A recent discussion on town council staff as public servants "for purpose of the penal code" opened questions on whether a town council is a government, political or even a corporate organisation.
"Public servants for purposes of Penal Code
56. All members, officers and employees of a Town Council and all employees of its managing agent shall be deemed to be public servants for the purposes of the Penal Code (Cap. 224)."
Town Council Staff are Not Public Servants...
The above quote was circulated about that town councils and their members are not political associations but a public service and made up of public servants. However, the caveat "for the purposes of the Penal Code" is a curious one. The loud qualifier, a caveat, is clear to all is that there are situations when the town council staff or member is not regarded as a public servant. Town council staff are not categorically public servants unless to an unschooled person in English which are surprisingly legion in the Internet. If town council staff are categorically public servants, the Act would have just been,
"56. All members, officers and employees of a Town Council and all
employees of its managing agent shall be deemed to be public servants"
So when is a town council staff a public servant and when he is not, and similarly as a result, are town councils categorically public service organs, or not and actually political organs as Baey Yam Keng said? The safe answer is that it all depends.
Other Cases of "Limited" Public Servants in Acts
This caveat appeared in other Acts besides the Town Councils Act. It also appeared as a common caveat for the particular staff in the Building and Construction Authority Act, the National Heritage Board Act, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority Act, and even the Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation Act. So the idea of public servants covered those in the statutory boards, but also CISCO security guards. CISCO is a commercial company so how can they be public servants in the sense we understand.
Unless "for the purpose of Penal Code" means they, Town Council, CICSO, BCA etc have the power of public servants and can exercise powers of enforcement under Penal Code?
Public and Civil Servants More than Semantics
What then are public servants and are they the same as civil servants? There is confusing conflation of civil and public servants in everyday use of the terms. Even in the UK civil service, there is confusing employment and political distinction between those in Her Majesty's Service as civil servants, and other public servants like politicians. The military are traditionally not part of the civil service, and also not the public service. The BBC is seen as a public service company and funded by the UK government, but its staff are neither civil servants nor public servants.
In the Singapore context, civil servants and the civil service are public servants and part of the public service. But public servants and the public service do not only refer to the government, but to statutory boards as well. The confusion is compounded when civil servants are managed by a government department called the Public Services Division, rather than called the Civil Service Division.
If anybody can explain this semantics labyrinth of civil and public servants, please have a go.