SINGAPORE — Member of Parliament and animal welfare activist Louis Ng is planning to walk in the shoes of ordinary Singaporeans — literally, by taking on jobs as a GrabCar driver, a healthcare worker, a coffeeshop assistant and a police officer, among others, for at least a day every month.
Sharing this plan in a Facebook post yesterday (Nov 3), Mr Ng, who was elected MP for Nee Soon GRC in the Sept 11 polls, said to “really understand and really see what’s happening on the ground” and make a difference, he wanted to gain some first-hand experience.
When contacted, Mr Ng, who is also founder and executive director of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said he had been thinking about which issues to raise in Parliament when the House sits in January — the first sitting after the General Election.
While MPs traditionally engage residents through house visits, dialogue sessions and Meet-the-People Sessions, he wanted to do so by going to the ground, he said. “(For example) with cleaners...it’s a way to understand municipal issues,” he said. â€¨He hopes to do one stint every month for the next five years, and aims to return to these jobs so that they are not once-off affairs. “I’m really excited about this, gaining more experience and using these experiences to help draft my questions in Parliament and help improve policies in Singapore,” Mr Ng said.
His first stint takes place this month at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where he will serve as a healthcare worker in a C Class ward for one full shift. There, he hopes to engage the staff and patients. “I will do every thing a healthcare worker does in his or her normal shift and do an actual shift at the hospital. From this experience, I hope to not only see how we can help healthcare workers but also how we can make things better for hospital patients,” Mr Ng wrote in his post.
Next month, he will be a GrabCar driver, where he will offer free rides to passengers while soliciting views from them. He will donate the value of the rides towards buying Christmas presents for the children of Nee Soon residents living in rental flats.
In January, he will try out being a town council cleaner — noting this was appropriate as he is also chairman of Nee-Soon Town Council. And he is in talks with the Singapore Police Force, in hopes of joining one of their Community Policing Units for neighbourhood patrol.
Other experiences he is planning to take on include a wildlife rescue officer and a secondary school student, and he also urged the public to put up suggestions.
Last year, eight French politicians disguised themselves as citizens struggling with real-world problems — such as using a wheelchair for a day and trying to find affordable housing as a low-income citizen — for a television programme. The aim was to raise awareness of social issues and draw lessons from the experience, but the move also drew brickbats from political watchers who called it a gimmick.
In 2013, then-Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg went undercover as a taxi driver to engage citizens, footage of which he later released as a campaign video for elections that year. Mr Stoltenberg, who had served eight years as Prime Minister, did not win a third term in office.
Asked whether his stints could be seen as a stunt, and whether it would impose on the operations of various organisations, Mr Ng stressed that he was there to work and help as much as he can. “I told Khoo Teck Puat, ‘no special treatment’,” he said. “I think there will always be negative comments, but I genuinely want to gain experience...I’m very positive there will be positive change.”