Singapore—Opposition leader Pritam Singh, the head of the Workers’ Party, said in a Facebook post earlier this month that a Barrier-Free-Access (BFA) ramp at Blk 108 Bedok Reservoir Road that should have only taken months to build, actually took all of seven years, because of “political double standards”.
He wrote that the People’s Association (PA) handed over the completed ramp to the WP-held Aljunied-Hougang Town Council only on October 14 this year, seven years after it had been mooted.
Mr Pritam denounced the practice of ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) candidates who had lost being appointed as grassroots advisers in opposition-held wards, saying this is one reason why development projects within a community are delayed.
Chua Eng Leong, a People’s Association (PA) grassroots adviser, responded to the Workers’ Party head’s remarks, and said they were “unsubstantiated,” “politically divisive and factually inaccurate”.
He added, “I have chosen to respond only so as to maintain a level of accountability to our residents and my fellow Singaporeans,” and said that Mr Pritam made these comments to distract from the recent High Court verdict finding Mr Pritam and fellow Aljunied GRC MPs Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim liable for damages suffered by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council.
In the latest chapter in this dispute, Mr Pritam wrote another Facebook post, this time in response to a piece written by Ng Wai Mun, a journalist with Lianhe Zaobao, which was translated into English and published in The Straits Times on Thursday, October 31.
Democracy: P.A.(P) Style________________________There was an interesting opinion piece published in the Straits Times…
Ms Ng wrote, “Against such a backdrop, it seems paradoxical for Mr Singh to criticise Mr Chua and his grassroots organisation for the delay in completing the ramp.
There might be a certain level of political consideration in play.
There is also a stark contrast between the proactive stance adopted by Mr Pritam and the passive one adopted by Mr Chua.
By making public the correspondence between WP’s town council and PA representatives, Mr Pritam’s relentlessness in trying to prove the existence of double standards in the funding of community improvement projects in opposition wards is obvious.”
Mr Pritam called his newest post, “Democracy: P.A.(P) Style.”
For the opposition leader, the writer of the piece had missed his point.
“The writer seems to have missed or ignored the larger point on how the appointment of losing PAP candidates as P.A. Grassroots Advisers compromises our democracy.”
He added, “It is no secret that losing PAP Grassroots Advisers do not just hold sway over taxpayer dollars for upgrading. Their real power and influence is far more fundamental, and political. In fact, it goes to the substance of what it means to have ‘free and fair elections’.”
Mr Pritam gave three examples to clarify his point—
First, when newly-minted Singaporean citizens receive their ICs “from losing PAP candidates.” The WP leader asked, “Shouldn’t a civil servant under the fiat of the President or a non-political individual at the very least preside over such ceremonies?”
Secondly—on the matter of grassroots leaders. He wrote, “The PAP government does not recognise any grassroots representatives unless they come under the P.A. umbrella. Opposition volunteers are not accorded the status of grassroots by the PAP. So in opposition wards, there are no grassroots representatives on the Town Council.”
Mr Pritam’s third point concerned funding. “In the absence of P.A. approved CIPC funding, opposition Town Councils have to rely on their own surpluses to fund improvement projects for residents, like AHTC has done this year. Doing so invariably eats into TC surpluses that can be used for other needs/purposes, while PAP Town Councils can rely on CIPC funding and/or keep their surpluses intact or tap on a lesser amount compared to opposition wards.”
Mr Pritam ends his post on a sharp note.
“Does the PAP use the P.A. to put its political interests ahead of the interests of Singaporeans? The answer is as clear as day, and I hope more journalists and political observers look beyond Singapore’s most famous ramp and analyse the political system that delayed its construction. Because as the ‘logic of the voters’ dictates, shouldn’t constructive politics be about fairness?”/ TISG
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