On the campaign trail

Give our town council more leeway: WP's Png

Mr Png Eng Huat (centre) with Workers' Party candidates for East Coast GRC (from left) Fairoz Shariff, Daniel Goh and Leon Perera at their walkabout in Changi Village yesterday.
Mr Png Eng Huat (centre) with Workers' Party candidates for East Coast GRC (from left) Fairoz Shariff, Daniel Goh and Leon Perera at their walkabout in Changi Village yesterday.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The Government should give the Workers' Party (WP) town council more leeway if it was truly set up as a training ground for political parties, the party's candidate for Hougang Png Eng Huat said yesterday.

Instead, it has put in place restrictive rules and regulations, he said after a walkabout in Changi Village, which is under East Coast GRC - where the WP is also contesting.

Mr Png, vice-chairman of the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), was responding to comments on Friday by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong who said that town councils do not hobble the opposition. Instead they enable political parties to show whether they can manage multiple constituencies and eventually even the country.

"If ESM Goh says so, they should give us more liberty to run our town, manage our common areas," Mr Png said when asked for a response.

On AHPETC's run-in with the authorities over holding unlicensed trade fairs, he said: "You don't have to impose rules and regulations on why we can't hold trade fair here, why we can't hold trade fair there."

The WP and the People's Action Party (PAP) have sparred in the first week of election hustings over the issue of financial and governance lapses in the WP town council.

The PAP said the WP has not come clean about these lapses, and pointed out that the issue is about the values and integrity that underpin governance, and is a national concern.

The WP said the PAP is using the issue to smear the opposition party, and argued that the election should not be focused on municipal issues.

Mr Png said no fraud had been discovered at AHPETC - a reiteration of the WP's stance that if there was evidence of wrongdoing, legal action would have been taken against the WP leaders.

On Friday, Manpower Minister and East Coast GRC candidate Lim Swee Say related a conversation with a resident who made a similar point. But Mr Lim responded by using the analogy of a father's failure to care for the family to explain the difference between right and wrong, and what is legal and illegal.

Mr Png said, among other things, that what happened at AHPETC also occurred at some ministries: "Why are we treated differently?"

The WP yesterday also defended its minimum wage proposal - listed in its manifesto - against criticism that it would lead to job losses.

Its East Coast GRC candidate Gerald Giam said his party recommended setting the minimum wage at 27 per cent of the median wage.

Based on research, this is below the amount that would lead to job losses. Such a wage scheme would also cover more workers than the current Progressive Wage Model, which sets a minimum wage for only specific industries.

Mr Giam estimated that the Progressive Wage Model leaves out 30,000 low-wage workers. He added that the WP proposal complements the current Workfare scheme, which supplements the income of low-wage workers:

"Workfare is a wage supplement. So the Government will help to supplement the wages of the low-wage workers but, at the same time, the minimum wage also puts the onus on the employers to play their part to uplift the incomes of our low-wage workers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'Give our town council more leeway: WP's Png'. Print Edition | Subscribe