Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan has asserted that Bukit Batok SMC MP Murali Pillai’s continued silence on the fire hose reel issue at Block 210A Bukit Batok Street 21 contradicts Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s call for MPs to win the trust of the people by being open and transparent.
Earlier, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) reported that the fire hose reel at Block 210A was padlocked and did not have water supply when a fire broke out in a 13th-floor unit, causing a delay in putting out the blaze which had entrapped three residents.
Dr Chee, who regularly walks the ground at Bukit Batok after he contested the ward in the 2016 by-election, has been asking MP Murali Pillai to explain to residents why the fire hose reel was padlocked and did not have water supply on the night of the fire.
Days after Dr Chee published an open letter asking Mr Pillai to provide a transparent account of events to Bukit Batok residents, Jurong-Clementi Town Council’s (JCTC) general manager Ho Thian Poh said that the fire hose reels at Block 201A had been working two weeks before the fire.
Despite this, he said that the town council which oversees Bukit Batok “accept[s] the SCDF’s finding that the hose in question was not working on the day of the fire.”
JCTC’s statement, however, puzzled Dr Chee who had been told by a man claiming to be affiliated with the contractor in charge of maintaining the hose reel that the contractor inspected the hose reel hours after the fire and found it to be in working condition. Claiming that the inspection was supervised by a JCTC official, the man also provided Dr Chee with a copy of the job sheet purportedly proving the inspection.
JCTC’s statement omitted explaining why the fire hose reels were padlocked and failed to mention that the SCDF issued Fire Hazard Abatement Notices to the town council.
Dissatisfied with the town council, which also did not mention whether an inspection occurred right after the fire as per the job sheet that Dr Chee highlighted in public, the SDP chief has raised more questions for Mr Pillai.
In a Facebook post published this afternoon (14 Nov), Dr Chee summarised the SCDF’s findings and said that the two violations the SCDF discovered constitute an act of omission – or absence of action – and an act of commission, where a deliberate decision resulted in the violation. He wrote:
“There were two violations that the SCDF cited. One, the cabinets housing the fire hoses were padlocked. Two, when firefighters managed to break the locks, they discovered that there was no water.
“There is a difference between these two violations. One is an act of omission. The lack of water supply could be due to oversight, carelessness and/or negligence. That is, there was an absence of action.
“The second, which is altogether more serious, is an act of commission. The installation of locks on the cabinets required proactive measures. In other words, someone (or some people) made a conscious decision that resulted in the commission of the violation.”
The opposition politician then raised a series of critical questions for Mr Pillai to answer:
1. Did the MPs know that the cabinets were locked? If yes, why did they authorise it? If no, were they sleeping on the job? This is the safety of the residents we’re talking about.
2. If the padlocking was authorised, who authorised it?
3. What was the reason(s) given for padlocking the cabinets?
4. Were Town Council funds disbursed for the purchase of the locks and installation?
5. How widespread is the problem? Have other town councils also padlocked the hosereels?
Pointing out that Mr Pillai is ultimately responsible for what happens in his ward and should not let the town council speak for him, Dr Chee asserted that the elected MP’s continued silence makes a “mockery” of DPM Heng’s recent call that MPs should earn the people’s trust by being open and transparent:
“The MPs, in particular Mr Murali, cannot continue to use the Town Council to speak for them because they are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in their estates. The buck stops with them.
“The matter is of intense public interest and the longer Mr Murali delays giving a full account of the violations, the bigger the mockery he makes of Mr Heng Swee Keat’s call for MPs to win trust by being open and transparent.”
More questions regarding the BB-fire-no-water saga. There were two violations that the SCDF cited. One, the cabinets…