Quoting from media reports in 1989, The Online Citizen (TOC) published an article today (‘PAP town councils incurred high S&C arrears too‘, 15 Dec) revealing that Cheng San Town Council had, in fact, “about $260,000 in arrears”.
This was about half the amount it collected every month at the time.
TOC said, “Cheng San GRC then was, incidentally, led by Minister Lee Yock Suan, the father of PAP Minister of State Desmond Lee, who had been leading the attack on WP in recent weeks.”
Indeed, led by Desmond Lee’s father, Lee Yock Suan, PAP won Cheng San GRC at the 1988 general election easily through a walkover:
The chairman of Cheng San town council at the time was MP Heng Chiang Meng, one of Lee Yock Suan’s teammates.
In a Straits Times article on 11 December 1989, Mr Heng revealed that in fact, about 7,400 households in the Ang Mo Kio area owed their town councils almost half a million dollars in S&CC at the end of October 1989. These 7,400 households accounted for 16% of residents served by 3 town councils at the time:
- Ang Mo Kio South Town Council
- Ang Mo Kio West Town Council
- Cheng San Town Council
To encourage the residents to pay on time, Mr Heng tried to get them to sign up for GIRO using lucky draw promotions.
Mr Heng said that if threats and harsh measures were needed to solve the problem, it would show that Singapore was still an “immature” society.
“To date, about 120,000 or 20 per cent of all HDB tenants and lessees are in arrears of their rents, licence fees or service and conservancy charges,” the Straits Times reported [Link].
Even in 2004, town councils – the majority of which were run by the PAP – were owed as much as $24 million in S&CC, as revealed by TOC in its article.
In 1989, the Minister of National Development was S Dhanabalan (1987 to 1992).
Even though Cheng San Town Council was incurring large arrears at the time, Mr Dhanabalan did not accuse Mr Heng or Desmond Lee’s father Lee Yock Suan of lacking “accountability and transparency” in their dealings with Cheng San residents.
Certainly, there were no reports of Lee Yock Suan automatically coming out to explain the circumstances surrounding the $260,000 arrears of Cheng San Town Council.
So, why is Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development, now accusing AHPETC Chairman Sylvia Lim? Mr Lee reprimanded Ms Lim in the media on 12 December 2014:
“On the contrary, accountability and transparency are key in this matter. And Ms Lim’s failure to respond to any of the questions people have about AHPETC shows that it is precisely accountability and transparency that are missing in the Workers’ Party’s dealings with Aljunied residents and Singaporeans in general.”
Perhaps Desmond Lee should ask his father first what happened in Cheng San Town Council in 1989.
What do you think?
This commentary was first published in TRE.
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