The government has spoken. So has the Workers’ Party. But what about the Singaporean?
Well, most Singaporeans whom The Independent Singapore spoke to were uninterested in or undecided about the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council’s recent disputes with the government.
Thirty-one out of 100 respondents said they felt the issues were deeply politicised and they did not know whom to believe. Thirty other survey respondents said they were uninterested about the activities of the Workers’ Party-run town council.
Twenty believed WP was at fault. The remaining nineteen said they believed WP was not at fault.
A 100-people survey was conducted to measure public perceptions of the dispute after the allegations by the National Environment Agency (NEA) that WP’s town council held an unlicensed trade fair and the fact that the auditors appointed by the opposition party were unable to express an opinion on AHPETC’s latest financial statements.
Half of the people surveyed live in the WP constituencies of Aljunied and Hougang with the other half outside.
The opposition party came under fire when the auditors appointed by the WP-run town council could not verify the accuracy and validity of 13 items worth more than $22 million. Among them were receivables, lift repair and lift upgrading expenses, temporary unidentified receipts from residents and the Housing and Development Board, advance receipts from residents for conservancy and service charges along with Goods and Services tax payables and unreconciled differences of cash and bank balances.
The auditors gave a disclaimer of opinion on WP’s latest financial statements twice. Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam subsequently directed the Auditor-General to audit the town council’s accounts.
At the same time, the NEA applied for a court summon against the town council, citing that it did not obtain a permit to hold a trade fair in January. NEA said that town councils are not allowed to engage in commercial activities, including the organisation of fairs.
Town council Chairman Sylvia Lim welcomed the move, but blamed the problems found in the town council’s books on the slow handover from the previous government in 2011.
The pre-trial of the case will be held on April 2.
Most respondents (27 out of 30) who were uninterested in the saga live outside Aljunied,Hougang and Punggol East.
“I work from dawn till 12.30 am and I do not care about the news. I don’t even have time to turn on the television,” said 62-year-old Ms Amina who is a cleaner at Jurong East MRT station. Similarly, seven other respondents in their early 20s polled at City Hall MRT station said they were not interested in the issues.
Ms Jaz, 40, a banker: “Especially the auditor’s report, I think something is wrong there. What goes on in the accounts is very important; you cannot make a mistake like that. WP has to follow the rules even if it is an opposition party.”
Mr Chen, 51, a shop owner in Aljunied, suggested that, “I think town councils need to provide yearly reports on their activities. We need more transparency. Both sides have their stories but as people you never know the truth unless everything is written down.”
Political commentator Gillian Koh remarked that Singaporeans are generally pragmatic and would unlikely be caught up with issues they regard as political spats between the government and the opposition party.
“WP has said the party will leave the judgment [on the recent controversies] to the public. People generally trust authoritative and neutral parties like the Auditor General [office]. So that would decide how the public view the issues [eventually],” she added.