Cleaning dispute hawker representative is PAP member

SINGAPORE - A second representative of the markets involved in the long-running hawker centre cleaning dispute has confirmed that he is a People's Action Party (PAP) member.

Mr Jonathan Oh, 52, who corresponded several times with the Workers' Party-run town council on behalf of the Block 511 hawkers, told The Straits Times on Wednesday that he has been serving in the Kaki Bukit ward as a PAP member for over 20 years.

"Yes, I am a member of the PAP. As a member, I see my role as helping out in the community and attending to residents' needs, as a volunteer. I also run an electronics shop next to the 511 market."

This comes a week after it emerged online that Mr Ng Kok Khim, honorary adviser and former chairman of the Block 538 Hawkers' Association, is a PAP member, as well as a member of the Citizens' Consultative Committee for Kaki Bukit division.

Mr Oh is also People's Association (PA) area sub-committee chairman for Kaki Bukit.

It is in that capacity that he got involved in the hawker dispute, he said.

"I am the Area Subcommittee chairman under PA for the area. It is a volunteer role, to help out with the needs of merchants in the area.

"That was why I became the initial point of contact. But the arrangement was not ideal as I am not a hawker. So a group of hawkers took over the correspondence. I believe their intention is to establish a Hawker Association to handle such matters in future."

Grassroots leader in hawker centre cleaning dispute: 'I have no political motives'

By Andrea Ong

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

SINGAPORE - A grassroots leader and patron of a market association involved in a dispute over the cleaning of hawker centres in Aljunied GRC has responded to online allegations about his role in the spat.

Mr Ng Kok Khim, 60, who had been the target of online speculation in recent days since it emerged that he was a PAP member, told Singapolitics that he had no political motives in his handling of the cleaning issue and stressed that he had never asked the cleaning contractor engaged by the town council for a quotation.

"We were surprised when we got the quotation," he said.

The spotlight had been turned on Mr Ng after a quotation from ATL Maintenance in February was shown to have been addressed to him. The quotation is one of the key elements in the ongoing debate over whether the Worker's Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) had asked hawkers to pay more to have their ceilings cleaned.

AHPETC maintains that no town council staff ever asked for more money, while the National Environment Agency (NEA), and hawkers say the opposite.

Mr Ng said that he thinks the quotation was mailed to him because his shop address is the mailing address of the Block 538 market association in Bedok North.

He was chairman of the association until he stepped down a couple of years back and became its patron.

"My shop address is used by the town council and government agencies like the Housing Board when they correspond with the market association," said Mr Ng in Mandarin.

Mr Ng said it "did not make sense" for the hawkers to ask ATL for a separate quotation as the cleaning was entirely handled by the town council in previous years. This was corroborated by current market association chairman Tan Gin Xiong, 66.

However, Mr Ng said he and other hawkers did approach their own contacts informally for quotes on the cost of erecting canvas covers for the stalls ahead of the March cleaning. About five contractors came down to view the market stalls before one agreed to take on the job. ATL was not among them, said Mr Ng.

Each hawker eventually paid $140 for the canvas covers.

Mr Ng said the hawkers had gone to AHPETC to clarify matters after they received the ATL quotation. They then went to Genting on a trip organised by the market association during the first three days of the March spring-cleaning and came back to find the market ceiling uncleaned.

He dismisses allegations that he had politics on his mind when he and hawkers raised the cleaning issue. "I have never had any political motives. I have always seen my role as serving the community," he said.

The shopkeeper, who has run his children's apparel store near the Block 538 market for over 30 years, confirmed that he is a member of both the Citizens' Consultative Committee for Kaki Bukit division and the People's Action Party.

Mr Ng said he and the market association maintain friendly relations with the WP MP for Kaki Bukit division, Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, who they have invited to dinners and other events. "We do not take sides," he said.

Mr Ng said he hopes the issue can be resolved as soon as possible. Mr Faisal's representatives have already spoken to the Block 538 hawkers. "We told them we will be satisfied if AHPETC bears the cost of the next spring-cleaning", said Mr Ng.

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