SINGAPORE - Singapore is to have a new grassroots organisation that will serve residents of new private as well as public housing estates.
Called Residents' Network (RN), it will erase the existing distinction, in which residents' committees (RCs) serve HDB estates and neighbourhood committees (NCs) cater to private estates.
With the change, "new flats and private developments can come under one RN rather than one RC and a separate NC,'' said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (July 20), about the move that looks set to help blur any class divide and further promote social mixing among people from different income groups.
He added that existing RCs and NCs can continue as they are, rename themselves RNs, or neighbouring RCs and NCs can merge into a single RN.
Mr Lee announced the new Residents' Network at the joint anniversary celebration of RCs and NCs, during which he underlined the importance of ensuring the quality and commitment especially of grassroots leaders.
"As volunteers, you must always conduct yourselves properly - never pushing your weight around or taking improper advantage of your position.
"This is not just during official functions, but also in everyday situations. As grassroots leaders, people see you not only as private persons, but also as representing government and authority," he said.
"So it is only natural that very high standards are expected, and these high standards must be adhered to," he added.
RC and NCs, besides organising community activities to encourage neighbourliness among their residents, also act as a bridge between residents and the Government by collecting and passing feedback on the ground to government agencies for follow-up action.
In 1978, RCs were introduced and 20 years later, NCs came into being in 1998. Over the years, they are no longer as distinct as they used to be, Mr Lee said while explaining how the idea for Residents' Networks came about.
Today, eight in 10 NCs have a neighbouring RC, because the Government has deliberately planned private and public housing developments to be near each other, he noted.
"So quite a few RC and NC leaders have suggested to remove this distinction. This will encourage residents from public and private estates to mix more freely and participate in community activities together," he said.
"Bringing private estate residents and HDB residents together will make our grassroots network more effective, and strengthen our social cohesion."
Mr Partheebun Saravanan, chairman of Boon Lay View RC, said he looks forward to closer collaborations with NCs in his area.
"A lot of the residents of the nearby condominiums are foreigners, so more mixing would help our foreign friends to better understand life in Singapore, too," he added.
Already several RCs and NCs across the island have collaborated.
In Toa Payoh, for example, Ah Hood Gardens RC and Balestier NC teamed up to turn an empty space under the Toa Payoh South flyover into a dog park for their residents.
To continue to be relevant and successful, Mr Lee said RCs and NCs need to come up with fresh activities that meet the interests especially of younger families who have more entertainment options.
They also have to keep bringing new blood into the grassroots movement, he added.