People’s Action Party (PAP) politician Charles Chong seems to have taken an interest in the High Court judgment finding three Workers’ Party (WP) parliamentarians liable for damages in the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) lawsuit.
Between July 2011 and July 2015, AHTC had paid at least S$33.7 million to town council managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), which was appointed without tender. Claiming that these were “improper” payments, an independent panel appointed by the town council initiated civil proceedings against Members of Parliament (MPs) Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh.
In a judgment released on Friday (11 Oct), High Court Judge Kannan Ramesh said that Mr Low and Ms Lim had breached their fiduciary duties to AHTC and that Mr Singh breached his duties of skill and care to the town council.
On Saturday (12 Oct), the very next day after the High Court judgment was released, Mr Chong shared a link to Justice Kannan Ramesh’s full judgment on Facebook. Mr Chong is the MP for Punggol East SMC, which he won in the 2015 General Election.
Through his victory in 2015, Mr Chong wrested Punggol East SMC away from the WP’s Lee Li Lian, who had won a by-election that was held in the ward after PAP Michael Palmer resigned in 2012 due to an extramarital affair.
Punggol East SMC, which is now part of Pasir Ris-Punggol East Town Council (PRPTC) – one of the parties involved in the AHTC lawsuit, was once under the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) from 2013 to 2015.
Claiming that “apparent monies belonging to residents of Punggol East constituency may have been lost” in the improper payments made by the WP town council, Mr Chong revealed that “PRPTC will take the necessary steps to recover the monies due to the residents of Punggol East in the next round of hearings.”
“This case was brought by an Independent Panel, appointed by the Supreme Court of Singapore, to act on behalf of Aljunied-Hougang Town Council. This was after KPMG, who were appointed by the court as Independent Auditor, had found severe problems with the financial controls of AHPETC and the appointment of their managing agent.
“AHPTEC managed Punggol East Town Council from 2013 until late 2015. Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) then took over the management of Punggol East Town Council. PRPTC joined this legal action, after it was apparent monies belonging to residents of Punggol East constituency may have been lost as well.
“The High Court has found that the AHPTEC Town Councillors had acted wrongly. The Court said that Mr Low and Ms Lim have acted egregiously, misled Town Councillors, misled the public, and allowed the Town Council’s money to be improperly spent profiting related parties. The Court said that they lacked credibility, and were not honest. Public funds have been lost.
“Others – namely Ms How Weng Fan, Mr Danny Loh, Mr Kenneth Foo and Mr David Chan – have also been found to have acted wrongly, in breach of their duties. The court has ordered that damages be assessed. PRPTC will take the necessary steps to recover the monies due to the residents of Punggol East in the next round of hearings.”
The AHTC case is set to move on to a second set of hearings to determine the quantum of damages suffered by AHTC and how much is recoverable from the parliamentarians. The MPs can also appeal the High Court’s decision.
Unless the WP MPs are unable to pay the damages, it is unlikely that the judgment will affect their parliamentary positions since the lawsuit arises from civil proceedings. If they are unable to pay up, they will be made bankrupt and lose their seats in parliament.
In a statement released on Friday evening (11 Oct), the three MPs said: “The court judgment for the first tranche of our case was released this morning. We are in the midst of reviewing the judgment and will take advice from our lawyers. We will share more details on our next step/s in due course.”
Mr Singh, the party’s secretary-general, said on his personal Facebook page that their “Town Council work continues in earnest” and promised to continue updating the people online. -/TISG