SINAGAPORE - The Ministry of National Development already has a system to deal with disputes between residents and town councils, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, rejecting a call by Workers' Party chair Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) for a tribunal to deal with them.
A town council cannot only accept decisions or rules that suit it and disregard the inconvenient, Mr Lee said, citing the repeated refusal of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) to repair a resident's letterbox despite reminders from the HDB.
AHPETC even wanted residents to maintain and repair their own letterboxes, he added.
Also, AHPETC has been leasing public spaces at Hougang Central Hub and Kovan City to businessmen for profit, against HDB guidelines that control the frequency of such activities to mitigate the impact on shopkeepers, Mr Lee said.
"A number of shopkeepers are unhappy about this. HDB has... written several times to remind the town council of the guidelines, to no avail," he added.
Responding, Ms Lim said: "We believe that the town council has a legitimate interest and is empowered to manage, not just maintain, the common property. Exactly what the ambit of that is has still not been decided."
Last year, AHPETC was found guilty of organising a Chinese New Year fair without a permit from the National Environment Agency (NEA), and fined $800.
AHPETC has appealed against the ruling. Mr Lee said the court case was about NEA's enforcement actions, and not HDB's rules on managing the use of public spaces.
As for the HDB letters to AHPETC, Ms Lim said a neutral tribunal could resolve issues with circulars from agencies that "we find to be inconsistent with certain laws". "The circular does not have the force of law anyway."
Mr Lee said "we're not here to debate the merits of guidelines".
"Suffice to say there were guidelines in place which all town councils abide by, and for which there's been no compliance in this particular regard by AHPETC."
This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
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