Saturday 5 September 2015

WP not being upfront on AHPETC issue: Shanmugam

He accuses Workers' Party of evading questions on AHPETC saga
By Amelia Teng and Karamjit Kaur, Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 4 Sep 2015

In the only place where the Workers' Party (WP) is in charge, everything has gone wrong, Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

The Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim has not responded to High Court charge of dishonesty over AHPETC accounts: K Shanmugam Sc. #GE2015 (via TODAY)
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Thursday, September 3, 2015

In remarks directed at the WP for not being upfront in its answers over the management of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), he said: "They haven't produced unqualified accounts in a single year.

"Why are you holding back information from your own auditors? Why are you saying that you are refusing to give information on the key issues?" he asked. "Why is the High Court saying you misled Parliament? That's not me saying that."

Mr Shanmugam, who is leading the People's Action Party's (PAP) team in Nee Soon GRC against the WP, was at a press conference to unveil his team's local manifesto and plans to have more transport and community facilities for Nee Soon residents for the next five years.

AHPETC has been at the centre of a dispute between the Government and the WP since 2013 over its accounting situation and governance, and an Auditor-General's Office report on its finances in February this year saw a heated debate in Parliament. The Ministry of National Development is also seeking a court order to allow independent accountants to be appointed to AHPETC to safeguard government grants, among other things.

The WP is now managing its town council directly, after its contract with FM Solutions and Services expired in July. But the accounts still failed to receive a clean bill of health from its own auditors.

WP leaders spent much of their rally in Hougang on Wednesday night defending their position and debunking what they called "myths" that the PAP had been spreading about its town council.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim said the town council was not in financial difficulties, and had turned things around by raising revenue and using contestable energy in estates, after having incurred "significant but necessary" expenses in its initial years. WP chief Low Thia Khiang also said there was no wrongdoing in WP's management of AHPETC.

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam said: "So you can do pretty much anything you like as long as you don't go to jail. That is the standard WP has set for their candidates.

"Let's look at that standard, and it is clear that they have been behaving according to that standard.

"The High Court said that Ms Sylvia Lim misled Parliament, was dishonest. She has not responded to that. Yeah, you don't go to jail for that. I suppose that is all right?

Attributes such as honesty, integrity and transparency are important, he also said, when asked what voters should look for in candidates. This means "not evading and avoiding issues all the time and hoping that people will not take notice". "Obviously they think it's a serious issue and they need to convince voters. That's why they spent a long time explaining at the rally last night. But they choose to do it at a rally, where they don't have to answer any questions," he added.

Half truth is meant to mislead without Lying
WP's LOW standard: lying don't go to jail, so it is not wrong to lie. "Half truth is meant to mislead without Lying"
Posted by Fabrications About The PAP on Thursday, September 3, 2015

"They run away from questions in Parliament, they run away from questions from the media, and they take a rally stage and say all sorts of things. Let Singaporeans think about it."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was also asked about AHPETC by The Straits Times on his walkabout yesterday.

He said: "We expect high standards of our political leaders, and the standards must be performed well and do good for the people. By the time you have to be put in jail, it's too late."

He added: "To say 'I haven't gone to jail, therefore I have done a good job' - if that's your standard of doing a good job, that's very sad."

AHPETC Scandal
Michelle Ang made this video that explains the AHPETC issue. A bit long but easy to understand.Sylvia Lim Swee Lian and Low Thia Khiang must respond to these queries! (Video by Michelle Ang)
Posted by Maa Zhi Hong on Saturday, September 5, 2015


The High Court said that Ms Sylvia Lim misled Parliament, was dishonest. She has not responded to that. Yeah, you don't go to jail for that. I suppose that is all right? Another observation the High Court made was that if this kind of conduct had taken place in a public company, it probably would attract criminal sanctions.

K SHANMUGAM, Law and Foreign Minister

The Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim has not responded to High Court charge of dishonesty over AHPETC accounts: K Shanmugam Sc. #GE2015 (via TODAY)
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Thursday, September 3, 2015

Accusing the People's Action Party of using the town council issue to tar the WP's achievements, he painted a picture of...
Posted by The New Paper on Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PAP and WP spar again over AHPETC
By Kor Kian Beng. The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2015

The People's Action Party and the Workers' Party sparred again over financial lapses at the opposition-run town council, with Law Minister K. Shanmugam saying WP should treat Singaporeans with respect "by telling them the truth".

But the debate between the two sides, which surfaced in 2013, may be tapering off after dominating the first week of the hustings.

Speaking at a walkabout at Chong Pang market in Nee Soon GRC, Mr Shanmugam said Hougang Town Council (HTC) had a deficit before merging with Aljunied Town Council (ATC) on May 26, 2011.

He was responding to WP chief Low Thia Khiang, who said at a rally on Thursday that HTC had a surplus of over $80,000 before merging with ATC after the WP won Aljunied GRC at the 2011 election.

Mr Low's comment was made in response to statements from the PAP that ATC's surplus was used to cover HTC's deficit.

Said Mr Shanmugam yesterday: "First, I think Mr Low should look at his March 31, 2011 audited accounts. Those are the accounts for the entire year and they show a $91,800 deficit and an accumulated deficit of over $8,000. It's clear, it's there in black and white."

Singaporeans should be treated with respect by being told the truth, he added.

HTC's statements showed a deficit of $91,807 for the year ended March 31, 2011, and that some spending was not captured in the two months before the merger.

The truth about the finances of Hougang Town council.
Posted by Paul Ting on Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mr Shanmugam said it was WP which broached the issue of lapses at the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) at the hustings, before adding that PAP believed in focusing "on the future and who can best serve Singapore".

"Integrity is a key issue. The record is there, what they have said in Parliament... Rather than getting sucked into (the AHPETC issue), I would prefer to say we have made our points... Whether (WP) answered the questions... people can go and look at it."

Mr Low, at a walkabout in Chong Pang, said Singaporeans can make their own judgment by going through AHPETC's audited accounts for financial year 2014/15, which have been made public.

Separately in Fengshan, WP chairman Sylvia Lim added that "this election should focus on national issues".

Additional reporting by Danson Cheong

[Reader's Contribution] Irrefutable video proof that WP campaigns on half-truths. Do residents of East Coast and Marine Parade GRC want them as your MPs? Think carefully. Vote wisely.
Posted by Talking Singapore on Wednesday, September 9, 2015

AHPETC spat: A local issue or a national concern?
By Lydia Lim, Associate Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 4 Sep 2015

The longer the campaign spotlight shines on the Workers' Party-run town council in Aljunied, and its financial woes, the more damage might be done to its reputation.

That, it seems, might be the reckoning of the People's Action Party's (PAP) leaders, for it keeps the WP on the defensive so its candidates have less time to rally voters and build momentum for the opposition cause.

For the WP, it would be best if the issue could be settled politically, by framing it as an attack on it by the ruling party purely for electoral gain.

At the first WP rally on Wednesday night, its candidates devoted much time to the town council issue, citing it both as an example of double standards by the Government, and of the politicisation of municipal services to thwart opposition growth. WP chairman Sylvia Lim also sought in her speech to debunk four myths about financial mismanagement at the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

But it was a comment by WP chief Low Thia Khiang that PAP leaders seized on. Mr Low argued that there was no wrongdoing in AHPETC because otherwise, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau would have investigated them.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong immediately countered that Singapore would be in serious trouble if the standard of politics fell so low it could be met by any politician who did not go to jail. He reiterated this point yesterday, for good effect.

Picking up on this "catch me if you can" retort from the WP leaders, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said: "So you can do pretty much anything you like as long as you don't go to jail. That is the standard WP has set for their candidates."

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan issued a fact sheet to rebut Ms Lim's points. He stressed that after four years, the problems at AHPETC remained unresolved.

The to-ing and fro-ing continued at a rally last night, with WP candidate for East Coast GRC Leon Perera taking a dig at the AHPETC offensive.

He said the PAP would have voters think this election was about whether their estates were cleaned and well-maintained. "If this is a local election, we should ask them when the general election will be?" he said, adding that there were important national issues to discuss, such as the plight of older Singaporeans after they retire, the future size of the population and how trains are managed.

Clearly, both parties seem to be sticking to their playbook: The PAP is seeking to pin down the WP for what it sees as serious breaches of financial integrity which it wants to call the WP to account on. For the WP, it is about choosing to take the issue directly to voters and bypassing the PAP's relentless charges.

That raises the question of why the PAP is keeping its guns trained on the town council. Is this a calculated campaign for votes and if so, is it likely to work? The PAP must surely know that it risks a backlash if it is seen to be coming down too hard on the WP MPs.

Or is this a matter of principle for the PAP, whose leaders consider the character and competence of would-be MPs to be a matter of grave national importance? They have often spoken of the need to keep politics right, key to which is ensuring that those in the House are men and women of integrity.

Indeed, PAP leaders introduced town councils back in 1988 to drive home the message to voters that they need to cast their ballots with care, since those they elect will have a direct impact on how well their estates are managed.

Ever wary of freak electoral outcomes, PAP leaders have always warned voters, as PM Lee did again on Tuesday, that it is "dangerous" to vote for the opposition when what they want is a PAP government.

By focusing minds on the WP's failure to manage its town council in the one GRC it holds well, the PAP must hope that swing voters in other GRCs will hesitate to risk giving their vote to the opposition party.

As for the WP, the AHPETC issue exemplifies what it regards as some of the worst effects of a one-party dominant system. Its leaders have railed against the unfairness of the Ministry of National Development's decision to withhold grants from AHPETC, after serious financial lapses were uncovered at the town council by the Auditor-General's Office.

At a rally on Wednesday night, WP's Hougang candidate Png Eng Huat said the People's Association had similar financial management lapses. Yet, its government grants were not withheld and even went up.

The WP also accused government agencies of targeting the PAP's political opponents, a charge Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean rebutted, saying it was their duty to uncover lapses.

At the WP rally last night, Mr Low mocked the way the Government had blown up the AHPETC issue, including holding a two-day debate in Parliament on it. He also criticised several ministers for making unfounded allegations against WP town councils, including the one in Hougang.

"I have tolerated them long enough!" Mr Low declared in a speech in Teochew on Wednesday, drawing cheers from his supporters.

How voters respond to the arguments on AHPETC from both sides will be known on Sept 12. How the ballots add up in Aljunied GRC, and beyond, will signal which of the two narratives voters were more convinced by.

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