Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong came to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s rescue after the latter fumbled while defending a parliamentary motion he had brought forward against Workers’ Party (WP) politicians Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim, yesterday.
DPM Heng, who has been identified as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s presumptive successor, moved to get Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) saga to require Mr Low and Ms Lim to recuse themselves from the town council’s financial matters, in the wake of a High Court judgment that found the MPs liable for damages in the AHTC lawsuit.
Yahoo Singapore reporter Nicholas Yong noted that the DPM “fumbled” when he was expected to defend his motion after Ms Lim and Hougang MP Png Eng Huat asked him to clarify the comments he had made in his hour-long speech.
Ms Lim’s request for Mr Heng to clarify his apparent remarks that “millions have been lost” appeared to fluster the heavyweight ruling party politician who later claimed that he had actually said “millions of dollars in public funds are involved”.
Mr Yong reported: “Heng hesitated in his response and flipped through his folder at length, before moving on to the rest of Lim’s queries.”
When Mr Png asked the DPM for clarification on his implication that only one signatory was needed to encash a cheque under AHTC when the town council actually requires two signatories including the AHTC chairperson or vice-chair, Mr Heng wanted to get back to why he put forth the motion and criticised Ms Lim and Mr Png for asking “little questions”.
He said: “Let me get back to why I moved this motion. This is a question of integrity…I have asked very serious questions about how the transactions were done…but both of you have just stood up to ask me a series of little questions.”
Shortly after Mr Png shot back that “it’s a question of integrity,” Mr Heng asked for a ten-minute recess to consider and respond to Ms Lim’s questions. Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin granted the adjournment despite WP chief Pritam Singh’s objection.
Edwin Tong came to the rescue of Mr Heng following the break and addressed Ms Lim and Mr Png’s questions. On Mr Png’s point about co-signing cheques, Mr Tong hit out:
“I think the position is very clear: it’s not about one signatory or two signatories, it’s about the entire system that you have set up as a result of what you have done…That entire system has been completely subverted, a proper system has been subverted by the way in which you’ve done this.
“Don’t penny pinch a dime with us.”
Referring to the “serious and grave findings” of the High Court judgement, Mr Tong said that the judgment constitutes a “serious and grave indictment” of the WP MPs conduct.
He also accused the WP of spreading a “misleading narrative repeatedly put out to the public over several years” that they had to immediately appoint a new managing agent after the PAP-owned Action Information Management (AIM) abruptly stripped them of the town council management computer system.