Elmie Nekmat continues being grounded and hands-on in Sengkang 


What is it like exactly, being a People’s Action Party activist in Sengkang these days? Especially when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has mentioned those stepping forward in Opposition-held wards “have the hardest jobs”?  

For Sengkang Central Branch Chair (BC) Dr Elmie Nekmat, it is about listening and learning — and consistently being with residents on the ground.  

“Sengkang residents have their set of aspirations and ambitions,” he mentions to Petir.sg after spending a rain-soaked Saturday afternoon walking up and down HDB flat corridors distributing groceries door-to-door. 

“So it’s about learning how best to serve all these different dreams, different age groups, backgrounds.” 

Hence, BC Elmie’s regular dialogues with Sengkang parents and children about digital safety; he has done at least seven so far. He has been there too for the local temple’s Silver Chariot goodwill procession, alongside the other Sengkang BCs, doing his bit to bring the community together. 

Plus knocking on flat doors to share a friendly chat — and finding sympathetic solutions alongside his team when residents share their problems.          

“Must always do good to people around me, to society and the community lah,” he says.  

“Why? Because my parents always taught me to always do good for people loh.” 

Hands-on for digital safety 

It is an earnest answer befitting a big-hearted man for whom family means much, and who has garnered a reputation as a “grounded and hands-on academic”.    

“My father worked for 47 years as a SIA aircraft technician before he retired. My mom, she’s at retirement age, but is still selling food, still operating a food stall at a primary school,” elaborates BC Elmie about the origins of this just-do-good, just-get-down-to-work ethic for him (and his three younger siblings). 

A little-known fact about BC Elmie, by the way, is that he used to be called “cucu wak satay(the satay uncle’s grandkid) at Toa Payoh Lorong 5 where he lived with and accompanied his late grandfather to sell satay in the evenings. This was before his parents moved to a rental flat to accommodate their young family.  

As for the “hands-on academic” part? BC Elmie is a tenured Associate Professor over at the National University of Singapore, where he specialises in digital media effects research

In other words, he studies how and why people make sense of the information that they receive, especially on digital devices. This is important research for this era of digital scams, fake news, cyber-bullying and other online harms. 


in all seriousness, scams are so rampant today. dr elmie shares what he thinks is an important thing to do. ngl we stan an influencer in academia.

♬ Somewhere Only We Know – Gustixa & Rhianne

Important enough, in fact, for him to serve on the Global Future Council for Media, Entertainment and Sport for the World Economic Forum (WEF) and on local media policy groups and movements like the Media Literacy Council and Singapore’s Digital for Life  —  as well as to keep those down-home neighbourhood sessions about digital safety going.  

“Academics, right? We research, we theorise, we read a lot globally, internationally, as well as contextually on these digital issues. And these knowledge and ideas are important,” says BC Elmie. 

“But nothing is as important as translating them to actual activity or actual action. I’m a person who is driven by action, more than words or writing. I’m driven by doing more than talking, if you may.” 

“I’m very thankful that I’ve been receiving opportunities to actually carry out action at the community level, at the branch level, and now at the ground level,” he continues. 

“So I can implement some of the ideas for dialogues, safety courses and workshops I’ve had for improving parent-child digital literacy.” 

Source: Elmie Nekmat/ Facebook

BC Elmie speaks here as a parent of four young kids too. Once, his daughter was cyber-bullied until she refused to eat, attend school and meet her classmates. 

“She just became a totally different person. And I told myself that I can’t be the only parent with kids experiencing this and feeling what I felt,” he recalls.   

Now, BC Elmie is someone who likes spending time to read and masak-masak with his kids, as well as talk about their lives during his weekly makan mini-date with his wife.    

“So I had a thought,” he shares. “Maybe I can do something to help parents like myself, you know?”  

“To improve on the situation and the child’s well-being and digital use. I know that we as parents can all do better together.”  

Helping a Sengkang resident with his close-knit team 

This ethic of unity and quick on-the-ground action also comes through in BC Elmie’s work whenever he knocks on the doors of those Sengkang flats. 

Like recently, when he was the first caller to call 995 when a car crash happened during his walkabout.  

And on another weekend, when he met a Sengkang resident who needed help — he rallied Party volunteers post-haste. 

“This resident specifically is above 70 years old, with a husband who’s in his late 70s and has suffered a stroke. She’s unemployed, no children,” he said of that visit.  

“Afterwards, my Branch Secretary and I had a discussion. We went through the details of the residents that we encountered during our block visit for the day. We realised that for this lady, we can send somebody over the next day to actually get in touch with her.” 

(This is BC Elmie making sense of the information he has received indeed, Petir.sg notes.)  

“So without any hesitation, Sengkang Central branch volunteers, some of them who are neighbours of the lady herself, actually just met her the next day and offered assistance.”  

Today, BC Elmie and his volunteers keep in contact with the elderly lady — she’ll have the support she needs when she calls out for it. 

“Our activists and volunteers have grown very close together, bonded by this common goal to serve Sengkang residents at any moment in time,” he reflects on the encounter, and on serving Sengkang with the PAP team around him. 

Source: Elmie Nekmat/ Facebook 

“When we go out to seek residents, to meet residents, to help residents who are more often than not their neighbours and their friends, my branch activists and volunteers never say no,” says BC Elmie. 

“They are more than happy to go out of their way and help.” 

“Always do good, loh.” 

So it is among the hardest jobs. But BC Elmie just is not the sort of person who selectively backs down from challenges, no matter digital or on the ground, no matter for schoolkids, seniors, or Sengkang.  

“Every one of my teammates and I — Dr Lam Pin Min, Ling Weihong, Theodora Lai, and our branch volunteers — are working equally hard,” he says. 

“And I think, equally as hard as our comrades in other branches also, no matter where they serve.”   

What keeps you going?, we at Petir.sg ask, noting too how BC Elmie’s kept being earnest and welcoming throughout this long, post-grocery-delivery interview.  

“The fact that my branch, our branch, our PAP team can make a difference in Sengkang residents’ lives,” he answers without missing a beat.  

“And if we keep at it, right? And given a chance, right? And if given the mandate to do our best to make that difference, we can make a better impact, a better life for Sengkang residents.”  

“So that’s what keeps me going. That belief that we’re able to do it and that we want to do it no matter what,” he adds. 

It’s like he says, “always do good loh.” 

Source: Elmie Nekmat / Facebook