Town Council saga: PAP using town council matter for political gain: WP

Town Council saga: PAP using town council matter for political gain: WP
Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang and chairman Sylvia Lim (both standing) reaching out to voters at a coffee shop during one of their walkabouts.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has exploited the town council saga to smear the Workers' Party (WP) and score political points, said WP chief Low Thia Khiang yesterday.

He was speaking at his party's second rally last night, after WP chairman Sylvia Lim earlier said her party would go through the due process of the law if there was evidence of wrongdoing at the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

Describing the PAP's actions as dirty politics, Mr Low said: "Use your vote to tell the PAP that you reject such underhanded ways."

His retort continues an exchange between the WP and PAP that began on Wednesday at their respective rallies over serious lapses at the opposition party's town council.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said at the PAP's rally in Tanjong Pagar GRC that Singapore would be in a sad state if politicians consider they have done wrong only when they are jailed.

He was responding to Mr Low's statement: "I would be serving time if I was corrupt."

Last night, the WP chief said his party had spared no effort answering questions in Parliament about the serious lapses at its town council. The Auditor-General's Office had flagged the problem in February, after a special year-long audit.

But he said the PAP has continued to make baseless allegations about the matter, and cited three instances of this.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan had all said or implied that money from Aljunied Town Council was used to cover losses at Hougang Town Council, said Mr Low.

Stressing that it was not true, he said: "Hougang Town Council under the WP's management, before joining the Aljunied Town Council, did not have a financial crisis at all."

Instead, he claimed Hougang Town Council had a surplus of over $80,000 when it merged with Aljunied Town Council on May 26, 2011.

Mr Low was MP for Hougang for 20 years, until he left in 2011 to stand for elections in Aljunied GRC.

Accusing the ministers of having misled voters, he said: "I want to ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: Is this the quality of PAP?"

Yesterday, Ms Lim and fellow WP candidate Png Eng Huat had also called on the Government to take action if it had proof of wrongdoing at AHPTEC.

"If they can bring evidence against us, we will subject ourselves to the necessary procedures," said Ms Lim.

The leaders of the opposition party also framed the issue of their town council's management as one about fairness, and said it had nothing to do with the state of politics.

Ms Lim, at her walkabout in Jalan Besar with other WP candidates, said of the state of affairs: "It's useful to also see how this situation came about. Who are the ones who are actually doing these things?"

The WP had said at its Wednesday rally that AHPETC operations were hobbled by the ruling party through the withdrawal of computer services by a PAP-linked firm, among other factors it cited.

While the WP did not want to belabour the issue, said Ms Lim, it had no choice but to address the matter at its first rally on Wednesday night.

"Because of the publicity that has been brought to bear on the town council, and there has been some public confusion about what is happening, we thought it was important to spend some part of the first rally explaining those things.

" Otherwise, we would be accused of not being accountable again! Either way, we would be wrong," said Ms Lim, who is AHPETC's chairman. She also told reporters that the election should be about national issues, adding: "We don't intend to be bogged down by the town council issue in this campaign."

yuenc@sph.com.sg

oliviaho@sph.com.sg

jianxuan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on September 4, 2015.
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