AHTC trial: WP chairman Sylvia Lim agrees that media statement about managing agent's fees was untrue

Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim leaving the Supreme Court on Oct 22, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim conceded in court on Tuesday (Oct 23) that a media statement she issued to the press in August 2011 was "not true", but in her defence said she did not think it was false at the time it was written.

Ms Lim had informed the media then that the appointment of a new managing agent, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) would not incur any additional agent fees.

But she had omitted a one-time fee FMSS had charged the town council for the hiring of additional staff - a detail which Senior Counsel Davinder Singh repeatedly pressed Ms Lim on, on the 13th day of a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought against three WP MPs.

Mr Singh asked Ms Lim, who was on the stand for the fourth day, whether the statement she had shared with the newspapers and social media was - to her knowledge - false.

Ms Lim replied that she was conveying the "steady state" of FMSS' charges. She added that she could have included the one-time fee paid to FMSS but "didn't think it was material, since it was a one off expense".

"I can agree that I could have been more accurate, but I didn't intend to mislead," Ms Lim said.

Mr Singh followed by asking Ms Lim whether "to knowingly state an untruth is to lie".

"I would say I was very careless," she replied.

After Mr Singh repeated his question several times, Ms Lim said: "I don't agree in so far as lie implies a dishonest intention. "

Mr Singh said later during the exchange that Ms Lim was " fencing" and "evading" his question, adding that they had spent 10 minutes on this particular query, of whether knowingly stating an untruth is to lie.

Ms Lim eventually said "yes".

Mr Singh also asked if any of the elected WP MPs, who received a copy of the media statement, requested a correction by Ms Lim or sent a correction to the newspapers. Ms Lim said they did not.

He then charged that Ms Lim "knowingly stated an untruth to the entire country", including her residents, about how much money was going to be spent by engaging FMSS.

He noted that Ms Lim had also repeated this same point - that AHTC was not incurring additional fees by using FMSS - in her affidavit, another untruth.

Ms Lim said: "There was no correction made".

Earlier, Mr Singh also highlighted that the media statement in Aug 2011 had stated "no WP member has any interest in FMSS".

Mr Singh asked Ms Lim why she did not disclose to the public that the main shareholders of FMSS - Ms How Weng Fan and her late husband Danny Loh - were WP supporters, and that the other remaining shareholders had some association with the party.

Ms Lim replied that the purpose of the media statement was to inform the public of a smooth handover of the town council to the new managing agent, and such information on the shareholding would not have been relevant.

"There was nothing sinister about it," Ms Lim told the Court.

Ms Lim, Ms How and FMSS are among the eight defendants in the lawsuit, which centres on $33.7 million in payments AHTC made from 2011 to 2015 to FMSS and its service provider, which are alleged to be improper and void.

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