Candidates urge fairness on Aljunied sites issue

By Sarah Chang, Sophie Hong

PRESIDENTIAL candidate Tony Tan yesterday called for the Housing Board to thoroughly investigate the dispute over the transfer of 26 public sites in Aljunied Group Representation Constituency, currently run by the Workers' Party (WP).

The former deputy prime minister was addressing a statement on the issue by WP's chairman, Ms Sylvia Lim, on Monday.

Dr Tan, 71, raised the question of whether the management transfer for the sites, from the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to the People's Association (PA), was done intentionally or mistakenly by HDB.

"Get the facts and make sure that the proper procedures are followed," said Dr Tan, who spoke to reporters yesterday after a walkabout in New Upper Changi Road.

He stressed: "It is important that justice and fairness should be done, and not only that, but the public should see that justice and fairness have been done."

Ms Lim had alleged that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council was not given notice by HDB over the transfer of the sites.

These open spaces are mostly fields and hard courts, often used for community events.

The sites were formerly under the management of the People's Action Party (PAP).

Last Saturday, WP Member of Parliament Chen Show Mao posted on his Facebook page that the Citizens' Consultative Committee, which is under the PA, had forced residents from his Paya Lebar ward to retract Seventh Month dinner invitations to WP MPs.

The residents had attempted to apply for permits to use the sites.

PA later said that it and its grassroots organisations are non-partisan and do not allow any political party or MP to hold activities on PA premises or other facilities managed by the PA.

HDB clarified that the list of sites managed by a town council will be subjected to adjustments from time to time based on "legitimate requests from relevant agencies or civic organisations".

Another presidential hopeful, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, responded on this issue, saying that "due respect" should be given to whichever political party is in charge.

The former MP for Ayer Rajah, who was speaking at a media briefing in Sengkang, said: "When a Member of Parliament is elected, he is chosen by the people. I think we should respect the, whatever we do, it should be equal for all."

Dr Tan, 71, also confirmed that he will hold an indoor rally tomorrow night and the location will be announced today.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, the Ministry of National Development and PA said HDB leased the sites in Aljunied to PA at the latter's request in May for it to organise community activities.

PA had explained to HDB that, in Hougang, the organisation and grassroots organisations "had many difficulties getting access to town-council sites". Hougang is under the WP.

PA was concerned it might encounter similar difficulties in Aljunied, adding that it did not have such issues with sites managed by PAP town councils.

PA is also lifting its current restrictions on who can be invited to events by non-grassroots organisations on sites it leased from HDB, as long as they are non-political in nature, the statement added.

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