The head of the Workers’ Party, Mr. Pritam Singh, took the stand for the first time at the high profile Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) trial on Thursday, October 25. During the course of cross examination that morning, Mr. Pritam Singh argued with Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who represents Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), about what constitutes a “responsible” town councilor.
Mr. Davinder Singh finished his cross-examination of former Workers Party Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim on Wednesday, October 24.
The chief of the Workers’ Party said that what a responsible town councilor must do is to recognize that a town council space is a politicized one, and to move appropriately on that recognition.
According to him, “The responsible town councillor needs to understand the difference between his town council, PAP town councils, and the reality of the politicised town council space in Singapore.”
Mr. Pritam Singh gave this as the explanation as to why he did not question it when former managing agent CPG Facilities Management was let go of at AHTC following the Workers’ Party’s of victory of the Aljunied constituency GE2011.
He added, “After (going) through that process, they would understand why AHTC as the first opposition GRC (group representation constituency) had to take the decisions it was doing.”
The Senior Counsel for PRPTC has asked Mr. Pritam Singh during his cross-examination if a town councilor who is responsible would consider the implications of having the tender waived for a managing agent.
Mr. Davinder Singh argued that this waiver would have an impact on the industry’s perspective on having the opportunity to clinch with AHTC under the WP.
After the WP won the Aljunied constituency, former Workers Party Members of Parliament made the choice to waive a tender for the managing agent, and appointed instead FM Services and Solutions (FMSS) in the place of CPG. FMSS was headed by known supporters of the WP, the late Danny Loh and his wife, How Weng Fan.
However, Mr. Pritam Singh expressed that at that point this decision was “consistent with the political culture in Singapore.”
He even brought up the warning that founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had uttered at that time, that Aljunied voters would have five years to “repent” of their decision if the Workers Party would win the constituency. And because of the situation in 2011, Mr. Pritam Singh felt that the waiver of tender for the appointment of FMSS was then allowable.
Along with former WP MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang and How Weng Fan, Mr. Pritam Singh is a defendant in the case, which is calling for the defendants to account for “improper payments” made to FMSS and other service providers.
The Senior Counsel for the prosecution argued that there were no other bids for the position of managing agent for AHTC in 2012 since the message was made clear to CPG, EM Services and Cushman & Wakefield that FMSS would be chosen for the position.
Mr. Davinder Singh said, “What you are doing is effectively telling the world: ‘Don’t bother to come and try and get the contract from us. We will go on our own’. Because of that objective, that message, it could not have surprised you that in the second managing agent and second EMSU (Essential Maintenance Services Unit) contracts, nobody bid except FMSS.”
The Senior Counsel further said that the “responsible” thing to do was to have secured FMSS’ services for three years, as the company had agreed to maintain the same rates as former managing agent CPG, saving the town council from further negotiations over the price of services.
However, the waiver applied for FMSS for only one year.
Mr. Pritam Singh would not accept the Senior Counsel’s premise, saying that since FMSS was willing to continue to charge the same rates ad CPG, this was proof that the town council’s action was aboveboard.
He also stressed that at that time, it was necessary for the WP to “take over fast, stabilise operations, then move forward” so as not to inconvenience residents with interrupted services.
He said he believed it better to call a tender after a year had passed, so that other applicants could apply for managing agent.
Mr. Pritam Singh said, “The market has money to make from the managing agent contract (and so) they have to make the business calculation: ‘Do we go in knowing that it is an opposition town council?’”
The Senior Counsel was expected to continue his cross-examination of Mr. Pritam Singh when the trial resumed in the afternoon.