​Why the WP said 'No' to independent checks
PUBLISHED ON 14 Mar 2017
I am deeply concerned by the Workers’ Party’s stand in the recent debate in Parliament on the Town Council Amendment Bill. 

The proposed changes are meant to protect the interests of residents, and strengthen governance of the Town Councils. 

Yet, Ms Sylvia Lim criticised the amendments as “fundamentally flawed”. 

Why? Because, according to her, the Ministry for National Development (MND) could not be the regulator since the head of the Ministry is a political officeholder, and also runs a town council. 

But this is a completely spurious argument. 

Like other Parliamentary democracies, in Singapore the government ministries are helmed by elected office-holders, who exercise their powers according to the law.
If a conflict of interest situation arises, there are established ways to deal with it, like having other office-holders step in to exercise those powers. 

Indeed, taking Ms Lim’s suggestion to its conclusion, all enforcement agencies – including the Police – would have to come under “independent” bodies and persons, rather than government ministries and elected ministers accountable to Parliament and voters! 

This is surely absurd. Who then would appoint these “independent” bodies and persons?

Even more worryingly, the Workers’ Party made sweeping allegations against public servants, suggesting that they act in a partisan way, and are unlikely to “issue stinging reports against the Town Councils run by the PM or the Minister for National Development”.

It is sad that Ms Lim has resorted to such baseless and cynical remarks.
Our public servants carry out their duties diligently and professionally, to serve the interests of all Singaporeans, and I felt I had to put this on record during the debate on the Bill.

Unfortunately, Ms Lim and the Workers’ Party appear all too ready to tear this institution down with their unfounded attacks and smears. 

One only needs to look at one recent case involving Ang Mo Kio Town Council, to appreciate how groundless such remarks are. When a complaint was made against the General Manager of AMKTC, the CPIB promptly moved in to investigate.  There was no hesitation to act, no attempt to sweep things under the carpet. 

I can’t help but wonder – why does the Workers’ Party so strongly oppose improving oversight of Town Councils?

Could it be they simply do not want oversight of their own AHTC, which continues to be plagued by poor governance and control failures? 

After all, when HDB applied to the Court in 2015 to appoint an independent auditor to look into AHTC’s problems, AHTC fought the application and tried to stop an independent auditor from being appointed. 

AHTC’s lawyer argued in Court, on AHTC’s behalf, that even if there was mismanagement and misspent funds, nothing could be done, other than through the ballot box

Perhaps this is the real reason. 

The Workers’ Party simply does not want anyone, independent or otherwise, to check on them. 

Not a good sign, that a Party which hopes voters will entrust them with their livelihoods and futures, does not want to be held accountable, and shows it so nakedly.

Chia Shi-Lu
Member of Parliament, Tanjong Pagar GRC

Image source: ChannelNews Asia