The candidates: Workers' Party, Singapore People's Party

'We'll apply lessons learnt from AHPETC saga'

The three new Workers' Party candidates unveiled yesterday were (from left) consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, social worker Frieda Chan Sio Phing and charity project executive Bernard Chen.
The three new Workers' Party candidates unveiled yesterday were (from left) consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, social worker Frieda Chan Sio Phing and charity project executive Bernard Chen.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

3 WP candidates say this can help them run their own town councils if elected

The Workers' Party (WP) candidates believe they are able to run town councils of their own if elected, saying they receive regular updates about the ongoing Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga and have learnt lessons from it.

Consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, 44, said they are satisfied the party did a creditable job in maintaining town council operations to "a more than reasonable standard of efficiency and effectiveness, given the very challenging environment that the WP faced when taking over the Aljunied GRC in 2011".

Lessons the candidates would apply, if elected, include taking stock of the situation "very carefully", ensuring all documentation is properly made available by previous managing agents, and ramping up the workflow, among other things, he said.

"We will take on board these lessons... We will take our oversight responsibility very, very seriously," said Mr Perera, who spoke on behalf of two other candidates unveiled together with him yesterday. They were Mr Bernard Chen Jiaxi, 29, a project executive of a charity; and social worker Frieda Chan Sio Phing, 39.

The WP is fielding a record slate of 28 candidates for the Sept 11 polls, which include the seven elected MPs of the five-member Aljunied GRC and the two single-seat wards in Hougang and Punggol East.

The constituencies are run under the AHPETC.

If the WP notches up new victories at the polls, it needs to set up a new council as the law does not allow more than three constituencies to be run as one town.

Besides defending the current three constituencies, the WP is also contesting the East Coast, Jalan Besar, Marine Parade and Nee Soon GRCs and three single-seat wards in Fengshan, MacPherson and Sengkang West.

However, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said yesterday that she did not think it was necessary to brief new candidates on the ongoing dispute with the Government over the financial management by the WP at the AHPETC since 2013.

The latest development took place last Saturday when a statement issued by the Ministry of National Development said that AHPETC's former managing agent, FM Solutions and Services, had been "grossly profiteering" at the expense of the town council, its sole client.

"This is one of the matters that we're sorting out with our contractors under a process that's already been agreed, so we do not see why this should concern the new candidates," said Ms Lim yesterday.

At yesterday's event, which saw the WP launching a 16-minute campaign video on its website, all three candidates also spoke at length about issues concerning the elderly and families.

Ms Chan, who just gave birth to her son six months ago and takes care of her ageing parents and in-laws, said that her personal experience helped her understand these issues.

She said that she hoped to push for a more systemic approach, including encouraging more flexible work arrangements, and stressed the need for MPs to help residents make sense of policies.

"Sometimes the policies are there, but they're not connecting with the people; they are not applying for them. Then you have many dollars sitting there waiting to be disbursed."

Mr Chen said that helping residents with small concerns like these will help forge trust between new elected MPs and the residents.

"What is a small issue to residents should be considered significant matters for us. Because if we cannot get the little things done, let's not talk about the larger things," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline ''We'll apply lessons learnt from AHPETC saga''. Print Edition | Subscribe