PAP wants to win Aljunied, fix 'mess'

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee HeanST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The People's Action Party (PAP) wants Aljunied GRC back and will try to resolve the financial issues that dog the opposition-run town council, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

The PAP's focus in the coming general election is "to go in and sort out the mess that's in the town council", he told reporters.

The PAP lost the GRC to the Workers' Party (WP) in the 2011 General Election, with 45.3 per cent of the votes against the WP's 54.7 per cent. A defeat in Punggol East in a 2013 by-election led to the formation of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), which manages all the Housing Board estates in the three WP constituencies.

In February, the Auditor-General gave an extensive picture of the accounting and governance lapses at the town council.

ON SYLVIA LIM'S FENGSHAN PHOTO

Now we see the chairman of the town council sort of saying that 'Fengshan looks quite delicious', so what's going to happen? You're going to swallow up Fengshan, for what purpose? To serve the residents of Fengshan or is Fengshan delicious because you want to add it to the pot to help a town council which is in deficit?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER TEO CHEE HEAN

Earlier this month, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted that AHPETC's lack of means to make timely sinking fund transfers without government grants "hints towards some sort of insolvency".

He made the observation at an appeal court hearing over the appointment of independent accountants to oversee government grants to the town council.

DPM Teo had more harsh words for the WP yesterday, saying that when elected to be a Member of Parliament, one will have two responsibilities: Contribute to national policymaking and run a town council well.

"Certainly on the town council and Aljunied (GRC), what we would want to do for the 45 per cent who voted for us and indeed for the 55 per cent who didn't vote for us the last time is, we want to come in, help you to sort out the town council problem," he said.

"It's your money, it's your town. I think it is important that we sort out these problems."

He added that the previous Hougang Town Council, managed by the WP, was running a deficit when the opposition party took over Aljunied Town Council, which had a surplus.

"They took over Punggol East... and that was also in surplus.

"Now the whole town council is in deficit. How did that happen? How did a large surplus turn into a deficit? Where did the money go?

"I think there needs to be a certain transparency and accounting and very fundamental setting right of the town council."

Mr Teo also referred to a photograph WP chairman Sylvia Lim posted online that shows her eating oyster omelette at Fengshan Market and Food Centre.

It carried the caption, "The taste of Fengshan - heavenly!" and the hashtag "#reasontowin".

He said: "And now we see the chairman of the town council sort of saying that 'Fengshan looks quite delicious', so what's going to happen? You're going to swallow up Fengshan, for what purpose?

"To serve the residents of Fengshan or is Fengshan delicious because you want to add it to the pot to help a town council which is in deficit?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'PAP wants to win Aljunied, fix 'mess''. Print Edition | Subscribe