Yaw Shin Leong
The author is the MP for Hougang and Vice-Chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.
We welcome the decision by Peoples’ Association (PA) to lift the restriction imposed on permit applicants on who they can or cannot invite to functions at sites now controlled by the PA. The restriction had caused many Aljunied residents to feel torn and in an emotional dilemma.
HDB and PA’s political role
We note, however, that contrary to PA’s earlier response that the decision to lease sites for community activities was “not new, nor is it peculiar to Aljunied GRC”, it now emerges that HDB’s decision was indeed precipitated by the General Election results in Aljunied GRC and the desire to secure key sites for PA activities at which grassroots advisors would be guests.
HDB has also not given any reason why a total of 26 strategic sites in Aljunied GRC had to be given up to PA’s exclusive control.
Further, the remarks by Desmond Choo, the defeated PAP candidate for Hougang SMC, confirm that the key purpose of a request to PA to lease sites from HDB was to enable defeated PAP candidates to re-emerge at key community sites in the capacity of grassroots advisors, which in his case is to expand his outreach to residents in Hougang SMC.
If PA accedes to Mr Choo’s request for 6 sites at Hougang SMC, and HDB approves it, it will further confirm the partisan nature of this decision by these government bodies.
WP’s Open Policy on Guests
We are puzzled by PA’s claim that “there have been occasions when organisers of grassroots and community events applied to use sites managed by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), and were told that they were expected to invite the local MP.”
We took over the management of TC on 1st August and no instruction was given either by the Chairman and Vice-chairmen to the staff on the issue of who permit applicants should invite. If MND has any information to the contrary, we will investigate the matter.
In any case, it should be clear to all that there has never been any policy in both the former Hougang Town Council (HGTC) and AHTC to set conditions on the guest list. This is not a `new position’ as claimed by the PA, and is self-evident from the presence of PAP grassroots advisors at events held on Town Council-managed land in Hougang over the last 20 years and in Aljunied GRC after the General Elections.
PA’s assertions against Hougang Town Council
The grassroots advisor of Hougang SMC, Desmond Choo was reported to complain about how HGTC has curbed the activities of PAP grassroots. I am perplexed by the complaint. Compared to opposition party candidates who lost at election with no “toe hold” at all at the constituency in which he/she contested, the PAP candidate re-emerges as advisor to the PA grassroots organization which has a big community club and RC offices and centres at every zone of the constituency to operate from. How could elected opposition curb such activities?
Desmond Choo has raised some specific issues about HGTC in the past. Our detailed response is in Mr Low Thia Khiang’s Media Release on Hougang Town Council Management of Public Sites issued today which will show that Hougang Town Council has acted fairly to all parties. Nevertheless, I am prepared to work with Desmond Choo if he faces difficulty from town council in using the sites he wanted for activities.
PA’s assertions against Aljunied-Hougang Town Council
As for Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), PA cited two incidents which reportedly occurred during the handover period of May to July 2011, before the transfer of management on 1 August. AHTC itself was only legally constituted on 27 May 2011.
During the handover period, the former Managing Agent continued to deal with these matters, without any instructions issued from the Chairman or Vice-Chairmen of AHTC. The same open policy with respect to guest invitations applies. There have never been any conditions about who residents need to invite to use AHTC-managed land.
Specifically in relation to the use of the open plaza in front of Block 151A Serangoon North Avenue 1, it had already been answered by the Chairman of AHTC in the Straits Times interview of 19 August that the decision had been taken by the former Managing Agent for reasons stated then.
Till date, AHTC has only received 2 applications from RCs from Bedok Reservoir Division and duly approved both of them, pending the RCs’ fee payment. On 15th August 2011 the PA sent an email application to hold a Mini Workforce Training Support Scheme road show from 3rd to 4th September 2011. This application is being processed.
Apart from the above there were no other applications received by the current administration prior to 19 August 2011 for functions by the RCs. There were also no calls made by the PA or RCs to the AHTC to do enquiries of any sort.
This episode has clearly illustrated how key government agencies with intense outreach capabilities can be mobilized to advance the political interests of the ruling party, and to undermine the mandate of opposition MPs given by the electorate. We trust Singaporeans can assess what is fair for themselves.
Photo courtesy of Elaine Ng