Budget 2018 debate

Govt urged to engage with activists, NGOs

Activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work "incredibly hard" to fight for justice for the marginalised in society and most are not looking to incite trouble, said Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun.

He urged the Government to try to be "a vulnerable observer, a vulnerable listener" and participate in dialogue with these groups.

The work of NGOs and activists, while not in opposition to the Government, can sometimes clash with the Government's position, he said.

"They don't want to be at loggerheads with the State. In fact, they want to get the State on their side, so that policies can be changed," he added.

However, they appeal for support from the public if they feel that they are not heard. But this is what a functioning democracy is all about, added Mr Kok, who is artistic director of theatre company Drama Box.

"Asking hard questions always begins with messiness. We need to first acknowledge the mess. Then, together, we wade through the messiness, sort things out and listen to different views."

Yasmine Yahya

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline 'Govt urged to engage with activists, NGOs'. Print Edition | Subscribe