SINGAPORE – A boy’s family found themselves locked out of their Housing Board flat in Marine Parade one night after his father misplaced the key.
They turned to a local People’s Association (PA) leader for help.
The chief activated his network and found someone who had a saw and used it to break the padlock so the family could enter.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong was just a boy at the time, and he shared his personal experience to illustrate how the PA became the social glue of neighborhoods.
Speaking at the AP’s annual community seminar at Our Tampines Hub on Saturday, he added that the association has also become a vital link between the government and the people.
The PA was formed in 1960 and DPM Wong said it needed to freshen up to better serve its mission of building cohesive communities, especially in light of an increasingly uncertain and unstable world.
“There is no doubt that there are challenges ahead, but the best way to overcome these challenges is to stick together,” Wong said, addressing a group of 1,800 grassroots leaders and volunteers. .
He suggested some areas the PA could focus on, starting with facilitating various platforms for dialogue to reach consensus in diversity. He said, “It’s not always possible to reconcile what everyone wants today.
“For example, if you’re having a conversation about housing, half the room will say ‘please bring down house prices’, while the other half will say ‘please, do not take too drastic measures, otherwise the value of my asset will decrease’.”
The PA can help facilitate this by developing more platforms for different groups to frankly share their views with each other and find ways to move society forward, he added.
DPM Wong also urged the association to stay connected with young people and relevant to them.
“Each cohort thinks the one after it isn’t as good. It’s just a human tendency, but we shouldn’t be too hard on our youngsters,” he said.
He urged the PA to go beyond engaging young people and empowering them to take charge and lead projects on their own.