An unwritten expectation of political allegiance?

I am intrigued by a statement made by presidential hopeful Mr Tan Kin Lian during the pre-nomination roundtable discussion in response to a question about his earlier active involvement in the PAP. He said, “… So I stopped being active (in PAP). I couldn’t resign because I was working for an NTUC organisation.” (quoted from Straits Times, 18 Aug 2011, page A8)

Before I am misunderstood, I am not supporting nor attacking any of the 4 presidential candidates. They each have their own motivations for standing for election and I wish them well. I am concern about this long and close link between NTUC and PAP that extends even to employees running their social enterprises.

The NTUC is a labour movement comprising a network of 60 trade unions, six associations, 12 social enterprises and 4 related organisations (source:

Since its formation in 1961, NTUC has grown from being purely a union representing workers into one that runs businesses that spans covers many aspects of our lives, literally from cradle to grave. Its 12 social enterprises (i.e. businesses) runs early childhood centres, club membership services, elder care services, supermarkets operations, food courts, training centres, insurance products, media and advertising services, loan services, pharmaceutical stores and property development.

I recall when the union first started business operations, it was to control the cost of staple food. I was often sent by my parents in the 1970s to queue to purchase of cheap rice in an outlet in Chai Chee, a 5-minute walk from my house. That has now grown into NTUC Fairprice which has over 200 outlets throughout Singapore.

I would say that it was a noble objective to keep the cost of living down. NTUC has been successful in business operations under a social enterprise status which grants it business advantages over competitors. It has since grown to cover many other business areas, some of which the social objectives are less obvious. Today, it has a group turnover of over US$3.5 billion (, larger than many public listed companies in Singapore. I am not certain though if its original objective of keeping cost low is still valid. Despite heavily subsidised rents, its childcare services are comparable in fees to those at private centres paying commerical rents. I often find cheaper groceries in non-Fairprice supermarkets as well.

Now we hear from a former senior member of a key NTUC social enterprise that he had to be a PAP party member because he worked for an NTUC organisation. I am not privy to the internal functioning of NTUC as to whether this is a verbal instruction or an unwritten expectation for senior members to strongly comply with. The sprawling NTUC Group resembles a business conglomerate.  I would expect that people working in and running its operations should be selected for their business and work abilities rather than for their political affiliation. When there are strong political expectations required of employees in a business organisation, I wonder if the organisation’s objectives are purely social in nature.


4 comments on “An unwritten expectation of political allegiance?

  1. NTUC is a puppet organization that is meant to control/suppress workers, not to protect workers. NTUC is affiliated to who, everyone knows.

    I quite agreed with WP’s view on this elected presidency issue. If we have an elected president who is well-respected and is very assertive, he may dilute the power of parliament, though under the constitution, president has no executive powers. But since this president is elected by popular votes, what he says in fact counts a lot, can the parliament affords to ignore him if he claims to speak for the people? I think this may lead us to a sort of constitutional crisis in the future. Do we want to retain the Westminister parliamentary model or we switch to the US or France model?

    At the same time, I must say we really need someone who is aggressive enough to protect our CPF savings in the light of our government’s ‘super’ track record in its foreign investments. I’m in fact very disappointed that all along, our opposition MPs are not aggressive enough in questioning the PAP on the serious mistakes they made, in the parliamentary sessions. Till now, I haven’t heard any opposition people or MPs scolding them for making big time losses in Thailand for buying Thaksin’s assets. Now that, his sister has become the PM, does the Singapore government dare to bring this issue up to Yingluck?

    I really hope in the next coming 5 years, our opposition MPs will perform better in the parliament. I hope when the PAP made serious mistakes, they shouldn’t give them any mercy in the parliament. Being aggressive when they mistake is not mad dog. Sometimes I habour this thought that perhaps people like Chee Soon Chuan should be in the parliament after all.

  2. Mr Yee, NTUC is now a purely profit orientated company. I think this organization has lost its social objectives. I just attended a course by NTUC learning hub, the course was funded by IDA, obviously they are there to make money and the best paymaster is the government. They are everywhere and their biggest supporter is the government so Singapore is the most difficult place for enterpreneur startup in the private sector, partly because we have alot of these kind of companies “related” to the government.

  3. The working class Singaporeans today are well etuacded and well travelled but many are too caught up with their lives that they dont see what is happening. Cost of living growing at faster rate than salaries, basic necessitites like home and vehicle are expensive, hard earned money locked in until you die (CPF), people tell you how much of your own money can be used when you are sick (medisave), young children living up to ever increasing standards of grading….all these is happening when families are too busy to earn living and plan for their retirement which may never quite happen….because they tell you that they have everything in control….Why?Because they are the one controlling you. And you are the one working for them, not the other way round. They have already lots of money and still continue to be allowed to do soDecide for yourselfSingapore is a nation with many high standards but look at other countries, whether rich or poor, big or small, they all have a voice that represent them, in different newsprintThis so called first class nation allows its people only one national newspaper that is controlled by the ruling party (that has never been replaced)That is how YOU are being controlled, wake up people before GE2016

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