Town Council saga

WP not being upfront on issue: Shanmugam

PAP's Nee Soon GRC candidates (from left) Lee Bee Wah, Henry Kwek, K. Shanmugam, Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Louis Ng at a press conference to unveil their local manifesto.
PAP's Nee Soon GRC candidates (from left) Lee Bee Wah, Henry Kwek, K. Shanmugam, Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Louis Ng at a press conference to unveil their local manifesto.PHOTO: SHIN MIN

He accuses Workers' Party of evading questions on AHPETC saga

In the only place where the Workers' Party (WP) is in charge, everything has gone wrong, Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

In remarks directed at the WP for not being upfront in its answers over the management of Aljunied- Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), he said: "They haven't produced unqualified accounts in a single year.

"Why are you holding back information from your own auditors? Why are you saying that you are refusing to give information on the key issues?" he asked. "Why is the High Court saying you misled Parliament? That's not me saying that."

WHERE'S THE RESPONSE?

The High Court said that Ms Sylvia Lim misled Parliament, was dishonest. She has not responded to that. Yeah, you don't go to jail for that. I suppose that is all right? Another observation the High Court made was that if this kind of conduct had taken place in a public company, it probably would attract criminal sanctions.

K SHANMUGAM, Law and Foreign Minister

Mr Shanmugam, who is leading the People's Action Party's (PAP) team in Nee Soon GRC against the WP, was at a press conference to unveil his team's local manifesto and plans to have more transport and community facilities for Nee Soon residents for the next five years.

AHPETC has been at the centre of a dispute between the Government and the WP since 2013 over its accounting situation and governance, and an Auditor-General's Office report on its finances in February this year saw a heated debate in Parliament. The Ministry of National Development is also seeking a court order to allow independent accountants to be appointed to AHPETC to safeguard government grants, among other things.

The WP is now managing its town council directly, after its contract with FM Solutions and Services expired in July. But the accounts still failed to receive a clean bill of health from its own auditors.

WP leaders spent much of their rally in Hougang on Wednesday night defending their position and debunking what they called "myths" that the PAP had been spreading about its town council.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim said the town council was not in financial difficulties, and had turned things around by raising revenue and using contestable energy in estates, after having incurred "significant but necessary" expenses in its initial years. WP chief Low Thia Khiang also said there was no wrongdoing in WP's management of AHPETC.

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam said: "So you can do pretty much anything you like as long as you don't go to jail. That is the standard WP has set for their candidates.

"Let's look at that standard, and it is clear that they have been behaving according to that standard.

"The High Court said that Ms Sylvia Lim misled Parliament, was dishonest. She has not responded to that. Yeah, you don't go to jail for that. I suppose that is all right?

"Another observation the High Court made was that if this kind of conduct had taken place in a public company, it probably would attract criminal sanctions," he added.

Attributes such as honesty, integrity and transparency are important, he also said, when asked what voters should look for in candidates. This means "not evading and avoiding issues all the time and hoping that people will not take notice". "Obviously they think it's a serious issue and they need to convince voters. That's why they spent a long time explaining at the rally last night. But they choose to do it at a rally, where they don't have to answer any questions," he added.

"They run away from questions in Parliament, they run away from questions from the media, and they take a rally stage and say all sorts of things. Let Singaporeans think about it."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was also asked about AHPETC by The Straits Times on his walkabout yesterday.

He said: "We expect high standards of our political leaders, and the standards must be performed well and do good for the people. By the time you have to be put in jail, it's too late."

He added: "To say 'I haven't gone to jail, therefore I have done a good job' - if that's your standard of doing a good job, that's very sad."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'WP not being upfront on issue: Shanmugam'. Print Edition | Subscribe