Every Tuesday nights (Or at least the times when I'm not cooped up at work with proposals), I head down to Block 18, Toa Payoh East for the weekly meet the people's session.
In case you're wondering what this is. Its an opportunity for the constituents of a community to meet their political representative/member of parliament. In this case, the constituency I am serving is represented by Mdm Josephine Teo.
This is she. It is quite an honour to be serving under her. Firstly she is one of the P65 MPs, and has already attained an admirable level of success being 39 years old. Most importantly, she comes across and genuine, sincere and caring. No people, she does not read my blog, and no I've not been planted by the PAP or her to say this.
She keeps a blog here
along with the other P65 MPs, although she hasn't updated it in a while.
Anyway, what do we do at MPS? Well, MPS is basically a forum of feedback and an avenue to get government assistance in any matter at all. It ranges from the mundane like parking summons to more serious issues like financial assistance issues, and elderly neglect.
My role at MPS every Tuesday is to interview and write letters to assist the residents. They sit down, tell me their problem, and I devise the best strategy to help them solve it. After I've written the letter, the MP then interviews the resident, makes the necessary corrections and it gets sent off to the relevant ministry, board, or company.
I help out at MPS for one main reason. Even though the majority of singaporeans, myself included enjoy the most comfortable of lives, a number of Singaporeans live on the opposite side of the spectrum. When I got back from London, noise of how the income gap was widening, the lowest income groups were languishing and the elderly were being neglected, reverberated through the media channels.
I wanted to find out for myself, how serious this problem is. And more importantly, I wanted to see how I could help this group of people. I think the main problem with alot of people is that they are NATO. No Action Talk Only. Lots of people out there criticising the way things are being down, citing this figure or that. Where are these people on the ground? Do they hide behind computer screens, and expect that their words to somehow miraculously make these people's lives better? Or perhaps they expect it will spur somebody else on to do the job they're too lazy to do themselves?
I've gone down there, helped out not only at MPS, but at other voluntary organisations such as initiatives by The Rotary Club of Singapore, and I have to say, we're doing OK. Sure, there is always room for improvment, but have you ever thought that if you want to make a change, you've got to start with yourself?
It was this thought that led me to my first MPS session. And I havn't looked back since. It is a wonderful feeling everytime you come out feeling like you have made a difference and helped somebody get by. I only recently recieved my first personal letter of thanks. A young couple who had issues getting a loan from the HDB, sent me an email thanking me for my help and the success of their appeal.
In any case, it is not for glory or for gratitude that I go there. I am pleased to say that financial hardship cases whilst a reality, are pretty rare. The initiatives to help, such as Comcare funds, job matching services, and so on, are largely effective with arresting these issues. We are in the best of positions, but I think more can still be done. And perhaps that job will fall to our generation. To us.
Besides MPS, I also get to attend policy forums, where I get an insight into the thoughts of our leaders.
It was a privilege to attend the recent national day rally for example.
Me and darren were seated in the upper stratosphere of the University Cultural Hall, but we didn't mind that much. It was an experience for sure, and an honour.
In that occassion, I did not have the opportunity to query our Prime Minister. But at a recent dialogue, I did.
I asked him about the workfare initiative and if we would see more direct initiatives to help the lower income groups.I won't go into details of his reply here, but I was sufficiently if not overwhelmingly convinced by his answer. Overall, from both my encounters with the Prime Minister, I have a clear sense that he is a very intelligent man, who has the right ideas, and his communication has improved significantly.
Unlike the firebrand his father was, or the liberal charmer SM Goh was, PM Lee represents a balance between the two. Given the position of Singapore in the global geoplitical and economic cycle, he is certainly a good leader to see our contry through.
Again, I'm not being paid or coerced to say this. These are strictly my personal thoughts that have been borne out of my personal experiences. Whilst I am stronly supportive of the PAP, its policies and its people, I am not blind to our weaknesses, and will certainly relish election time, when I will have an opportunity to hear what the opposition have to say or offer.
I for one, do not believe they are a credible force. But they do represent the other side of the coin, and we must explore it to see what are the good points we can take away from those lessons.
"If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day."