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Hougang was not in financial difficulty, says WP chief

(From left) Workers' Party candidates Ron Tan, He Ting Ru and Terence Tan at the rally for Jalan Besar GRC. Ms He had told the crowd that her family and friends were worried she would be "fixed" for joining the opposition, but she said that she overcame her fears as she wanted a future that was decided by the citizens.


THE Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga again came under the spotlight at the Workers' Party (WP) rally at Boon Keng Road on Thursday.

Speaking in Mandarin to the crowd, party chief Low Thia Khiang said that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has been "making a big fuss" over the AHPETC saga and using this to carry out its "smear campaign", which he described as "dirty politics".

He cited various instances in which the PAP had said that the AHPETC, which runs the Aljunied GRC, Hougang and Punggol Single-Member Constituencies as a town, used its surplus to cover losses incurred by the Hougang Town Council.

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Mr Low said that the attacks were made by PAP ministers including Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan in 2014, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean's comments in August.

"(Law Minister) K Shanmugam also said sarcastically that voters need to decide if they want to cover our losses in town council," said Mr Low, adding firmly that Hougang Town Council, which he ran before it was merged in 2011 to become the AHTC (Aljunied-Hougang Town Council) after the WP won Aljunied GRC, was not in any financial difficulty prior to that.

AHTC expanded to become the AHPETC in 2013 after the party won in the Punggol East by-election.

"I'm telling you categorically: The Hougang ward had no financial difficulties under WP before it joined Aljunied on May 26, 2011, and had a surplus of S$80,000."

The PAP ministers "are misleading voters", Mr Low continued, questioning the PAP's credibility and sincerity.

He went on to say that while the PAP says self-renewal is its focus, it only makes superficial changes, is still narrow-minded and cannot accept people who take a different stand.

"I want to ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: Is this the calibre of the PAP?"

When he subsequently spoke in English, Mr Low said that the party had fulfilled its promise to be rational, respectable and responsible.

For many years, the PAP has defined what is the best interest of the people and also decided on policies as the government with a huge majority, he said, adding that the PAP paints the opposition as "troublemakers and rebels". "We must stop the PAP from becoming more self-absorbed. You must retain a say in how Singapore is run by having people of your choice in parliament. We must remind the PAP the distinction between what is national interest and what is party interest."

"We must remind the PAP that Singapore is a nation, not a corporation," added Mr Low.

Separately, Sylvia Lim, chairman of WP and AHPETC made the point that the party believes the government should not "infiltrate every aspect of life" by placing its representatives in all areas including business and sports, because there is more than enough talent to drive success in the various fields.

Power has made the PAP more and more arrogant and they want to control every aspect of the people's lives, she said, adding that in the 2015 election, "a strong message that Singaporeans want to be free from their arrogance and their threats" must be sent to the PAP.

A recurring theme in the WP rally besides the party manifesto, was the initial fears that several first-time WP candidates faced. They include corporate lawyer He Ting Ru, Singapore Cancer Society community manager Kenneth Foo, lawyer Terence Tan, and former associate librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff.

Ms He, the WP candidate for Marine Parade GRC, told the crowd that her family and friends were worried she would be "fixed" for joining the opposition. But she said that she overcame her fears as she wanted a future that was decided by the citizens.

Similarly, Redzwan Hafidz, the WP's candidate for Jalan Besar GRC, noted that joining the opposition could turn out to be "an inconvenience", but he felt that he had to do something as the country was moving in the wrong direction.

Several candidates on Thursday night also made the point about how the PAP only begun to tweak its policies and make changes, after the WP was voted into parliament.