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Friday, 13 February 2015



I can vividly remember during the hustings of 2011 General Elections, the Workers Party A Team consisting two-and-all of its key leaders Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim tagging along three others was challenging Aljunied GRC. History well recorded, their gamble of show-hand had rewarded them with a historical breakthrough in Singapore politics. No opposition party has ever taken a Group Representative Constituency since its inception.
That seals the deal. People of Aljunied GRC did not just voted for the Workers Party, they voted for democracy in Singapore.  Singapore needs more oppositions in parliament.
Besides speaking on behalf of Singaporeans as one of their promised duties, they are also responsible for managing and maintaining common areas in the precincts of Aljunied GRC, Hougang and later on Punggol East where PAP MP Michael Palmer resigned and WP's Lee Li Lian won the By-Elections.

The show-hand tactic may not have worked if it was not accompanied by branding it as a national election zeroed in on Aljunied. The call was.."This is not a local election. This is not about Aljunied GRC alone. This is about Singapore, about democracy in Singapore."


There were a number of high profile row between the AHPETC and the government ever since then. The town council was being accused for lying with regards to cleaning of hawker centres by asking for extra charges where cleaning of high ceiling areas.  They were also accused of keeping silent about major issues in parliament. The town council was also brought to court for organizing trade fairs without a permit issued by the National Environment Agency.  Then the issued of it not submitting its reports pertaining to arrears on Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) and for allowing it to pile. It also has not been fully complying in the submitting of its financial reports. And last of all, the just released Auditor General's report on gross lapses in managing public funds that sparked heated debates inside and outside of parliament.


It is inevitable that the Workers Party will face teething problems with managing and maintaining a combined township of seven constituencies. A weight lifter would need to have his weights gradually increased and not by seven times at one go.

Mr Low had pleaded that the WP faced problem with shopping around for a managing agent to manage the town after they won the elections and no companies except FMSS was interested.

I was just wondering behind my mind that what if other companies did participate in AHPETC's open tender, what kind of result that would produced? Or worse, what if no companies; not even FMSS put in a bid.  Will the constituency that WP won in the elections be left is a very sorry state with no services provided?

The last scenario was unlikely because there was an incumbent managing agent and all its supporting services there, and previous chairman Ms Cynthia Phua had promised a smooth handover. The PAP will not, at all cost be seen as sacrificing residents' interest for no political gain at this critical time. It seems all was well handed over except for the accounting software system that led to the beginning of a series of spats.

There was no agreement between AHPETC and Action Information Management (AIM) the service provider of the town council management software. And AIM became yet another convenient politicized item for buying over the software developed by 14 PAP town councils and then leased its use back to the respective town councils and that somehow also caused the PAP to lose Punggol East subsequently.

So did PAP pressure companies not to participate in WP's tender for estate managing agent?

Was AIM set up just to sabotage WP so that it will not be able to carry out its management smoothly?

Two key factors that Mr Low had without direct reference as strange politicized situation pertaining to transition. It really sounds like Mr Low abhors such kind of political underhands if proven true. On hindsight it really makes the PAP looks silly had they really applied these tactics to sabotage the WP.

Whatever, the strange political situations Mr Low complained about strangely had worked perfectly in the WP's favour. The WP gets to work with its long standing partner who were former employees of the Hougang Town Council, and the WP had leveraged on AIM being a $2/- company and purportedly owned indirectly by the PAP to gain much political points.


Mr Low also cited a not too far fetched scenario that it is prerequisite for an opposition party aspiring to be the next government needs to have ready an army of civil servants. I took Mr Low's political swipe at the PAP government 'in perspective".

Reading what Mr Low said in context, a political party needs to be experienced to run a country. This runs contrary to people who says any political can be government and anybody can be Prime Minister after removing the PAP because the civil service will still be functioning as usual.

Mr Low cannot be talking about managing and maintaining of facilities because he also mentioned that AHPETC is comparable to PAP run town councils in this aspects.  And credit must go to where it is deserved.

The official chart indeed shows as Mr Low mentions that the AHPETC is comparable to PAP run town councils in the facilities management aspect. Neither Mr Low nor his fellow WP parliamentarians; as well as FMSS the managing agent are incapable nor inexperienced.

Such technical services are aplenty and can be bought at very competitive rates and there are no lack of companies willing to take on contracts that pays well and prompt. Therefore the Ministry of National Development had found AHPETC relatively, and of course comparably well managed, except for "Arrears Management" and "Corporate Governance".

Does experience matters with arrears management and corporate governance? Mr Low seems to have adopted the position that it does. Given that Mr Low had been managing the Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC) for twenty years; wouldn't twenty years be sufficient even if these needs experience to perfect? One would be able to tell whether someone is brought up to be courteous and well mannered even at their teen.

Arrears management is a common sense discipline and nothing to do with experience. You don't need experience to know that someone owes you money, and that you need to get it back, and that leads to corporate governance. If you recognized that these arrears ultimately are not your money, even if you chose to be kind to those owing, you are still duty bound to recall whatever is owed.

Corporate governance too is a common sense discipline and requires whether you want to put that into practice or not. All things may look absolutely legal, but it may just not seem right. Knowing well that certain actions are not right to do and do it regardless and irrespective is against the principle of corporate governance.

Can the person approving payments be the same person receiving the money? Is this a responsible act especially when it is about public funds?

The rule is there that sinking funds cannot be used for any other purpose that what is stated, and it was done regardless and irrespective. This is not about being inexperience. This is being insouciant and iniquitous. Heck to the rules, and heck to the principles. such behaviors resides in the persons, not the system. Corporate governance is a reflection of the people running the system, and the flaw is not whether the system needs improvement or not.


Let's revisit the first para about the WP winning the last general elections on a "national agenda" that Singapore needs more oppositions in parliament. This is not about local issue, but the nation needs to progress in democracy and the nation needs more opposition in parliament.

The story the PAP was telling residents, and in particular Mr Lee Kuan Yew's unceremonious statement that Aljunied residents will live to repent for voting the WP in was your town will suffer.

These two contrasting stories presented during the election by the confronting parties are once again put before us, not just residents of Aljunied GRC, but Singaporeans.

WP's story had Aljunied GRC residents sacrificing their personal good for a "big picture" and "big hearted" mission of achieving democracy for Singapore.  PAP's story of a badly managed town did not sell well and was even taken as a threat, a fear tactic as often touted, and dismissed totally.

So what really matters to Singaporeans most, especially in the light of what happened to AHPETC?

Is it about having democracy and more opposition in parliament at all cost?  Put it in another way, do we want to vote out the PAP at all cost?

The AHPETC saga has given us some indication as to what we can expect out of the opposition. It also gives quite a frank and honest appraisal of themselves by themselves. They showed us who they are and what they are.

The price tag for having more oppositions in parliament is clearer now than ever.

What price are you willing to pay?

1 comment:

  1. Civil service and other national organizations such as PA are supposed to be independent and neutral.

    Looks like are these hurdles, minefields and even fudged data are designed to make Al-Junied residents repent for the next 5 years.