Town council should take responsibility for problems caused

Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh alleged that recent disputes over hawker centre cleaning and trade fairs stemmed from the "politicisation" of grassroots organisations ("Opposition politicians lament politicisation of grassroots, lack of progress since polls", ST Online, last Wednesday).

The truth is that the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), of which Mr Singh is vice-chairman, has repeatedly sacrificed the welfare of hawkers and shopkeepers in Aljunied for its selfish interests.

AHPETC is run by Workers' Party supporters who own FM Solutions and Services, its managing agent.

In June last year, AHPETC failed to clean ceilings in a food centre. The hawkers lost income when they shut their stalls for several days.

Adding insult to injury, AHPETC tried to charge them $7,200 for the scaffolding required.

When confronted, Mr Singh and AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim denied that the town council had tried to collect money from the hawkers.

Last year, AHPETC organised a 70-day trade fair that affected Aljunied shopkeepers' business.

On Oct 13, I asked Ms Lim for a private meeting. She took 18 days to meet me, and said she doubted the shopkeepers were affected. I then encouraged her to speak to the shopkeepers.

There was no action. The matter later became public when the media reported that AHPETC had called in the police to handle the unhappy shopkeepers.

Last month, AHPETC told Kovan shopkeepers they would be fined $1,000 a day, backdated for a week, because a tent, dustbin and a rope were 1m out of place ("Town council, PA in festive fair spat"; last Thursday). When shopkeepers highlighted this pettiness, Mr Singh backpedalled and denied any "formal fine" had been issued.

Why is AHPETC cutting corners, organising illegal trade fairs, and levying arbitrary and exorbitant fines?

To date, it has given $26 million of public funds in contracts to close supporters - $5.2 million handed over without tender.

Their managing agent is paid 50 per cent more than People's Action Party town councils - and it might be 70 per cent higher this year.

Why is it paid so much more? Where is the money going to?

Mr Singh accused Aljunied grassroots leaders of lowering his standing.

But it is Mr Singh and AHPETC that shirked responsibility, dismissed legitimate concerns and blamed others.

Aljunied grassroots leaders have been helping hawkers and local businesses seek redress for problems caused by AHPETC.

It is not surprising that Mr Singh is trying to cover up his sorry record, and blame his problems on grassroots leaders instead.

Victor Lye


Bedok Reservoir - Punggol

Citizens' Consultative Committee

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.