AHPETC proposes dialogue over hawker issue as row continues

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) has invited the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan to a dialogue with the MPs in the council to "settle any outstanding matters".

Its vice-chairman, Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh, made this invitation at the end of statement on Monday evening, continuing the ongoing argument between the Government and AHPETC over the cleaning of hawker centres in Aljunied GRC.

Mr Singh sought to rebut suggestions made on Sunday that he had been untruthful over the matter of whether hawkers had been asked to pay extra for the ceiling of the hawker centres to be cleaned. National Environment Agency (NEA) has said that hawkers in Block 538 and 511 have been asked to pay more. Mr Singh stressed that AHPETC had made no such request.

Dr Balakrishnan had issued a fiercely worded statement on Sunday in response to accusations from AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim that the National Environment Agency was "politically motivated" to tarnish the name of the town council.

He had said: "Either Mr Pritam Singh or the hawkers are telling the truth. It is obvious that the hawkers are speaking the truth."

On Monday, Mr Singh stressed that he had been truthful in stating the council's position, and "there is no reason" to doubt the honesty of AHPETC staff. "If the Minister has any proof to the contrary, he should present these, rather than make sweeping allegations," said Mr Singh.

He added that the council has been consistent in its attitude and always prepared to cooperate with government agencies for residents' benefit. "However, the Minister should not mistake this to mean that AHPETC can be bullied or is an easy target to be used by the government to score political points," he said.

He also accused Dr Balakrishnan of engaging in divisive politics.

"The PAP constantly warns Singaporeans of divisive politics and clamours for an inclusive Singapore. However, the Minister's approach appears to perpetuate the opposite. Accusing elected members of AHPETC of arrogance and being untruthful does not help resolve matters."

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