Zainal Sapari

MND should play bigger role in mediation of town council handover: Zainal Sapari

The handing over of town councils will always incur a cost and raise issues, said Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), as he gave details of how the Ministry of National Development (MND) was called in to intervene in the handing over of Punggol East town council from the People's Action Party to the Workers' Party this year.

This is why MND must play a bigger role in mediation when there are disputes, and lay out clearer rules and guidelines for the handing over process in the future, he said.

Mr Zainal shared that in the early stages of the handing over of Punggol East town council to the Workers' Party (WP), both the Pasir Ris-Punggol town council and the newly formed Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council could not come to an agreement over how office space would be shared.

The Punggol East town council office at Rivervale Crescent housed operations for five divisions of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC (PRPGTC), and not just the Punggol East constituency, which has been leased from HDB.

The MND was called in to mediate how the office would be split up and costs shared during the transition period, said Mr Zainal, who is town council chairman for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

In the end, to ensure the WP could start operations on their own from May 1 this year, PRPGTC agreed to leave the affected area by April 15 to let the Workers's Party set up the place, and also agreed to share the operating costs such as utilities, office rental and others on a 80-20 ratio, he said.

Mr Zainal gave details of the handover process to illustrate how difficult and complex it can be when a town council is handed over, and how issues can also be politicised.

"Thus, it is important that MND must play a bigger role to mediate if there are issues that are dead-locked or involving substantial costs to be apportioned. Leaving it to the town councils to resolve the issues would make them more likely to be politicised," he said.