PAP 'cannot go easy on WP even if there is political price'

PEOPLE'S Action Party (PAP) MPs said yesterday they cannot go easy on the Workers' Party (WP), even if it means paying a political price.

Instead, it was more important to ensure that residents are not short-changed.

This came after Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) and Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan- Toa Payoh GRC) received feedback that the PAP's harsh criticism of the WP over the Auditor- General's Office (AGO) audit report on the Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) could backfire.

The report had found major lapses in governance.

Mr Nair, chairman of Bishan- Toa Payoh Town Council, said: "The people I discussed the matter with kept telling me, 'Don't attack the WP, it will only get more sympathy. Find a way to move on; you have to keep in mind the politics.'

"I could not get my head around that. Has it come to this? This is a matter involving public funds. How could anyone in good conscience ignore or downplay what the AGO and (PricewaterhouseCoopers) have found?"

He added: "Why should the WP be let off easy just because it is the opposition? And why should its residents be forced to accept anything less than full accountability? This cannot be the right way forward."

Mr Liang said the PAP was more concerned that the WP was "bullying its residents with malpractices", even if such a concern "hurts us politically and (causes) the perception that the PAP bullied the WP".

He criticised the WP's failure to transfer funds to its sinking fund on time or in full. "If there are no regular and diligent contributions to the sinking fund, it will soon run out of money, and there will be no cyclical maintenance to talk about."

Likening the sinking fund to the national reserves, Mr Liang said timely contributions reflect "the type of government we want in Singapore, which is to do whatever is right and for the long-term good of Singapore and its people".

But the mismanagement and wrong use of the sinking fund shows "a short-sighted and populist government", he said.

On AHPETC's decision to employ a managing agent that charged significantly higher fees than others, Mr Liang said it was among the "worst practices that may not even find their place in a Third World Parliament" - a reference to the WP's goal of a "First World Parliament".

"Our politics must not be about accepting mediocre performance and substandard practices. Singaporeans deserve better."

rachelay@sph.com.sg