SINGAPORE — Three new faces who spoke at the People’s Action Party (PAP) convention on Sunday (Nov 5) made a call for the party to embrace diversity and be more inclusive as differences in backgrounds, experiences and perspectives threaten to divide society.
Highlighting these points were consultant orthopaedic surgeon Hamid Razak, entrepreneur Chua Wei-Shan and university lecturer Elmie Nekmat.
New faces who spoke at past PAP conventions have typically gone on to become potential General Election candidates for the party.
For example in 2019, of the four young faces who spoke at the convention — Dr Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah, Ms Rachel Ong, Mr Alex Yeo and Mr Kawal Pal Singh — three went on to contest in the 2020 election.
Associate Professor Elmie from the National University of Singapore’s Department of Communications and New Media was among a slate of new faces introduced at Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) early last year. He is currently branch chairman of PAP Sengkang Central.
Ms Chua, whose LinkedIn profile states that she is executive director of product design, manufacturing and sourcing company BX Creatives, is the organising secretary of Young PAP and a member of its West Coast division.
Dr Hamid, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at SingHealth, is the assistant branch secretary of PAP Jurong Spring. He was appointed second grassroots advisor to Jurong Spring, under Jurong GRC, in August.
APPRECIATING DIVERSITY, BUILDING INCLUSIVITY: DR HAMID
Dr Hamid, 38, who was the first of the three to address the over 1,000 PAP members on Sunday morning at Singapore Expo, said that while the party has proven itself to be stable and progressive, it must constantly reinvent itself and invest into its future.
To this end, he suggested three points he summarised as “ABC”: Appreciating diversity, building inclusivity, and collaborative decision-making.
He said that Singapore’s diversity is something to be proud of and deeply appreciated.
“Look around us today; we can see party activists of various, diverse backgrounds, experiences and even perspectives. This diversity extends to the varied experiences that each of us brings to the party,” said the father of three who has been a party member since 2017.
“Recognising and valuing these different perspectives can lead to more comprehensive policy solutions.”
He said that appreciating diversity would engender a sense of belonging and inclusivity, as each party member would then believe that their voices matter.
However, geopolitical instabilities can be polarising and potentially threaten unity in the society, making it important for party activists to build bridges and foster a safe environment for conversations.
“These conversations may be difficult but it’s important because having these difficult conversations will allow us to be a more inclusive party and society at large,” he added.
When these two values are embraced, they would lay the foundation for collaborative decision-making, said Dr Hamid.
He highlighted the Alliances for Action — industry-led coalitions working with the Government to find solutions to various challenges — as well as the “symbiotic relationship” between the PAP and the National Trades Union Congress as examples of successful collaborative efforts.
ADOPT ‘WELCOMING ATTITUDE’: CHUA
In her speech, Ms Chua, who has been a party member since 2012, called on members to adopt a “welcoming attitude” towards fellow volunteers.
She spoke about how she started volunteering in the community over 20 years ago under the guidance of her father.
Becoming the organising secretary of the Young PAP allows her to work with people who share a common goal, the 36-year-old said.
She said that regardless of one’s ambitions, every Singaporean aspires towards a good work-life balance.
Quoting reports that underscore the importance of businesses embracing work-life harmony when designing jobs, Ms Chua pointed out that volunteerism and activism, too, should embody the same “spirit of flexibility”.
“I constantly remind myself and my team to have an empathetic and welcoming attitude towards fellow volunteers, especially those who may have temporarily stepped aside due to personal or professional commitments,” she said.
BRIDGE GAPS BETWEEN GENERATIONS: ASSOC PROF ELMIE
Assoc Prof Elmie, 42, highlighted the need to bridge potential divides between generations, especially between the elderly and the youth.
He called for empathy, appreciation and support towards the older generation so that they do not get left behind as the world becomes more digitalised.
He gave an example of how he and his siblings have to repeatedly teach his mother, a 67-year-old primary school canteen operator, how to use a smartphone and important applications.
Now, she does activities such as shopping online and using apps largely independently, he said.
“The point is this — it is not easy to learn and use technologies safely and effectively. Some of us, like our seniors, may find it more difficult than others,” he said.
“The worry, the fear of being left behind, to feel irrelevant for not being able to participate in this digital society is real.”
Assoc Prof Elmie, who has been a party activist since 2016, recalled a conversation with a private-hire driver, with whom he chatted about the quirks of being a parent to youths.
“At the end of the journey, we agreed that the lived experiences of our children and their digital lives are starkly different from ours. And that we will only push them away if we were to judge and react to them based on our set of lived experiences and expectations,” the associate professor, who himself is a parent, said.
He suggested beginning conversations with youths by appreciating that they are a different generation, and that they have a multiplicity of viewpoints and convictions to different causes.
“Because these are the voices that we need in order to build a truly inclusive Singapore for generations to come,” Assoc Prof Elmie said.