The people’s perception of the Workers’ Party (WP) will be impacted because of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) lawsuit and the party must convince the public that the WP is a strong party with a stake in local politics.
This is according to WP Member of Parliament (MP) Pritam Singh who was interviewed by Lianhe Zaobao ahead of the party’s 60th anniversary. Singh shed light on the lawsuit his party is facing and spoke about leadership renewal in the interview which was published today.
Singh, an MP elected to serve Aljunied GRC, is one of the defendants in the AHTC lawsuit which he says will go to trial in the second half of 2018 at the “earliest.” The lawsuit was filed by an independent panel that was set up to investigate governance lapses and improper payments using public funds in the town council.
The independent panel was appointed by the town council, at the behest of Housing Development Board (HDB), in February 2017 after audit firm KPMG released a report last year that AHTC had put millions of dollars from public funds at risk of improper use due to governance lapses from 2011-2015. KPMG had flagged payments to the town council’s then-managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) as ‘improper’ since the owners of FMSS held key management and financial control positions in the town council at the same time.
The panel filed a lawsuit against Singh and his fellow Aljunied MPs Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim, among others, and is seeking to claim a total of S$4,790,095.49 in court comprising S$622,593.78 in liquidated claims and S$4,167,501.71 in unliquidated claims.
In speaking with the Chinese daily, Singh said that the onus is on the party to prove the value it brings to local politics to Singaporeans:
“Public perception of WP will definitely be impacted…our party has to transcend the lawsuits and deliver a convincing message to the public, so that they can understand that there are grounds for WP to continue to have a stake in local politics. We need a strong opposition, a stronger opposition than what we have now.”
Singh added that the lawsuit has cast uncertainty over leadership renewal within the party. Singh is widely speculated to be the next party chief after he was named Assistant Secretary-General last June – this is particularly notable since the seat had been vacant for 10 years prior to that. He would be succeeding current party head Low Thia Khiang if he is named Secretary-General.
Some may even say that accepting an interview with a Chinese-language paper is perhaps demonstrative of Singh’s growing stature within the party. Singh said on the topic of internal leadership renewal:
“Over the years, some party members have proven that they have ability to take up leadership positions. Currently, the potential to take over the leadership of the party is not limited to one or two individuals, there’s actually a team that is capable of becoming the core of the next leadership team. This is a very healthy development, and I think we may be the only opposition party that treats leadership renewal with such seriousness.”
The WP will unveil its new headquarters next week, on 29 Sept, as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations. It will also hold an 80-table dinner to thank its supporters for helping it reach such a significant milestone.