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SMU lecturer: New Sengkang Town Council unlikely to drop lawsuit against WP members

Singapore Management University lecturer Nicholas Liu is quoted as saying that due to its fiduciary duties to the town council, the new SKTC will not drop the lawsuit

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Singapore—Commenting on the standing lawsuit filed by the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) against members of Workers’ Party (WP), a lecturer from SMU has said that it’s improbable that the suit will be dropped, even though Sengkang is now under the WP.

The newly-formed Sengkang Town Council (SKTC) is set to take over the management of a lawsuit that was filed by the PRPTC, since the Sengkang GRC encompasses Punggol East SMC, parts of the former Sengkang West SMC and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

In an August 4 article in the straitstimes.com, Singapore Management University lecturer Nicholas Liu is quoted as saying that due to its fiduciary duties to the town council, the new SKTC will not drop the lawsuit.

Mr Liu cited a ruling from the High Court from 2019 that said that town councillors have fiduciary duties to town councils, and that what SKTC can do is appoint an independent panel to direct the suit on its behalf as the “only legally safe and practical way forward.”

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Calling the ruling from Justice Kannan Ramesh a landmark decision, he said “This holding was a first for Singapore law.”

In October 2019, Justice Ramesh had found former WP leader Low Thia Khiang, current party chair Sylvia Lim and the other defendants in the in the lawsuit filed by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to be “in breach of their fiduciary duties”.

Lawyers for the WP have appealed the decision from Justice Ramesh.

In an article published on Singapore LawBlog last week, Mr Liu wrote that the matter is “not that simple” and if the town council were to continue the suit, it may find itself in a conflict of interest.

The SMU lecturer wrote, “Thus, the only legally safe and practical way forward appears to be for SKTC to appoint an independent panel to direct the litigation on its behalf, as was previously done by AHTC in consultation with the Housing and Development Board.

The independent panel would then be in a position to decide whether the suit should continue and, assuming it does, to steer the proceedings.”

Mr Liu also outlined what may happen should the SKTC drop the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) lawsuit. If they decided to do so, he wrote, “the Sengkang town councillors would run a serious risk of being in breach of their own fiduciary duties to SKTC, exposing themselves to potential proceedings in future. Given that the WP has controlled AHTC since the 2015 General Election (although it entrusted the conduct of the litigation to an independent panel), this awkward situation of ‘ownself sue ownself’ is a somewhat familiar one.”

WP MP-elect He Ting Ru announced on July 18 that the WP MPs are planning on running the Sengkang Town Council on their own. Ms He said that she and the other WP MPs-elect told the Ministry of National Development that they will not be merging with another constituency.

Ms He, a lawyer, will be chair of the new Sengkang Town Council. She also announced the allocation of the WP MPs for the four divisions in Sengkang: Jamus Lim will represent Anchorvale; Ms He, Buangkok, Raeesah Khan, Compassvale; and Louis Chua, Rivervale.

On July 24, Ms He, on behalf of the other WP Sengkang MPs, wrote in a Facebook post, “We remain guided by our overriding duty to always act in the best interests of the residents of Sengkang GRC.”

The Ministry of National Development announced on July 30 that 17 town councils, including the SKTC, had been formed. The town councils have until October 28 for their handovers. —/TISG

Read related: AHTC’s attempt to amend claim “prejudicial”: WP lawyers

AHTC’s attempt to amend claim “prejudicial”: WP lawyers

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