Last Saturday, I attended a Citizenship Ceremony at the Kaki Bukit Community Centreas a guest of one of my residents who had recently acquired Singapore citizenship. The Guest-of-Honour for the event was the Grassroots Adviser to the Kaki Bukit Grassroots Organisations (GRO) Mr Shamsul Kamar. The certificate presentation ceremony was separately graced by Mr Lee Hong Chuang BBM, Grassroots Adviser to the Hougang GROs and Dr Kee Wei Heong, also a Grassroots Adviser to the Kaki Bukit GROs. Mr Shamsul and Mr Lee were the losing election candidates for Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC under the People’s Action Party (PAP) ticket in the 2015 General Elections.
During the ceremony, one perceptive new citizen asked me, “what is the difference between the People’s Association and the GRC (Group Representative Constituency)?”
GRC-level Citizenship Ceremonies or GCCs provide a platform for the Government to organise the citizenship ceremony around politics, allowing ex-PAP candidates and PAP MPs to present citizenship certificates and NRICs to new voters, ostensibly to raise the PAP’s standing among new citizens. The People’s Association provides the front, as it does to all community-level PAP events, to legitimise the ceremony as a government-sanctioned event.
One of the new citizens thought this arrangement to be rather cynical and opined that the ceremony should be a national event with no place for politics.
As I drove home, I wondered whether the politicisation of such ceremonies to favour the PAP contributed to the anti-foreigner sentiment amongst some Singaporeans. I also thought a non-political ceremony would hold us in better stead as a country and as one people.