Friday, 29 September 2023

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No basis for MP not to announce lift upgrading

Low Thia Khiang

This is a press release of the Worker’s Party. Low Thia Khiang is the Secretary-General of the Worker’s Party and the MP for Hougang.

I refer to the HDB’s reply to Mr Muhammad Yusuf Osman’s letter on the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP ) in opposition wards published today, titled “Why grassroots advisers announce lift upgrading”.

[Left: Upgraded elevators in a HDB block. Lift A (LUP) stops at all floors, while Lift B (older IUP/MUP) is an aesthetic update that continues to stop at selective floors. Photo Credit: Mailer_diablo]

The HDB deems it appropriate for the grassroots advisor to announce the LUP because “the adviser gathers input from residents, thereby ensuring that the programme’s plans meet residents’ needs”. The HDB further states that the adviser can propose changes based on residents’ feedback, and seek residents’ support.

On what basis does the HDB assume that the elected Member of Parliament, who has the support of the electorate in the constituency, is unable to do the same thing and is therefore not appropriate to play the same role as the adviser?

The HDB also said that the Town Councils have an in-depth knowledge of the schedule and status of the works in the estate and can co-ordinate other projects in the estate to minimize inconvenience to residents. Why is it, then, that elected opposition members, who are also chairmen of the Town Councils, are deemed less appropriate to announce and to manage the LUP?

Moreover, Town Councils are required to co-pay for the LUP whereas grassroots organizations are not. Why is the chairman of Town Council, the elected MP statutorily responsible for the management of the Town and who must decide to pay for the LUP, deemed to be inappropriate to play a leading role either in announcing the program or in the working committee?

In the concluding paragraph, HDB stated that they understood the advisers are ”working closely with the town council chairmen, that is, the respective Members of Parliament….” In other words, the role of the elected opposition Member of Parliament in this process is relegated to one which is administrative in nature, perhaps merely to authorize payment for the LUP from the Town Council funds to the HDB.

This is the manifestation of the government’s attitude towards elected opposition Members of Parliament, which is, that they are not representative of the constituency but the grassroots advisers are, despite the fact that the grassroots advisers, who were candidates of the People’s Action Party (PAP), were rejected by the voters at elections at Potong Pasir and Hougang.

I understand the LUP is essentially the government’s program although chairmen of opposition Town Councils have to agree to co-fund the program. I suppose the ruling party, the PAP, would want their potential candidates in the next election to claim credit for the LUP, although the money does not come from either the PAP or the grassroots organization. This is playing politics.

I am open and prepared to work with anyone from the government or its appointees for the benefit of my constituents. It does not matter what role I play or that I am seen to be cooperative with the government, so long as the will of the people at the election which returned me as their representative to Parliament is respected.

I feel compelled to respond to this issue because the justification given by the HDB for the role of advisers in opposition wards in LUP touches on the fundamental issue of respecting the will of the people expressed at elections. The elected representative in opposition wards in this instance is reduced to performing a municipal function as chairmen of Town Councils. This speaks so much of the respect of the ruling party for the will of the people expressed at General Elections and how mature we are as a democracy.

Low Thia Khiang
Member of Parliament for Hougang

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