback on government policies and actions from the residents; and (d) Foster good citizenship amongst residents.

Youth Executive Committees[edit]

The PA Youth Executive Committee (YEC) is the managing body for the Youth Group in a Community Club. It organises a wide range of activities and projects ranging from sports and recreation to culture, arts and community service.

The role of YECs include:

(a) Developing programmes for youths and setting up subcommittees to implement its activities (b) Working closely with the Community Club Management Committee and other grassroots organisations in putting together community development projects; and (c) Connecting with other Youth Clubs and the Council to support the People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM)

The T-Net Club (Teens Network Club), part of the People’s Association network, is a non-profit teens organisation.It organises a wide range of activities to engage teenagers and develop their potential. These include educational, social/recreational, cultural and performing arts, sporting and community service activities.

Over the years, the T-Net Club has developed several flagship events such as the T-Net Club Sports Fiesta, T-Net Club Premier League, T-Net Club Basketball Tournament, and the T-Net Club “Bowl with a Heart” Community Service Project. Together with the Educational Series in Mathematics, History, Chinese and Malay, and the Sudoku and Sports Quizzes, these events help extend the Club’s outreach to the teenage community.

Community Sports Clubs[edit]

The People’s Association works through Community Sports Clubs (CSCs) to foster community bonding through a wide array of sports activities for residents to participate and interact with one another.

Over the years, the CSCs’ flagship programmes have included the One Community Walk, and the Community Sports Festival. In 2016, to continue the vibrancy of the CSCs, a new flagship programme, the Community Sports Day, would be introduced, along with the evergreen programmes of the likes of PAssion Children’s Football League and the popular Singapore Community Games.

Other than the HQ flagship programmes, the CSCs activities at the grassroots level also includes an array of activities, ranging from brisk walks, mass swims, sports carnivals, bowling, badminton, football and sepak takraw and in recent years also included frisbie, kinball and fuzionball.

Community Emergency and Engagement Committees[edit]

The Community Emergency and Engagement (C2E) Committees is the community Emergency Preparedness (EP) Unit formed in each constituency. The C2E Committees is the amalgamation of the former Emergency Preparedness Group and Civil Defence Executive Committees. C2E Committees help strengthen community resilience by involving residents, grassroots leaders, educational institutions, business, religious, voluntary welfare organisations and other community partners in Community Emergency Preparedness programmes. Each of the 84 constituencies has formed a C2E Committees to enhance our capability to effectively respond to, and quickly recover from any emergency.

During peace time, C2E Committees develop and maintain the Community Emergency Preparedness plans, structures and systems. The C2E Committees also organise exercises and EP activities to be prepared for emergencies and to ensure operational readiness. C2E Committees partner various government emergency authorities to educate the community about Community Emergency Preparedness. During times of emergency, C2E Committees will respond by co-ordinating community resources and grassroots’ emergency response efforts. Together with other grassroots organisations, the C2E Committees will also help emergency authorities to disseminate critical information and collect feedback and will help defuse community tension and restore public confidence and normalcy.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is an organised group of volunteers equipped with special training to respond to an emergency and assist the community in the recovery process. The main role of the CERT is to strengthen the emergency response capabilities of the local community.

First formed in 2004 at the Residents' Committee and Neighbourhood Committee zonal level to support the EPG and CDEC, CERT members are made up of grassroots leaders and residents who are staying in the vicinity. Being closer to the ground, they can respond to an emergency before the arrival of the emergency authorities. CERT members assist in rendering basic first aid, evacuation and crowd control before and after the emergency authorities arrive. Role of a CERT member:

(a) Help the community respond to and recover from emergencies (b) Disseminate critical information to residents (c) Work together with constituency emergency units to organise EP days and other EP programmes for residents (d) Help identify residents requiring special assistance during emergencies

Members receive the following trainings: Community Emergency Preparedness Programme (CEPP, Standard First Aid Training (with 3 years certification), Basic Cardiac Life Support Course (with 2 years certification), and Crisis Intervention Workshop.

Women's Executive Committees[edit]

The Women’s Integration Network (WIN) Council was established in March 1995 with representatives from the Women’s Executive Committees (WECs). The Council sets directions for WECs to inspire more women towards community leadership and contribution. The objectives of the WEC are :

(a) Widen outreach to women of all races to build strong bonds among them; (b) Engage women and their families in activities and programmes that meet their needs and interests; (c) Create opportunities for women to participate in community and national affairs.

Senior Citizens' Executive Committees[edit]

The Senior Citizens’ Executive Committee plans and organises a wide array of activities and courses to enrich the life experiences of seniors. These include arts and culture, lifestyle pursuits, lifelong learning, and sports and wellness programmes. The PA Active Ageing Council (AA Council) champions the cause of active ageing and creates a supportive environment for active ageing elements to flourish in grassroots programmes. The functions of the PA AA Council includes promoting community bonding through active ageing programmes in collaboration with the Senior Citizens’ Executive Committees (SCECs) and other grassroots organisations and community partners. The PA AA Council will also conceptualise and organise programmes in support of active ageing.

Indian Activity Executive Committees[edit]

The Indian Activity Executive Committees (IAECs) organise cultural, educational, social, recreational and sporting activities to promote mutual respect and harmonious relations between Indians and other communities. The Indian Activity Executive Committees Council or Narpani Pearavai is the co-ordinating body for the IAECs. Narpani Pearavai organises many events annually at the Constituency, District and National levels.

Malay Activity Executive Committees[edit]

MESRA is the co-ordinating body for Malay Activity Executive Committees (MAECs) that are set up at Community Clubs.

The functions of MESRA are to:

(a) Guide MAECs in engaging the community through a wide range of outreach programmes; (b) Assist MAECs and other GROs to identify and recruit suitable Malay grassroots leaders; and (c) Facilitate collaborations between MAECs and other GROs in the larger community.

Annually, MESRA organises Gentarasa, the biggest Malay cultural show in Singapore that aims to build an appreciation for and understanding of the Malay culture amongst the other communities. MESRA also holds regular dialogue sessions to discuss issues concerning the Malay community.

Community Development Councils[edit]

First established in 1997, Community Development Councils (CDCs)[42] were formed to help build a more cohesive, compassionate and self-reliant society. Initially, the CDCs offered local programmes to meet the needs of the residents in their districts. From 2001, the delivery of social services, including the development of childcare, student care and family care centres was devolved from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports to the CDCs. As CDCs are closer to the ground, they are better able than government ministries to promptly address the needs of residents. The CDCs also play an important role in mobilising the community to help needy residents, including giving them interim financial assistance and helping them find jobs.

The CDCs offer services identified under the common strategic goals of 'ABC': Assisting the Needy,Bonding the People, and Connecting the Community.

Each of the current five CDCs – Central Singapore,[43] North East,[44] North West,[45] South East[46] and South West.[47] – is headed by a mayor who is assisted by a council comprising up to 80 council members. Unlike other countries, mayors in Singapore are not directly elected because the CDCs are not a system of local government, but local administrators of community and social services.

Community Clubs[edit]

When self-government was attained in 1959, many Singaporeans were faced with poor employment prospects and had little opportunity for skills training. Recreational, social and sports facilities were few and far in between.

The PA converted former food distribution centres set up by the British administration into community centres. These centres were venues for residents of all walks of life to get together to learn a skill, engage in social and leisure activities, and forge a sense of community.

Over the years, with economic progress, community centres have evolved into Community Clubs (CCs) offering a wide range of courses, activities, programmes and facilities to match the changing needs of residents. The Clubs are run by a group of volunteers called CC Management Committee. The functions of the Committee are: (a) to manage the Community Centre/Club for and on behalf of the People's Association;
(b) to promote social, cultural, educational, sports and recreational activities for the residents in the neighbourhood of the Community Centre/Club;
(c) to disseminate information on Government policies, and to transmit to the Government information on the needs and aspirations of the residents in the neighbourhood of the Community Centre/Club; and
(d) to promote good citizenship among residents in the neighbourhood of the Community Centre/Club.

Other PA organisations[edit]

In addition to its network of grassroots organisations, the PA also operates the PA Youth Movement, National Community Leadership Institute and a water sport club called Water-Venture.

National Community Leadership Institute[edit]

NACLI or National Community Leadership Institute is the training facility of PA, established in 1964. It conducts workshops, facilitates workplan retreats, and organises dialogues and other learning events. The Institute anchors its training and development of grassroots leaders on the Community LEAD framework; a comprehensive and holistic approach to developing core leadership competencies in grassroots leaders. NACLI also collaborates with Institutes of Higher Learning to offer Joint Certification Programmes as part of its curriculum. The Institute's training and accommodation facilities are available for rental, and based on availability of resources, NACLI also conducts student leadership and corporate teambuilding programmes.

Water Venture[edit]

The Water-Venture (WV) outlets offer a range of land and water sports activities like sports climbing, abseiling, kayaking, sailing, dragon boating, windsurfing and power boating to the community. Interesting children's programmes are also offered. In October 2014, WV took on a new portfolio to spread awareness to the community & initiate a call-to-action to protect our environment through waste management and a change in our everyday-behaviour. Currently, there are eight WV outlets which are run by professional staff and assisted by a dedicated pool of trainers and volunteers.[citation needed]

PA Youth Movement[edit]

The People's Association Youth Movement (PAYM) is Singapore's largest youth organisation. Started in 1971, the PAYM caters to youths aged 12 to 35 years old It is a two-tiered organisation, comprising 101 Youth Clubs based in the Community Clubs and the Central Youth Council. Some of the youth-inspired events that PAYM has organised include "City Alive! 2009", Singapore's Biggest Dance Party; "YOUTHSpeak on Budget 2009", a National-level Policy Forum; and "Heart to Heart We Serve the Community", a series of community service activities. Overseas community service projects include trips to Cambodia, Maldives and China, such as Project "INitiate"; and Hip Hop competition "Pop Culture" amongst other international exchanges.

PA Talents[edit]

PA Talents is an umbrella group for more than 300 part-time musicians and dancers performing traditional, ethnic art forms. In 2006, Cultural Medallion recipient Dick Lee was appointed its creative director.[48][49]

Formerly known as the PA Cultural Talents, it was set up in 1965 as a performing unit with full-time performers to bring arts and cultural performances to the masses by performing in community centres. It was one of the first groups in Singapore to create multi-ethnic performances in the early 1980s. In 1997, following a strategic review, the group ceased having full-time performers due to limited resources and now relies on a pool of part-timers.[48]

PA Talents consists of ten groups: five orchestras (Orkestra Melayu Singapura, the PA Youth Chinese Orchestra, the Singapore Indian Orchestra and Choir, the Singapore Pipe Band and the Singapore Pop Orchestra), and five dance groups (the Chinese, Indian, Malay and Modern Dance Groups, and a hip-hop club). About a hundred performances are staged each year in national and grassroots shows such as the National Day Parade and Chingay Parade, in commercial shows for corporations, and in cultural and diplomatic events in Singapore and abroad.[48]


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  2. ^ People's Association Act 1960 (Ordinance No. 35 of 1960), now the People's Association Act (Cap. 227, 2000 Rev. Ed.)
  3. ^ People's Association Act, above, ss. 8(a)–(c).
  4. ^ Kimball, Walter B. "Singapore's People's Association", CIA Historical Review Programme, 22 September 1993, accessed 16 May 2011.
  5. ^ People's Association Act, above, ss. 4(1)(a)–(d).
  6. ^ These organisations are also listed on the PA's website: see "PA Corporate Members". People's Association. 2007-08-26. Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. Retrieved 2007-08-26.
  7. ^ People's Association Act, above, s. 3.
  8. ^ People's Association Act, above, s. 5(1).
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  12. ^ "Desmond Choo, Ong Ye Kung leave Aljunied, Hougang wards". TODAYonline. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  13. ^ "Grassroots leader Lee Hong Chuang unveiled as PAP's Hougang SMC candidate". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  14. ^ "Potential new PAP candidates hit the ground at community events". TODAYonline. Retrieved 2017-09-20. Ms Cheng [Li Hui] is also vice-chairman of the Citizen Consultative Committee in Tampines East.
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  24. ^ "Grassroots".
  25. ^ "Fewer than 0.1% of all grassroots leaders benefit from priority housing scheme: Chan Chun Sing". Channel NewsAsia. 7 November 2016.
  26. ^ Guan, Zhen Tan. "Door hanger lists all the benefits of being a Residents' Committee volunteer".
  27. ^ Lee, Pearl (12 June 2014). "Stricter Primary 1 priority rules for grassroots workers". The Straits Times.
  28. ^ "Potential new PAP candidates hit the ground at community events". 26 July 2015.
  29. ^ "PAP 2021 MP hopefuls look like PAP candidates of 2011 & 2015".
  30. ^ "PAP identifies 200 hopefuls for next GE". The Straits Times. 3 December 2017. Closer to the election, they will typically be attached to MPs to do constituency work, if they were not party activists previously.
  31. ^ Bilveer Singh, Politics and Governance in Singapore (Singapore, 2007), p. 68.
  32. ^ The Citizens' Consultative Committee Rules (Singapore, Government Printers, 1974), quoted in Bilveer Singh, Politics and Governance in Singapore (Singapore, 2007), p. 68.
  33. ^ Hussin Mutalib, Parties and Politics: A Study of Opposition Parties and the PAP in Singapore (Second Edition) (Singapore, 2004), p. 287.
  34. ^ [1] Archived 26 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  35. ^ Au-yong, Rachel (15 July 2014). "PAP team for Aljunied GRC 'getting into place'". AsiaOne.
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  37. ^ "Auditor-General's Report: People's Association cited for multiple lapses". Channel NewsAsia. 15 July 2015.
  38. ^ "PA investigates lapses at grassroots organisations flagged by Auditor-General". The Straits Times. 15 July 2015.
  39. ^ "'Good intentions, not dishonesty' at root of PA, grassroots lapses".
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  43. ^ "Central Singapore". Retrieved 2012-10-23.
  44. ^ "Welcome to NECDC". 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2012-10-23.
  45. ^ "Welcome to NWCDC". Retrieved 2012-10-23.
  46. ^ "Welcome to SECDC". 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2012-10-23.
  47. ^ "Welcome to Southwest CDC". 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2012-10-23.
  48. ^ a b c Chia, Adeline (2007-08-23). "How PA Talents Came to Be". The Straits Times (Life!). p. 2.
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External links[edit]