PM Lee Hsien Loong at The Citizens' Consultative Committee 50th Anniversary & Grassroots 50 Celebration Dinner on 29 October 2015.
Mr Goh Peng Tong, BBM,
Chairman Organising Committee and Taman Jurong CCC
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me first begin in Mandarin
Friends and CCC members,
Good evening to all of you.
I am delighted to be here this evening to celebrate with you the 50th anniversary of the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs).
Singapore’s Golden Jubilee is also the Jubilee of our PA grassroots movement. And we can be very proud of the grassroots network that we have today – 1,800 grassroots organisations, almost 40,000 grassroots leaders. Our grassroots movement is the envy of many visitors from many countries. We take visiting officials from other countries – they come from China, India and the developed countries – we take them to our grounds, we take them to our CCs, our branches. We show them how our grassroots operate. Invariably, they are fascinated and impressed. They are amazed, because they find out that this whole thing is run depending on volunteers, volunteers who commit an enormous amount of time and effort serving residents, building the community, purely out of a sense of service. So, thank you all for your hard work and your contributions.
THE GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT – FROM 1965 TO SG50
The CCCs have been an important core part of our grassroots movement ever since independence. They started even before independence. In fact, in 1964, even before that, when we had the campaign, Battle for Merger, and we formed Welcome Committees all over Singapore in order to arrange for Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s 访问, his visits to all the constituencies. The Committees were formed not only to organise the visits, but also to get things done, to decide what is necessary to ask the Government to put up – street lights, water, CCs, all the amenities we take for granted today which we did not have. These Welcome Committees were the nucleus. Then we had riots in 1964, communal riots. You saw it in the video just now. After the riots, relations between the races remained tense for quite some time. There was apprehension, there was distrust. We needed to bring people together to build confidence and harmony over again. So based on the previous Welcome Committees, we set up the Goodwill Committees, comprising respected and courageous community leaders, to restore peace and to calm tensions. These Goodwill Committees became the CCCs.
CCCs have a lot to do. They organised activities in every constituency. They oversaw the network of grassroots organisations which grew around them. They raised funds for welfare projects, for bursaries for poor students. They provided help to the needy and vulnerable. In national emergencies, they came forward in order to provide ground leadership and to organise people. For example, during SARS, they came forward, mustered volunteers, organised temperature taking and reassured residents.
The CCCs work hard on the ground to bring people together. They also work hand-in-hand with the Government, to support campaigns like Keep Singapore Clean, Campaign against Dengue, Speak Mandarin Campaign, Courtesy Campaign – campaigns which people sometimes laughed at us, but which gradually transformed our society into a more caring, gracious and resilient one. The CCCs help us to explain policies and to get people to support these policies, policies like National Service – which was not so easy to accept in the beginning, or more recent programmes like the Pioneer Generation Package or MediShield Life, which benefit people but which are not so easy to understand unless you go face-to-face and talk to people and explain to them how it can help them with their own direct needs. The CCCs kept a close feel of residents’ needs and concerns, fed back to the Government what these were, helped the Government when it needed to improve policies, change policies, and tackle new problems – there will always be new problems which will come.
The CCCs have had a very full and meaningful 50 years, and this 50th year, the Jubilee Year, I think has been one of the busiest. We have had many events to mark our Golden Jubilee. In March, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away, the CCCs and the grassroots organisations worked very hard to set up community tribute sites, to enable hundreds of thousands of Singa¬poreans to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, to organise a national response to Mr Lee’s passing, to bring Singaporeans together and identify ourselves as Singaporeans, together. During these last few weeks, with the haze all around us, exceptionally bad this year, our grassroots organisations have been busy – helping residents, distributing masks and health packs, and letting them know where they can go if they need to get help.
So I am very glad that we have done a commemorative book to capture the spirit and significant contributions of the CCCs over the years.
This PA network, that you all belong to, has become a very important national asset for our nation building. We have got to strengthen the network beyond SG50. The world is changing; Singapore must also change. As we think about the role of the CCCs, I would put it down to three “P”s what we must think about: the Purpose; our Priorities; and our People. The three “P”s: Purpose, Priorities, People.
First, our Purpose. The purpose of the grassroots movement has not really changed in Singapore. We have got to continue to strengthen the fabric of our society, bring people closer together, deepen our sense of community, bond the people to the Government and keep the Government close to Singa¬poreans, and help Singaporeans to understand what the Government is trying to do and help the Government to understand what Singaporeans need. Ultimately, this whole grassroots movement is meant to serve people, to serve Singaporeans, and we must never forget that.
The second “P” is our Priorities, and our priority is two-fold: One to build a strong network of grassroots organisations within the ward – the CCCs, RCs, NCs, CCMCs, all of our alphabet soup. We have got to make them stronger. We do not necessarily need to add more alphabets to them, but we need to add more substance and content, organise meaningful activities, and engage residents more intensively and in ways which the residents find relevant and useful to their lives. This is a structure unique to Singapore, very hard to do elsewhere, because very few other countries are like us, with 80% of our population living in public housing, in communities, in good homes, in neighbourhoods where we can bring people together and do things together. In other countries, you have private housing or sometimes you have slums. Their public housing – it is not a full community; it is just a place for people to live, often meant for people who are very hard up. But in Singapore, we have stable communities living in HDB towns. And residents are happy to participate in the activities. They have come to expect the grassroots organisations to be there for them, and they are happy to participate in the activities and also willing to serve, to come forward and contribute on the various committees. This has made all the difference for us to engender a sense of belonging and rootedness among Singaporeans. So that is one priority. When they ask me, I say, “Build the grassroots network, and keep it strong.”
I think there is another priority which the PA ought to pay some attention to and that is, to engage other groups which are not part of the grassroots network in every ward. There are clans, arts and culture groups, martial arts groups, and all sorts of youth groups, all over the island. Because we do not just make friends with our neighbours, we do not just know one another in our own constituencies; we have friends which are based on our interest. It could be sports, it could be arts, it could be so many different things, we spend time on them and they are meaningful to us. The PA ought to reach out to these groups and connect with them. Work with them, cooperate with them, understand them, help them to succeed when they are working in line with the national purpose, do projects with them when the projects make sense to both sides. In fact, when the PA was first formed, this was one of its roles: to reach out to all the groups which were there, because the groups were already there and the PA was coming in new. But over the years, the PA has focussed more on its own network of grassroots organisations. I think now the PA should look out again, and strengthen its links with these other networks all over Singapore and partner them to strengthen the links between all these parts of our society, with one another, and with the Government.
The Third “P” for the PA must be People. For PA to succeed, we must have good people – people who want to serve, people who will contribute to the communities that they belong to. The HDB can build the towns and estates, but we need the people to make into communities and homes. We have good grassroots leaders, but we need to induct and groom more and younger ones too, people who know their ground well, people who can bring different groups and communities together to build one nation.
This sense that each of us has duties to each other and duty to the Nation, and I think this has been strengthened this year, strengthened because when Mr Lee passed away in March, the over¬whelming response from Singaporeans reminded everybody that we are all citizens together and that we have come thus far by working together. It has been strengthened because as we have celebrated SG50, especially around National Day and we participated in the National Day Parade, we all felt a sense of pride at what we have achieved together. We should take advantage of this moment, to make a special effort to bring new people into the grassroots. Tap on this sense of pride, identity, and unity among Singaporeans. Induct volunteers into the grassroots. Give them an opportunity to serve, to try out their ideas, realise their dreams. Help them develop the skills to lead, to connect with people. Encourage them to innovate, to find creative ways to build communities in Singapore.
So those are the three “P”s – have your Purpose clear; have your Priorities clear; have your People developed and strong.
TOWARDS COMMUNITY 2020
The grassroots network has grown enormously in these five decades, so we thank you all who have volunteered, who have served, who have helped to strengthen our social fabric.
Now, as we enter our next phase, we must chart our new directions together. We have one more major SG50 event to come, and that is “The Future of Us” exhibition, which will be opening in December at the Gardens by the Bay. The exhibition will launch us into the next chapter of our Singapore Story. After the exhibition, we will follow on from there. We will organise focussed discussions around the themes of the exhibition. We will explore how we can build our future together. We are going to involve many people in this exercise.
One important theme which we will study together would be the future of our Community. The PA will start a series of conversations on this subject. We will engage our grassroots leaders as well as Singaporeans in general, to hear your hopes and aspirations for the community. And on this basis, we will have rich inputs which PA can take in and which we can use to develop our Community 2020 Masterplan.
So thank you all – Advisors, grassroots leaders, volunteers, PA staff, our community partners, both past and present, for all your contributions to the grassroots movement. I hope that as CCC members, you will continue to lead your groups to build a more resilient community and a more caring home.
Thank you all and a very happy SG50 to all of you. Thank you very much!
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