The allegation is that these activists failed to give the MPs adequate feedback, causing the MPs to lose touch with the ground (that is, with the people of Singapore). Here's PM Lee leaping to their defence.
Don't be discouraged, PM Lee tells activistsI don't know how much the PAP MPs rely on their grassroots activists to give them feedback about the ground. I do wonder if the PAP MPs are aware of the inherent weaknesses of such a feedback mechanism.
by S Ramesh (TODAY)
SINGAPORE - Citing the criticism levelled at grassroots activists in the aftermath of the recent General Election (GE), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday defended the work of the activists who had given "their honest feedback, which unfortunately we sometimes failed to interpret correctly".
Speaking at a dinner to thank volunteers of his Teck Ghee division in Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC), Mr Lee also acknowledged that "clearly there were problems which were missed" and areas where the People's Action Party (PAP) "can and must improve".
But it would be unfair to blame the activists, said Mr Lee, as the majority have committed time and energy to community work and have done their best to serve residents.
He said community leaders and PAP activists played a crucial role in the run-up to the GE, with some even taking leave during the nine days of hustings.
"People say various things: They say that (the activists) stood between the Members of Parliament and residents, you shielded the MP, or you didn't respond enough to the residents' needs, or you didn't speak candidly enough when the residents were giving feedback and the MP didn't get a good sense of what was on the ground," he said.
"Some grassroots leaders and party activists reading this have been discouraged. My response is, don't be discouraged."
The Prime Minister said that shortcomings in the PAP will be remedied and the party will strive to do better.
The first problem is that some grassroots activists are probably not genuinely interested in helping the PAP. They are there just to gain certain specific personal advantages for themselves.
For example, years ago, my wife once considered becoming a PAP volunteer. This would enable our son to gain priority for admission into the PAP kindergarten near our home. The kindergarten was three minutes away from our home, so it would have been really convenient.
In the end, we decided not to do it. One reason was that the kindergarten looked rather run-down. Neither the curriculum nor the teachers impressed us, when we went for the open house.
However, the fact is that even if my wife had decided to become a grassroots activist, she would have done it just to clock the hours and get the admission priority. Mrs Wang has no love for the PAP. She wouldn't have been interested at all in giving genuine feedback to the MPs.
Especially if the feedback was negative and would annoy the MPs (therefore jeopardising the priority for kindergarten admission).
Now, the second problem for the PAP is that some grassroots activists ARE genuinely interested in helping the PAP. These are the hard-core, true-blue PAP supporters, who will take nine days of leave from work to help out during the GE; and wave the flag and banners; and hug their MPs; and take the chartered bus from one rally to the next and to the next, just to make up the crowd.
The problem here is that such grassroots activists are inherently unable to give negative feedback to the MPs. You can safely assume that a large part of of their loyalty is blind. Whatever was the result of a PAP policy or decision, these activists will automatically view as wonderful, and good, and desirable. Asking them for criticism is like asking an ardent Lady Gaga fan to criticise Lady Gaga - it's an exercise in futility.
That is why such grassroots activists are lousy at providing feedback. (They are good for some things, such as waving flags and banners. But they are lousy at providing feedback).
In the near future, I may blog about how the PAP can get its best, most useful feedback. Of course, such feedback comes from its worst enemies - the Opposition.