Welfare home dispute

Welfare home dispute
UNHAPPY: SPP member Ravi Philemon filed a complaint against the PAP for renting a welfare home to announce its candidates for Sembawang GRC for the upcoming general election.
PHOTO: The New Paper

The Sunshine Welfare Action Mission (Swami) Home has been advised to adhere to its constitution after it rented out its premises to the People's Action Party (PAP) to introduce its candidates for Sembawang GRC for the upcoming General Election last Friday.

This followed a complaint by an opposition party member to the Registry of Societies yesterday that the home had flouted its own constitution that does not allow it to use its funds and/or premises for political purposes.

Singapore People's Party (SPP) member Ravi Philemon, 46, told The New Paper that a charity organisation such as the Swami Home "should be apolitical and should not be used for whatever political reasons".

A Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman said in a press statement last night: "The Sunshine Welfare Action Mission (Swami) is a registered society. It is governed by its constitution on what activities are permissible and what are not.

"It is obliged to adhere to its constitution. Swami was advised by the Registry of Societies on Aug 17 to ensure strict adherence to its constitution."

Mr Philemon, the director of voluntary welfare organisation Operation Hope Foundation Singapore, said: "I'm a voter in Sembawang and the news was relevant to me...It was later in the day when I read it more thoroughly that I realised it was held at a welfare home."

Mr Philemon sent an e-mail yesterday morning to ask the Registrar to investigate if the Society had breached its constitution.

Mr Khaw Boon Wan, the anchor minister for the Sembawang GRC team, said last Friday that the Swami Home was picked because the rent was affordable and it fit Singapore's culture of not spending excessively on election campaigns.

RENTAL

In response to media queries yesterday, the team said it had rented the premises "purely on commercial terms - partly to support this VWO and partly because we felt it was an accessible place and had sufficient space to accommodate reporters".

"We had not checked the VWO's constitution. However, we have nothing but the highest regard for the work done by this VWO and will continue to support it in any way we can," it said in a press statement.

Swami Home president Low Chang Yee said that when the MPs wanted to rent its premises, it agreed "as the rental of our premises on commercial terms was helpful for the Home".

"We have never used any of our funds to help any political party. The funds we raised from rental of our premises are used to help us run the Swami Nursing Home and our other charitable causes," he said.

"We did not check our constitution at the time... but now we have been informed and are aware of this provision in our constitution."

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said: "In the worst case scenario, a charity or society, which is in breach of its constitution, could be deregistered by the authorities.

juditht@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Aug 18, 2015.
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