This letter was sent to ST Forum on 30 April 2013, but was not published.
The Straits Times
We refer to the reply “No to exploiting NGOs/VWOs for Political Ends” from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and note with thanks Mr Ho’s response on behalf of the government.
We welcome Mr Ho’s clarification that politicians – whether they are associated with the PAP or Opposition parties – are equally permitted to serve with VWOs and NGOs that receive state funds.
We value this clarification as it is this principle that needs to be clear to dispel any perceptions on the ground among VWOs/NGOs that steadfastly support elected MPs only from the ruling party. It is also an important principle that MPs from the PAP as well as Opposition parties, that is all government MPs, cannot exploit VWOs/NGOs for their own political ends.
Since Mr Ho’s letter represents the stand of the government, we trust that all state bodies, responsible for regulating and awarding funds to the VWO and NGO sector, including the ROS, NCSS and MCCY, as well as private sector philanthropists, duly appreciate that all VWOs/NGOs, regardless of the ruling party or opposition MPs they have on board, should be treated equally.
MARUAH, as a human rights body, is keen that under no circumstances should an association with Opposition parties (or the ruling party for that matter) be used, either explicitly or implicitly, as a reason for denying state support to a VWO or NGO, provided the members in question do not use their VWO/NGO involvement for partisan purposes. In this aspect we agree with the government’s stand.
MARUAH looks forward to the VWO/NGO and education sectors embracing the principle of equal treatment for all and hence involving individuals of diverse political affiliations so that Singapore’s social and civil society sectors reflect the changing political landscape of Singapore and its citizenry activism.
Lastly MARUAH also notes Mr Ho’s remarks with regards to a non-political party member’s role in a VWO/NGO and say that this needs much more dialogue between government and civil society activists as to the fundamental right of a citizenry to be engaged in the discourse of shaping their country, within or out of partisan politics.
Ms Braema Mathi