Mayor Fahmi on skilling up, why Every Worker Matters and disarming armed rebels for Hari Raya


What’s your most memorable Hari Raya? 

For Mayor of South East District Mohd Fahmi bin Aliman, one had him disarming Acehnese rebels in the thick and tangle of a disaster zone. 

This was six months after the deadly Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 — and after decades of violent civil war in Aceh. 

“We were tasked to make sure that the rebels came out of their hiding places and assimilated back into society,” says Mayor Fahmi, who is a former Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Colonel. 

It was a delicate task. 

While peace talks for a stable Aceh progressed, he was there on the ground. He stepped out, meticulously stockpiling guns and live ammunition from rebel cells across the district. 

Source: Fahmi Aliman 

“So we managed to get the weapons out. Cut them up as a symbol of peace lah,” Mayor Fahmi recalls. 

“After that, we got the rebels back to the family, and it was Hari Raya. It was the first peaceful Hari Raya they had in thirty years.” 

Not least since Mayor Fahmi stayed deployed there. As Deputy Team Leader, he took care of all the steadily-accumulating weapons stockpiles. 

This while being the intermediary between passionate rebel fighters and their civilian families — all this for the people in his district.  

His mum grabbed opportunities 

Aceh was a chance for Mayor Fahmi to provide a better life for other people. That make-tomorrow-better ethos resonates with him. He grew up in a rental flat with a dad who was a gas checker and a mom who was a cleaning helper. 

“Then she picked up skills. Got opportunities,” he says, about his mom learning cooking, as well as managing people. 

“She was a helper first. And she became the owner of the whole canteen, selling the whole range of food. Makan, drinks, all.” 

“So then it struck me because the canteen profits, right? This is how I go to school.” 

That indeed; Mayor Fahmi’s mom stepping out to upskill up helped send him to a Ngee Ann Polytechnic diploma, a University of Liverpool honours degree in engineering and a 26-year career in the Army. 

And, in 2019, a year-plus term as the Deputy Chief Executive of Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS). 

Source: Fahmi Aliman / Facebook 

“The skills that we develop in the Army — of engaging people, working the team, building the team — they came in handy when I was Deputy CE,” says Mayor Fahmi. 

“I was tasked to look after all the mosques in Singapore,” he elaborates. 

“How was that like?” we at ask, also wondering just how many he means by “all”. (It’s exactly 70.) 

“They were divided into five clusters,” says Mayor Fahmi.   

“We strategised how to run the mosque and how to build the team all together. It was a short stint. But it gave me an opportunity to understand the community better. And the opportunity to see the structure of the stat boards.” 

There’s it. The O-word again. Opportunities. Twice, in fact. And dropped thrice in total, quickly and naturally, when talking about work and jobs. 

That’s because, for Mayor Fahmi, stepping out to learn new skills matters. 

And also for him, Every Worker Matters

Step out. You matter. 

In fact, Mayor Fahmi has advice for workers thinking about transitioning into new careers: Don’t scared, lah

“You’ve just got to take that step. Because of our Government, we have a lot of opportunities,” he says. 

“The training ecosystem is huge. We’ve got E2I, SSG and WSG to actually look at your needs. And help you transit. Provide you training that takes two, three months, maybe six months on the job. After that, you move on to the particular job.” 

“And while you are training, there’s some assistance given. NTUC, there’s a UTAP scheme. It’s a fund that assists you for training. Then we got our SkillsFuture credit. All these are really there for you to use,” he emphasises. 

Source: Fahmi Aliman / Facebook 

Also, don’t scared if you’re on the fence about going back into your previous pre-pandemic industry. 

“Things have changed. We are almost back to a good pre-Covid employment rate. Now is the time for you to move and get that job,” shared Mayor Fahmi. 

He gives this advice to residents during his Meet-the-People sessions, three Tuesdays a month.  

You can be sure that the NTUC will have your back in this, assures Mayor Fahmi. After all, the NTUC’s slogan is Every Worker Matters. 

When we read through the NTUC story, the Party was formed by Unionists. And these are the unions that represent the workers back then,” says Mayor Fahmi, who is also the NTUC’s Executive Secretary for Supply Chain. 

“So now it’s for us to ensure that every worker in Singapore can get the best work, best work opportunities, wages, work prospects.” 

And Mayor (and Executive Secretary) Fahmi means every worker, “be it the rank-and-file, PMEs, mature workers, women, the whole range”. 

Every Worker Matters Conversations with the public are ongoing, he points out. Signing up will help NTUC chart out the next decade of work for different workers across different age groups. 

“We want to have a very strong economy which is all about workers,” Mayor Fahmi emphasises. 

What do Mayors do? 

So Mayor Fahmi wore a lot of hats (and Army berets) in his time. Which begs our final question: 

“Actually, Mayor do what?” 

He laughs. 

“This is the part that people always ask.” 

Turns out, Mayors lead the CDCs to connect corporate partners and the ground. They to maximise donor funding and purpose. 

“During COVID, there was a need for desktops and laptops, right? And then our business partners, with their ability to get some funds and equipment, they worked with me and my CDC team..” he says. 

“From there, we gave it to the ground.”  

Similarly, he worked with to give green, sustainable products to vulnerable families in 2022.  

“In other roles that we play, we translate Ministry plans into ground plans for the residents, for people. We work out the tactical actions that the Ministry hopes to do, alongside our agency and community partners.” explains Mayor Fahmi. 

He specifically gives Healthier SG as an example. So, South East District residents, that is more wellness and exercise activities from our partner network coming soon! 

“I see it as being a centralised intermediary which internalises and gives provision.,” Mayor Fahmi muses about his job. 

“By pulling on the network, we have the connections, resources and capabilities to continue supporting divisions and the ground through my CDC.”  

“Like during Covid there were some funds given by certain organisations; we repackaged them,” he details about help for the community. 

“And we matched them. If the donors gave $500, 000, I can match it to $1 million.” 

Source: Fahmi Aliman / Facebook 

“That’s important. From there, more people can be helped.” 

We nod. And as Mayor Fahmi gets ready to spend time with our social media team, we’re realise this:  

Wherever he’s stepped out, whether Aceh or the Army, MUIS or the Mayorship, he’s always been about being that intermediary for his people. This while aiming to make things better alongside others. people. 

It’ll be a good walk when it’s with him. 

Step out and upskill here: