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Apex Court dismisses WP-run town council’s ‘dangerous restraint’ request for document handover to PRPTC

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The Court of Appeal has dismissed Aljunied Hougang Town Council’s (AHTC) condition that Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) sign a blanket non-disclosure agreement for handing over documents relating to Punggol East. The lawyers acting for PRPTC had on 26 Oct, described AHTC’s conditions for handing documents relating to Punggol East as a “dangerous restraint” that may lead to further disputes.

The Court however placed limits on PRPTC ‘s use of some of the documents which contain information about other constituencies still managed by AHTC. For these documents, PRPTC can only disclose or use them in the exercise of its rights and in the discharge of its duties under the law.

The Court ordered AHTC to handover all financial documents related to Punggol East constituency to PRPTC by Nov 4.

On 18 Aug, the court directed AHTC to hand over “Category 1” documents relating to the single-seat constituency. It further asked AHTC to hand over “Category 2” documents, except where it has “specific concerns on the confidentiality of specific parts…in which event the conditions on which access should be given to PRPTC would have to be worked out.”

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PRPTC sought an “urgent appointment” with the Court of Appeal when the Workers’ Party held town council delayed releasing some of these documents to PRPTC. In seeking the Court of Appeal’s direction, AHTC said that PRPTC should undertake a non-disclosure agreement with regards to documents relating to the constituency which went back to the PAP in the last General Election.

AHTC repeatedly cited confidentiality concerns that “need to be worked out” for the delay in the handover. The WP town council is worried that information relating to the town council’s vendors, contracting rates, and staff must not fall into the hands of a third party.

PRPTC argued that such a blanket non-disclosure condition regardless of whether there are concerns with the documents, would not be in the best interest of its residents. It pointed out that such a condition would defeat the entire purpose of the exercise, which is to help PRPTC discharge its duties and do its residents right.

The WP-run town council said that it would be challenging to sieve through files and extract documents pertaining to only Punggol East. When WP won the constituency in the 2013 by-election the political party annexed it with the other constituencies it held – forming the biggest town council (Aljunied-Hougang Punggol East Town Council) at that time.

PRPTC argued that AHTC’s convenience should not trump their directions to handover the documents in a timely manner. The Court said that it would decide on how the matter should be handled sometime this week.

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