MARUAH forum letter on politicians in NGOs and VWOs

Please see below for MARUAH’s letter to the Straits Times forum.

27 April 2013

What’s the stand on politicians serving in NGOs and VWOs?

I REFER to the statement by Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim to the effect that money given by the state to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) should not be used “for the purpose of creating a platform for people to be involved in partisan politics” (“AMP director quits, alleging official pressure”; Wednesday).

A number of People’s Action Party (PAP) MPs currently serve as advisers or board members of VWOs and NGOs that are in receipt of state funds. While they may be serving in their personal capacities rather than in their capacity as MPs, their service would tend to generate visibility and political capital for these politicians and their political party, in this case, the PAP.

If politicians of only one party – the PAP – can serve in VWOs or NGOs that are positioned as non-partisan and accept state funds on that basis, while politicians of other parties cannot do so without the VWO or NGO being deemed partisan and ineligible for state funding for that reason alone, this is in effect politicising the VWO/NGO sector in favour of the ruling party.

Institutionalising such partisan double standards is deeply troubling and unhealthy for Singapore as a society.

We ask for a clear statement by the Government on the policy towards individual members of VWOs and NGOs engaging in (or being seen to engage in) party political activities in a separate capacity, be it with the ruling party or opposition parties. This is about equality and fair play.

Braema Mathi (Ms)

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