Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh asked the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) yesterday (5 Nov) to “explain truthfully” its motive in bringing forward a motion against Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim that is centred on ongoing legal proceedings.
Mr Pritam made this call after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat introduced a motion calling on Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) 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.
Asserting that a “time of reckoning” has come for the WP after years of “deception,” DPM Heng demanded that the WP “cannot stay silent,” in an hour-long speech in Parliament. Asking the party if it will apologise and remove Sylvia Lim from her post as vice-chairman of the town council, Mr Heng suggested that the WP leaders are “playing the victim or the underdog.”
Ms Lim, who serves as the party’s chairman, noted that the PAP was “clearly excited” about the High Court judgment and stressed that the motion appears to be aimed at curtailing Mr Low’s and her duties as elected MP:
She said: “As Members of Parliament, Mr Low Thia Khiang and I have duties to discharge, and this motion appears to be aimed at curtailing us from discharging our duties while the case is still pending for final adjudication.”
Calling DPM Heng’s motion “telling but premature,” Ms Lim asked Parliament to reject the motion and clarified that the WP MPs will appeal the High Court decision at the apex court. Noting that Singapore has a “court structure” that allows parties to appeal High Court judgments through the Court of Appeal, she pointed out that the WP politicians are within the one-month timeframe to do so.
Echoing Ms Lim’s views, Mr Pritam called the motion “hurried” and “premature”. He said: “There is no reason for Parliament to be prematurely hijacked as a substitute for the judicial process when the window for appeal on the judgement has not closed.”
Pointing out that the timing of the motion is “highly unusual for a legal system that places an exacting premium on the rule of law as a defining characteristic of the country,” Mr Pritam asked the PAP to “explain truthfully” what its motive was in filing such a motion before the legal case concludes.
Despite Mr Pritam’s views, the motion was eventually passed 52-9. All nine WP MPs voted against it and two Nominated MPs abstained from voting.
Earlier, Mr Pritam had said that he will not vote for Mr Low and Ms Lim to be recused from financial matters in AHTC’s internal vote even if the motion was passed. He stressed: “Once again, it is only appropriate for council to take a collective decision on any recusal if it decides to do so, and AHTC will act according to council’s decisions.”
On why he will not be voting to recuse Mr Low and Ms Lim, Mr Singh said that the existing town councillors could use Mr Low’s insight and depth of town council experience and a longtime elected opposition town councillor.
Pointing out that Ms Lim managed AHTC “without the major disruption of service affecting the lives of residents” in spite of “challenging circumstances” and “tremendous pressure” during her time as AHTC chairman from 2011 to 2015, Mr Singh added that she contributed to the “positive transformation” of AHTC in her current role as vice-chairman.
This transformation led to the town council’s auditors submitting an unqualified audited report of its annual report for its last financial year. -/TISG