SINGAPORE - In the 20 years since they were set up, Community Development Councils (CDC) have helped Singaporeans deal with crises such as Sars and the global financial crisis.
They have also worked closely with the Government and grassroots organizations to roll out national programmes and policies.
Today, the CDCs must continue to play a role in helping workers upgrade their skills as the economy restructures, and help ensure society remains alert and united in the face of the terror threat, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (May 24).
He flagged these two issues CDCs can play an active role in tackling in a speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the five mayors at the People's Association headquarters in Jalan Besar.
Mr Lee said: "CDCs must continue to be a bridge between residents and the Government. Not just hands and legs on the ground to implement the programmes, but also eyes and ears to identity emerging needs and gaps in the current social and employment assistance systems."
In terms of skills upgrading, CDCs can help foster a mindset change in people, encouraging them to adapt to changes in the economy and adopt lifelong learning, he said.
On the anti-terrorism front, CDCs can help support SG Secure, a national movement to help sensitise people to the terror threat.
They can do this by working together with government agencies, the grassroots, and community and corporate partners, said Mr Lee, adding that the community must rally together during crises.
"We are strong only if our ties are close and people trust one another, despite having different backgrounds, or belonging to different ethnic groups or different faiths," said Mr Lee.
He added: "By involving volunteers in these meaningful projects, CDCs can strengthen the gotong royong spirit, and grow and develop your team of active volunteers."
At the ceremony on Wednesday, four current mayors - Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Dr Teo Ho Pin, Ms Denise Phua and Ms Low Yen Ling - were reappointed.
Also appointed was Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo, who is replacing Mr Teo Ser Luck as mayor at the helm of the North East Community Development Council (CDC).
Ms Low was also appointed as coordinator for the CDCs.
Mr Teo, who is also Minister of State for Manpower until June 30, is stepping down as mayor on Friday. He will be returning to the private sector.
The new mayor appointments will take effect on May 27. They were first announced last month by the Prime Minister's Office.
The mayors are in charge of the five CDCs, which lead and coordinate grassroots organisations. They also play a key role in helping the Government implement policies on the ground.
CDCs were first started in 1997, as a way to attract more Singaporeans to be involved in the community. Over time, they have become a place where Singaporeans can get access to social and community assistance as well.