Parliament: WP's Pritam Singh says he supports Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang, questions motive of DPM Heng's motion

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh noted that the motion comes three weeks after the High Court had found the duo had acted dishonestly in the hiring of a managing agent company. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh has vouched for the integrity of his fellow Aljunied GRC MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang, saying he has absolute trust and confidence in their continued participation at the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.

He also questioned the motive of the People's Action Party on Tuesday (Nov 5) as Parliament debated a motion by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat which called for Ms Lim and Mr Low to be recused from financial matters at the town council.

The motion comes three weeks after the High Court had found the duo had acted dishonestly in the hiring of a managing agent company.

Describing it as hurried and premature, he said the window for appeal remains open until Nov 11.

"The timing of this motion by DPM Heng is highly unusual for a legal system that places an exacting premium on the rule of law as a defining characteristic of the country," he added.

"The PAP must explain truthfully what is its motive in hurriedly filing this motion before the case is concluded."

Mr Singh was among the last of the 13 MPs who spoke in the four-hour long debate on Tuesday.

In a relatively short speech of around eight minutes, he disclosed that AHTC's auditors had submitted an unqualified financial statement this year and it has been sent to the Ministry of National Development, which oversees town councils.

It is a first for the town council since the WP took over in 2011, and Mr Singh credited Ms Lim's role in making it happen.

Extolling her contributions as chairman of the town council from 2011 to 2015, he said she had ensured there was no major disruption of service to residents despite the challenging circumstances.

His remark that she continues to chair its finance and investment committee drew raised eyebrows from across the aisle.

He retorted: "All of you know that, let's not fake ignorance and say 'wow'."

Mr Low, meanwhile, is a member of the town council's estate and community liaison committee, and his experience and perspective on estate matters as a longstanding opposition town councillor has been very useful, Mr Singh said.

As such, even if the issue of recusal came to a vote at the town council, he would not vote to support it, he added, stressing that he was speaking personally for himself.

Earlier, Aljunied GRC MP Faisal Manap, who is AHTC's current chairman, also said he did not support the motion as he had full trust in Ms Lim and Mr Low after having worked with them since 2011.

He also said he had not received any advice from the independent panel appointed by the town council which had initiated the lawsuit.

But as town council chairman, Mr Faisal said he would propose for the judgment to be discussed at the next town council meeting in November.

Mr Singh also acknowledged that should the motion be passed, the matter would be discussed by the town council. "Any decision to consider a recusal for Ms Lim and Mr Low is for the individual town councillors to make and AHTC will act in accordance with their decisions."

But he stressed that it was only fair for the question to be considered after the appeal is heard and decided.

Noting that the judgment was considered "live" until then, he said there was also a "real prospect" the parties that brought the lawsuit - AHTC, through the independent panel it appointed, and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council - could appeal against the judgment.

"This is because the plaintiffs did not succeed in many courses of actions, some of which were either rejected or dismissed by the judge," he added, citing the example that their attempt to reverse the burden of proof on losses was not allowed.

"That the judgment referred to in the motion is evidently a very live issue is stating the obvious. To that end there is no reason for Parliament to be prematurely hijacked as a substitute for the judicial process when the window for appeal for the judgment has not closed."

He added: "I hope all members, not just NMPs, consider this when they decide on the motion later." The majority of MPs, however, voted for the motion.

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