Two grassroots veterans have been appointed new advisers to the opposition-held wards of Hougang, and Kaki Bukit in Aljunied GRC. The People's Association (PA) announced this on Thursday (Sep 18).Mr Goh Chee Koh, Honorary Chairman of Punggol Central Citizens’ Consultative Committee, has been appointed the Adviser to Hougang Grassroots Organisations (GROs). Dr Kee Wei Heong, the chairman of the Bukit Gombak Citizens' Consultative Committee, has been appointed as Adviser to the Aljunied GROs for Kaki Bukit.
They replace Mr Desmond Choo, who will move to Tampines, and Mr Ong Ye Kung, who will now help out in Sembawang.
Mr Goh, 69, declined an on-camera interview but said he has been an active grassroots leader for 40 years, supporting four Members of Parliament. He last volunteered in Punggol, where much of the area he served is now Hougang Town.
As for Dr Kee, the 64-year-old is also a grassroots veteran of nearly 40 years. He plans to conduct house visits for the next few months, to collect resident data before initiating programmes.
"I am confident enough to know that my mission and my goals will be there no matter who is here," he said. "These are long-term goals, so it doesn't matter when elections are because we are here to stay, we are here to pursue a Government dream to get a cohesive society, to have a bonded community together. I know that with my background and my experience, I can fulfil this mission and this dream that so many young grassroots leaders want to achieve and I want to help them."
It has been a baptism of fire for Mr Choo, 36, who was introduced at the last General Election, as a candidate for opposition-held Hougang. A year later, he was facing a by-election, brought about when the incumbent opposition MP was expelled from his party.
Mr Choo said it was difficult for him to leave Hougang especially when he is - in his words - "emotionally involved". He is now second grassroots adviser in Tampines, under Mr Mah Bow Tan.
"Hougang is never about any individual," said Mr Choo. "We have a very strong team, they have been with me for the last three and a half years, we work very hard on the ground, we have a system in place and I'm very comforted that Mr Goh has come on board. He has vast experience."
Mr Ong, also introduced in the last elections, is taking his new responsibilities in stride. "For three and a half years I have been here, got to know so many friends. It's special because this is where I started volunteer work, so of course you feel some sadness," he said. "But we are at the deployment of the People's Association, which deploys volunteers and advisers, so with Dr Kee coming in, I also begin to understand I should also move on."
The role of grassroots advisers is to reach out and engage residents. They explain Government policies and roll out social programmes. In the case of opposition wards, it is the ruling People's Action Party candidate in an election who typically serves this function. - CNA/av/xy