Singapore Politics - Insights from the Inside

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 

The Structure of the PAP
Insights From Inside...

Perhaps, my so-called “reputation” precedes me that when I was typing this article, a couple of Ministers (Teo Chee Hean, Lee Boon Yang) and MPs (Abdullah Tarmugi, Low Thia Kiang, Lee Yoke Suan) came to visit me! Just joking, but coincidentally, they were “touring” at my university library when I was typing this article. Anyway, as promised, this is the article which I struggle to write and find public information to prevent myself from getting into any problems.

The PAP was established in 1954 and their structure is a cross between our former colonial rulers, the British, and the Politburo of the Communist Parties (such as China’s CCP). Politburo, short for Political Bureau, is the executive organization for a number of political parties, most notably for Communist Parties. In theory, the party congress (for PAP it is the 1,300 party cadres) elects the Central Committee (for PAP, it is the Central Executive Committee), which in turns elects the Secretary-General (which will be the Leader of the Party and Prime Minister). For the PAP system, it is pretty much similar to that, except when electing of the Secretary-General it is slightly different and murky. It is similar to the British Parties System as it has a close tie with the labour unions such as NTUC.

(Click on Picture to Expand)
PAP Central Executive Committee (CEC)
For a start, like Singapore, PAP is relatively young and has only seen three party Secretary-Generals, of which, there is little challenge to the designated heir prior to the selection. Based on the past transitions, the then-Secretary-General (then-Prime Minister, eg: Goh Chok Tong) will usually suggest a nomination, (usually the 1st Asst. Secretary-General) to be the new Secretary-General, to the Cabinet and the CEC. After getting the mandate and endorsement of the CEC and Cabinet, he will then seek the approval from the Members of Parliament. The transition from Lee Kuan Yew to Goh Chok Tong was quite an interesting one as LKY preferred Dr Tony Tan but the CEC preferred Goh Chok Tong. In the end, the Secretary-General sided with CEC’s recommendation (and partly because GCT is also not going to pose any threat to LHL’s future leadership of the Party). However, since the leadership hand-over was only practiced twice in the history of the PAP, it is difficult to say whether this will be the standard procedure.

For the rest of the CEC members, they are voted in by the party senior cadres at the PAP Ordinary Conference. There are around 1,300 senior cadres in the PAP, which are senior leaders of the party (Ministers and MPs), former leaders (former MPs), past and present Branch Secretaries (which are the highest ranking non-MP official at constituency level, eg Kua Hong Pak who is the Managing Director of ComfortDelgro, and was the Branch Secretary of Teck Ghee constituency) and senior members of the PAP (ordinary folks that has long and outstanding service to the PAP). The highest vote will be the Party Chairman (currently, Lim Boon Heng, past chairmen includes Dr Tony Tan, Dr Toh Chin Chye) and the second highest vote will be the Vice-Chairman (currently, Dr Yaccob Ibrahim). Below is the line-up of the current CEC:

Functionally, the CEC is the executive body and main decision-making power in the whole organization. Typically, most of the members are Cabinet Ministers or key government position holders. After the election of the CEC, the CEC will, in turn, appoint an HQ Executive Committee, which oversees most of its functional areas.

PAP HQ Executive Committee
The PAP HQ Executive Committee mainly works as an operation and management committee while the CEC sets the directions and decision-making process. The HQ committee has 12 core functions, each with their own Chairman and Committee but of which, two committees (Young PAP and Women’s Wing) are larger in size compared the rest of the 10. These two committees will be elaborated later.

In addition, the HQ has an operating function which is to coordinate the functioning and activities within 5 districts (Central, North-West, North-East, South-West, and South-East). Each district will have a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman which are the Members of Parliament for the same district. Under them, they will have their own committees made up of 12 District Representatives. Biennially, all the Branch Secretaries will elect these 12 district representatives among themselves to sit in the PAP HQ Committee.
(Click on Picture to Expand)
In the PAP HQ Executive, there are two separate committees (PAP Community Foundation (PCF) and PAP Policy Forum (PPF)) that functions quite independently. The PCF is headed by RAdm Teo Chee Hean and the PPF is headed by Ellen Lee, a women wing member and lawyer by practice. The PCF looks into community service projects for needy Singaporeans as well as the management of the PAP Kindergartens and works closely with the grassroots committees such as the CCC. For the PPF, it was recently setup to provide an avenue for ordinary party members and cadres to participate in policy dialogues and provide feedbacks to the Guest-Speaker Ministers via forums.

If you can consider the CEC as the brains of the organization, the HQ is the body that controls the hands and legs.

Individual Constituencies PAP Branches
The appointments and elections of Branch Secretaries, Cadres, District Representatives and leaders can be quite complicating for ordinary Singaporeans. Maybe I can make it clearer. There are 84 constituencies in Singapore and thus, there are 84 Members of Parliament in each constituency. At each constituency, the MP is the Chairman of the Branch. The second highest appointment in the constituency (in PAP language is called Branch) is not the Vice-Chairman but is the Branch Secretary. The Branch Secretaries, are appointed by the MP, conduct the Meet-the-People Session each week and decides on matters pertaining to the local levels with the MP. The third in line would be the Vice-Chairman.

The main task of the branches is to cater and service the needs of their voters and constituents in that district via the Meet-the-People Session (MPS). Note that I used the words “voters” and “constituents” instead of Singaporeans. This is because political parties, by theory, do not cater to all citizens but to their voters and constituents. Since the PAP has “conquered” most of the constituencies, they provide for all who support them and stay in their controlled areas.

Each branch will also have a youth wing (in PAP Language is called Young PAP (YP)), of which, the branch YP Chairman are appointed by the individual MPs.

Young PAP (YP) aka Youth Wing
The YP is structured similarly to its parent, PAP. Starting from the bottom, each branch has its own youth members. From the youth members, the MP will appoint a Branch YP Chairman and Vice-Chairman. Similar to the District Committee, all Branch YP Chairmen will elect two representatives for their district, biennially. The highest vote will be the District YP Chairmen and the second would be the District YP Vice-Chairmen.

Once every few months, the District YP Chairman may call for meetings with all the Branch YP Chairmen to gather the information, feedback and views to reflect them to the YP Executive Committee, which is headed by the YP Chairman (appointed by the CEC). The YP Chairman, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, will then channel any relevant information to the PAP HQ Executive Committee or the CEC, if necessary. Historically, past-YP Chairmen have always been prolific Ministers. The very first YP Chairman was current-PM Lee Hsien Loong. Later, he passed the baton to now-Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo. Minister Lim Swee Say took over from him few years later and most recently, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was added into the list of prolific Ministers as YP Chairman.
Women’s Wing (WW)
The women’s wing is smaller compared to the size and membership of the YP. In recent years, under the leadership of Lim Hwee Hua, the WW seems to be quite active. Most notable and recent event led by the WW was the community project, the Headstart Fund for needy Singaporeans.

Hopefully, I’ve demystified some of the structure and insights into the PAP in this article. On the contrary, I might have made some people even more complicated than ever (hope not!). A lot of people often criticize the PAP for being too elitist and closed-door to ordinary folks. I think this is one misconception that this article could help to clarify. At various levels of decision-making and action, there are avenues where ordinary card-carrying Singaporean member (of PAP) can participate. Ordinary Singaporeans who join the PAP have quite a lot of access to Ministers and MPs to voice their opinions. The important thing is that the people who join and have the chance to speak to the leaders, must “speak truth to power”. I think in the PAP (some of the branches and grassroots) have too many “Yes-men” where chairmen and branch secretaries surrounding the MP misled them to think that all is well at the ground when it is not. Maybe it is my principles, but I’m one who will said “NO” if I have to, but not “NO” just for the sake of the argument. Anyway, this article is not supposed to be on me.

Nonetheless, the PAP is a 50 year old organization that has quite a resilient structure and multiple functional units where ordinary citizens can voice their concerns. It is not easy to understand or see it at first look but its diverse functions and committee shows its age and stability of the party.

Just to cover my #$^, all information are publicly available (via National Library, newspapers and internet).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005 

Speech by Frank Lavin, U.S.A. Ambassador to Singapore

There has been a lot said about Ambassador Lavin's remarks and comments on the lack of political freedom and the incident on Martyn See, by the web media (see Singabloodypore or Aseannewsnetwork). I thought it would be helpful to display the full speech and see what you make of it. The words in bold are probably the mentioning of the incident. The speech is quite lengthy as such, I've only selected the main content into this article. But if you are interested in the full speech, it is available here.

"Well, in my view Singapore and the United States have stepped up to the challenge. Singapore helicopters can communicate with American air traffic controllers in New Orleans. American helicopters can communicate with Singapore air traffic controllers in Aceh. We have put policies in place that promote regular interaction, such as the Free Trade Agreement and the Strategic Framework Agreement. We have a range of other programs in technical areas such as the Container Security Initiative, Proliferation Security Initiative, and the REDI Center. All of these show that our leadership understands the imperatives of better coordination. Indeed, one of the striking aspects to me of the bilateral relationship is the sheer breadth and complexity of tasks.

For example, this month alone will see a State Department Undersecretary visit on trafficking in persons and bird flu; a Treasury Department Undersecretary visit on money laundering; a State Department Assistant Secretary visit on counter-terrorism; and two admirals will visit separately on military sealift and on naval research coordination. Every year, my guess is we have upwards of fifty senior-level government delegations going from one country to the other. Some five to ten of them will be cabinet-level. And of course, this culminates in the visits of Prime Ministers Goh and Lee to Washington, and President Bush to Singapore. There is a lot going on. As Foreign Minister George Yeo says, “The world is spinning faster.”

We have more to do in such areas as law enforcement, tax treaties, and non-proliferation, but so far so good. The world has been made a little safer through our cooperation. The more difficult challenge is the one I mentioned a few minutes ago, the connection between internal political structure and international consequences. Americans are increasingly of the view that societies that do not offer their citizens a say, that tolerate economic mismanagement or corruption, or that promote hatreds, risk becoming breeding ground for terrorism. This is a global point but we see this most acutely in the Arab world. The first victims of a dysfunctional society are the citizens of that society, which is bad enough, but all of us are at risk from the potential spill-over.Singapore has its share of challenges as well.

Singapore has flourished over the past 40 years, but is a 20th century model adequate for the 21st century? Singapore is grappling with the definitional questions of what kind of society it wants. Remaking its economy is, in a sense, the easy decision. Shaping a political system to reflect the needs and aspirations of its citizens is more difficult and more sensitive. What are the bounds of expression? What say should citizens have in their government? In this era of Weblogs and Webcams, how much sense does it make to limit political expression? Remember, we have the death of distance. There are no islands anymore. As part of Singapore’s success is its strong international links, it is surprising to find constraints on discussions here. In my view, governments will pay an increasing price for not allowing full participation of their citizens.

I know Singapore will sort through these challenges, for Singaporeans are not known for resting on their laurels. The past forty years have been a history of adapting and moving forward. Singapore has much to be proud of and the United States will stand side-by-side with Singapore. My view of foreign policy is simple: we - America and Singapore – we are the "good guys." This doesn't mean that other countries are the "bad guys." And it doesn't mean that we are always right, because we make our share of mistakes. Nor does it mean we don't need to listen to others. We do. What it does mean is that America has a great deal in common with Singapore, in approach to problems such as political stability, economic growth, and cross-border threats, be they man-made or natural disasters. There are many social commonalities as well. We both know that a pluralistic, inclusive, meritocratic society is the best way to ensure a better life for our citizens.

Allow me to close on a personal note. When you serve in a position such as this, it is much more than a job. It becomes part of your identity, something you carry with you the rest of your life. Balzac might have been thinking of Ambassadors when he wrote of “Vocations which bleed like colors on the whole of our existence.”

We look back to the SARS crisis and remember the fear we all faced. The American community, like all of Singapore, was nervous. But we also had confidence in Singapore to face the problem honestly and with total commitment, so I did not have to order an embassy evacuation. We were the only U.S. post in a SARS-affected country not to do so. Had the embassy closed or scaled back, it would have triggered an American community exodus.

We saw the horrors of the tsunami. I was fortunate to be able to join a helicopter crew from the USS Abraham Lincoln delivering food and water to survivors in a village in Aceh. It made me proud to see the U.S. Navy working together with the Singapore Armed Forces to ease suffering and save lives. We know the threat of terrorism because my embassy was targeted for a truck bomb. We later saw victims of the first Bali bombings who were brought to Singapore for medical care. Our embassy worked to provide comfort and support to the victims who were so ably served by the excellent medical care in Singapore.

Each era has its distinct threats and challenges, and our era is no exception. But there is also joy and a basis for optimism. Ann and I tried to get around Singapore a bit. Ann was an active parent at the American school, especially in promoting music and drama. She worked with a number of community organizations such as theaters, and museums. She was able to tutor regularly in a local school. Our daughter competed in a Singapore national Dancesport competition at Ngee Ann Polytechnic – and as parents, we were very proud of her two silver medals. I remember working with the HIV/AIDS patients at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and competing in the Navy biathlons and the Standard Chartered 10 km race. And we hosted some fun events like introducing the American Idols to the Singapore Idols at our residence.

Tonight is a bittersweet moment. Sometimes in life we move on in our jobs, but that does not mean that we move on in our friendships. Ann and I will carry you in our hearts wherever we may be, and we will always remember Singapore’s belief in excellence, emphasis on education, and willingness to face the world. Thank you all for your support and for your friendship. Majulah Singapura. "

Perhaps he might have added certain comments outside from his speech. Maybe readers can help to let me in on that. Anyway, these few days, I've been busy with my projects and mid-terms. Hopefully, I can post the two articles promised earlier. Just a note for all to look out for is that coming PAP convention on the 6 November. Traditionally, it is used as "dress rehearsal" for GE and rally their supporters. If you are wondering, for a large event such as PAP convention where all Ministers and MPs are there, who is paying for the security, the government? Actually, nope. According to sources, the PAP actually pays for the security for the VIP. But critics would argue that it is just transferring money from the "left pocket to the right pocket". Rest assured that PAP will and has thought of all possible counters against any accusation of public resources and would safeguard themselves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 

Should I Risk Writing on PAP?

For some strange reasons, I'm contemplating to write an article on the internal structure of the PAP. Maybe it is a dangerous move that might see me being locked up in the deepest dungeons of the ISA, or maybe not. Just to cover my a*s, I'm looking for how much public info is available so that I'm not revealing too much secrets for my own good.

Should I or should I not?

Sunday, October 02, 2005 

Coming Soon: Minister of State Heng Chee How
My encounters with him and my 2-cents worth on him

Currently, I'm kind of busy with my studies and commitments, so hopefully I can get to write on this by next week. This will be based on my encounter with him after spending almost 5 hours at a community retreat-like event with him.

Anyway, seems like LTA has done it again (why I am not surprised) with the Transport Minister exerting pressure on the Hock Kee residents to move out. Troubles never seem to end with LTA and MOT.

I've setup a webpoll at the sidebar so that we can see how readers poll on certain issues. Feel free to suggest on any possible polls that I can add in to see the "public" (if you consider blogs as public) responses.

The Idealist

  • Thrasymachus
  • Propagating In: Singapore
  • The Critic, The Philosopher, The Pragmatist, The Moralist, The Egalitarian, The Confused, The True-Blue Singaporean
My profile

Email Me At:

Singapore Time

Poll Your Agony!

    Do you support the government's decision in barring certain Civil Society Organization members from the IMF/WB meetings?
    Fully support!
    Yes, but could have been more lenient
    Don't know...
    No, the govt is too rigid
    Absolute no!
    I don't give a damn about it...
    Current results

    Which topic do you wish to read at Singaporegovt?
    SM Goh Chok Tong: Behind the Scene
    Oppositions: Singapore Democratic Party
    Super Seven: Khaw Boon Wan, Dr Ng Eng Hen
    Super Seven II: Dr Vivian, Raymond Lim
    History V: Devan Nair
    History VI: Dr Goh Keng Swee
    Who is Thrasymachus (aka me)?
    All of the Above!
    None of the Above - I hate reading!
    Current results

    What do you think of the General Election 2006 (GE) Results?
    Accurately reflects the political preference of Singaporeans
    Somewhat accurate in reflecting Singapore's political preference
    PAP's win was too flattering
    Oppositions' percentage was too high
    Not accurate in reflecting the political preference of Singaporeans
    Totally inaccurate!
    Current results

    What do you think of the Gomez Issue?
    He is guilty of deceiving!
    He is not guilty!
    The whole issue was overblown by the PAP & media
    Don't care, Don't know!
    Current results

    What do you think of this site (singaporegovt.blogspot)?
    Good, Fair, Objective, Interesting Read
    Above Average
    Below Average
    Total Rubbish!
    Total mouthpiece of the PAP government!
    I HATE this site!
    I LOVE this site!
    Current results

    Which (Senior) Minister of State do you wish to see promoted to Full Minister?
    Ho Peng Kee
    Dr Balaji Sadasivan
    Zainul Abidin Rasheed
    Heng Chee How
    Lim Hwee Hua
    Grace Fu
    Radm Lui Teck Yew
    Lim Yi Shyan
    Gan Kim Yong
    Current results

    Which Election Candidate do you prefer?
    Low Thia Khiang (WP)
    Chiam See Tong (SDA)
    Sylvia Lim (WP)
    Chee Soon Juan (SDP)
    J.B. Jeyaratnam (Formerly WP)
    Lee Hsien Loong (PAP)
    Dr Ng Eng Hen (PAP)
    Sitoh Yih Pin (PAP)
    Eric Low (PAP)
    Current results

    How do you rate PM Lee Hsien Loong's Performance (as Prime Minister) so far?
    Very Good
    Above Expectation
    Poor ("I can even do better!")
    Very Poor
    Current results

    Do you have confidence in PM Lee Hsien Loong's leadership and his team of Ministers?
    Too early to tell...
    Any one but them!
    Current results

    Do you think Lee Hsien Loong became Prime Minister on his own merits?
    Yes! ("He was the best candidate")
    No! ("He has obvious backing from LKY")
    No! ("There wasn't any alternative candidate to challenge him in the first place")
    Current results

    Which of the (Junior) Minister to you wish to see him/her step down? (Part III)
    Raymond Lim
    Balaji Sadasivan
    Ho Peng Kee
    Chan Soo Sen
    Lim Hwee Hua
    Heng Chee How
    Gan Kim Yong
    Yu-Foo Yee Shoon
    Zainul Abidin
    Current results

    Which Minister do you wish to see him step down? (Part I)
    Lee Hsien Loong
    Goh Chok Tong
    Lee Kuan Yew
    Lim Boon Heng
    Lee Boon Yang
    Yeo Cheow Tong
    Mah Bow Tan
    George Yeo
    Teo Chee Hean
    Current results

    Which Minister do you wish to see him step down? (Part II)
    Lim Hng Kiang
    Wong Kan Seng
    S Jayakumar
    Tharman Shanmuguratnam
    Lim Swee Say
    Ng Eng Hen
    Vivian Balakrishnan
    Khaw Boon Wan
    Yaacob Ibrahim
    Current results

    What is your utmost concern for the coming General Elections?
    "Bread & Butter" issues - Jobs, economy, salary, etc
    Freedom of Speech - or lack of
    HDB issues - upgrading, high housing cost, etc
    International Issues - govt's handling of foreign relationships
    Transport issues - LTA, NEL, MRT
    Change of Leadership - from SM Goh to PM Lee
    All of the above
    I'll vote any party except PAP!
    I'll only vote for PAP!
    Current results

    Which is your favourite Minister?
    PM Lee Hsien Loong
    SM Goh Chok Tong
    MM Lee Kuan Yew
    DPM Jayakumar
    Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
    Teo Chee Hean
    George Yeo
    Tharman S.
    I Hate of them!
    Current results

Faces of Singapore
    Thrasymachus' photos More of Thrasymachus' photos


    The author of this blog bears no responsibility for any misinterpretation, libel, defamation, injury and death as a result of reading this blog. Contents are high subjective and readers should read with caution. All readers should be 18 years and above, with half a decent brain to judge the validity of the articles.

Search Blog

    Search WWW Search

Number of Visitors

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates