AHTC lawsuits

AHTC trial: Low says he had doubts about CPG's agent on town council

Former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang said he had been hesitant to name the CPG representative, but felt he had to clarify matters.
Former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang said he had been hesitant to name the CPG representative, but felt he had to clarify matters.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Davinder questions whether ex-WP chief should be allowed to clarify previous answers

Former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang was so troubled by some answers he gave on Wednesday that the next day, he asked the court to let him clarify his testimony.

But Senior Counsel Davinder Singh objected, saying it was "inappropriate for a witness to volunteer" information when he was not called to do so.

The request was an unusual start to yesterday's session, the 10th day of a civil suit to recover alleged improper payments Mr Low and seven others made to their managing agent, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), using Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) funds.

The issue that troubled Mr Low was his answers on letting incumbent managing agent CPG Facilities Management sit in on a meeting on July 21, 2011.

On Wednesday, he had said repeatedly he was "uncomfortable" about CPG's presence and that there was a level of "distrust" but could not tell Mr Singh why he felt that way.

Mr Singh then charged that he and his fellow MPs did not want CPG to find out they were appointing a new managing agent because they wanted to avoid calling a tender.

Yesterday, Mr Low told the judge: "If I don't clarify, Your Honour might smell a rat with the suggestion from Mr Singh that I had something to hide (and that would be) a miscarriage of justice. I thought it was better to explain... what was ( behind) my hesitancy."

The reason he was not comfortable having one of the CPG representatives present at the meeting was due to his previous dealings with the man, he said.

Mr Singh countered that Mr Low had made up the evidence overnight.

For 20 minutes, Mr Singh and Mr Low's lawyer, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, argued whether the veteran MP should be allowed to take the stand.

Mr Singh said, among other things, that letting Mr Low speak in this "twilight zone", between the end of cross-examination and the start of re-examination, would give him "carte blanche… to add anything he wishes to add".

 
 
 
 

"There is no such provision in our rules and processes which allows the witness to dictate what he wishes to state," Mr Singh added, urging the court to take a "principled approach".

But Mr Rajah said Mr Low's request was not an unusual one, and the court normally takes what is a "sensible, proactive and fair" stand.

In the end, Justice Kannan Ramesh allowed the WP MP to make his clarifications.

Mr Low said he did not trust Mr Seng Joo How, the CPG representative appointed AHTC's deputy secretary on June 9, 2011, a few weeks before the July 21 meeting.

His bad experience with Mr Seng, now CPG's chief executive, dated back to 1991, when the latter was a Housing Board official dealing with town councils, Mr Low said.

At that time, Mr Low had just been elected MP for Hougang, and he encountered several obstacles that he believes were politically motivated, including the sudden termination of his town council's office at HDB premises.

Mr Seng was a "public servant who was supposed to help but didn't seem to do so", he said. "I can't expect… to feel comfortable discussing matters of importance to the town council."

He added: "I was hesitant yesterday because this goes into personal matters and it may not be fair to him because he is not here... But because of the inference Mr Singh made, it would be an injustice to us if I let this injustice (to Mr Seng) take priority."

Mr Singh charged that Mr Low made up the evidence, after realising people would wonder why he could not give an answer.

"You considered it would not just be damaging to you legally but politically, because you could not answer why something, which you claim is completely defensible, was suppressed," he said.

Mr Low disagreed, and said later thathe did not share his concerns about Mr Seng with his fellow town councillors as he thought it was not fair for him "to question his integrity" over issues that took place more than 20 years ago.

Mr Seng was unanimously appointed AHTC's deputy secretary in June 2011, and when Mr Low was asked repeatedly if he supported the decision, he answered each time that he "did not object" instead of giving a yes or no answer.

Finally, Mr Singh asked: "You were a member of the town council, all of whom appointed Mr Seng as deputy secretary, correct?"

Mr Low said: "Yes."

Mr Singh responded: "So the evidence you dreamt up last night is not just false, but you came to this court this morning... determined to lie and mislead His Honour."

Mr Low said that was not true.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2018, with the headline 'Low says he had doubts about CPG's agent on town council'. Print Edition | Subscribe