The reputation of the Workers’ Party has never been so splendid since its capture of Aljunied GRC and Punggol East SMC in GE 2011 and BE 2013 respectively. And the prospects that it can do even better in the next GE have never been brighter. The groundswell of opinion is in its favour and the opposition generally as of until now. And the electorate, minus the pro-PAP diehards, looks forward promisingly to the winds of change in the political situation in the next GE.
So the critical report of the Auditor-General’s Office on the lapses of the AHPETC in its financial management and governance of the Town Council came like a bolt from the blue. It caught most Singaporeans by surprise, but quite frankly it was not entirely unexpected. One of the most glaring lapses is the persistent conflict of interest revealed in the AGO’s report between the Town Council and its managing agents the FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) and the FM Solutions & Integrated Services (FMSI). How on earth could the husband and wife team of secretary and general manager of the Town Council be the majority owners and proprietor of the managing agents at the same time is the serious conflict of interest problem no amount of explanation that the WP Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang and Chairman Sylvia Lim can give convincingly to pacify the electorate.
The Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan and Law Minister K. Shanmugam have never been so vehement in their denunciations of the Workers’ Party for its lapses in AHPETC emphasising strongly on its conflict of interest problem at the Parliamentary sitting on 12 February. The WP Mr. Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim could offer no satisfactory answers to the pernicious accusations and looked very dejected. WP Mr. Pritam Singh did not help in his inexplicable remarks that he would only answer to his residents.
It is unfortunate that these colossal AHPETC lapses occur so near to the next GE which could take place at any time before January 2017. WP’s ineffectual defence against the PAP denuciations could not have put them in a favourable light with the electorate. Unless they can come up with a concrete solution to the financial and governance lapses of the AHPETC quickly, it looks like they may lose considerable support from the middle ground.
WP must try its best to defend itself in the coming weeks to convince the middle-ground that its Town Council is still very much in good hands. What needs to be rectified or who needs to be changed, act on it. Be transparent with the electorate and I’m sure they will be a lot more forgiving towards you.
The same cannot be said of the PAP. Like one of their prominent ministers has said, “We are deaf to all these criticisms.”
This commentary was written by Yoong Siew Wah, who was the director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department from 1971 to 1974. Before that, he was the director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).