Day 8 of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) trial saw witnesses for the prosecution questioned for the first time. Senior Counsel Davinder Singh cross-examined former Workers Party head Low Thia Khiang. Mr. Low denied that his supporters had a plan for running the town council.
Mr. Singh alleged that Mr. Low did not act as a responsible custodian of public funds after the General Elections in 2011, when the Workers Party took over management of what was then Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). Instead, Mr. Singh says that Mr. Low had plotted for WP supporters Danny Loh and his wife How Weng Fan to set up FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), to become the managing agent of AHTC, instead of then-contractor CPG Facilities Management.
Senior Counsel Singh said during the cross-examination, “I suggest to you sir, that on the Monday morning after the elections, you had decided to get rid of CPG and to appoint a company in which Ms. How would be involved as the MA of the (town council),” which Mr. Low prompt denied.
Mr. Singh represents the plaintiff, Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), which manages Punggol East Ward at present. However, from 2013 to 2015, Punggol East has been managed by the AHPETC.
PRPTC is suing WP MPs Low, Sylvia Lim, Pritam Singh, Ms. How and FMSS for an alleged breach of their legal and financial responsibilities to the AHTC.
As proof of his allegation that Mr. Low had a plan all along, Mr. Singh cited an email that Mr. Low had sent to fellow WP MPs-elect dated May 9, which was the first working day after GE2011, when the Aljunied GRC had been won by WP from the PAP.
Mr. Singh referred to this point in the email, “I have also communicated to Ms. How our decision that Hougang Town Council will be merged with Aljunied Town Council. We will appoint (a) Managing Agent to manage the town instead of self-management.”
Ms. How, then Secretary for Hougang Town Council, received a copy of this email as well.
It is the Senior Counsel’s allegation that Mr. Low and the other WP MP’s had already decided to replace the existing managing agent for the town council, and did not bother to even evaluate its performance, saying, “This was the first working meeting after the euphoria of the elections… you had decided to axe CPG.”
Mr. Low denied this, saying that what they had discussed on May 9 was merely a contingency plan. He also cited that he had received feedback that CPG had not been responsive to the town council.
In fact, Mr. Low continued, it was only in a meeting with CPG onMay 30th that he learned the company was withdrawing its services.
The Senior Counsel countered this by saying that Danny Loh had applied for a new company name, as early as May 12, which proved that they had decided to set up FMSS by then. Mr. Low agreed this was so, and admitted that he had asked Mr. How’s aid in setting up a a facilities management company even before May 12, but that he was unaware of when exactly FMSS incorporated.
However, Mr. Singh argued the email dated May 9 was proof that Ms. How had been directed to incorporate FMSS in order to implement what they had planned.
Mr. Low reiterated this was a mere contingency plan, coming from his concern that CPG would withdraw after the opposition victory that secured the GRC.
When asked whether Mr. Low had informed CPG that they had chosen to replace them, Mr. Low said “Why should I tell them? It’s not a matter of replacement. They wanted out, they asked for a mutual release, we released them. And we appointed a new MA.”
The Senior Counsel also pointed out that Mr. Low neither read CPG’s contract nor accounted for its cost structure, because, he alleged, a plan that would benefit them was already in place. Again, Mr. Low replied that since CPG had given notice, there was no longer anything to discuss.
Mr. Singh said that Mr. Low had in effect made the opportunity for FMSS to conveniently replace CPG, a move that worked in the WP’s favor, since the party’s supporters made up FMSS. According to the Senior Counsel, this meant that Mr. Low“put political supporters ahead of residents’ interests,” an allegation which Mr. Low denied.
Mr. Singh then asked why FMSS had been set up in the first place, given that according to Mr. Low’s own affidavit, Ms. How and Mr. Loh were already thinking of retiring. He said that by doing this, Mr. Low had brought in a “profit element” as the couple had to set up a new company. Mr. Singh further alleged that Mr. Low “wanted CPG out” and was “playing with monies that didn’t belong to” him.
Mr. Low simply replied, “Your honour, I reject these allegations.”
All in all, Mr. Singh’s cross-examination of Mr. Low took three hours, and is scheduled to continue on Wednesday, October 17.