On Wednesday, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC, Ms Sylvia Lim spoke in parliament on the question of whether have the People’s Association deviated from its mandate to counter communist activities and fostering social stability and national security.
She questioned if the high expenditure of PA at nearly $900 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 is justified, given that it is a significant 34% increase from FY2014.
Ms Lim also shared how it seems to her that some PA activities have exceeded its mandate. She said, “An unhealthy culture seems to have developed within some quarters of the PA who sees its role to include advancing the ruling party politically, and undermining the work of opposition MPs. PA activists being mobilised to campaign for PAP candidates at elections is just one aspect.”
Today in Parliament, Deputy Chairman of the People’s Association and Minister in the Prime Minister Office, Mr Chan Chun Sing retorted Ms Lim’s claim by saying that he has seen participants of PA activities supporting both the incumbent PAP and the Opposition during the General Election.
“When I see my own residents, participants of my PA activities, supporting the Opposition, I can only ask myself: ‘How can I work harder to win them over?'” said Mr Chan and added, “The PA is a statutory board. It executes the directions for the Government of the day, as per any statutory board. The PA does not allow any political activity or canvassing on our premises or in our activities. And we certainly do not mobilise anyone for any political party,”
Mr Chan went further to defend the good name of PA, by saying, “If Ms Lim has any such evidence of wrongdoing, you can let me know, and I guarantee you I will follow up. I will be the last person to ever allow the PA to be politicised.”
Mr Chan shooting himself in the foot
When Mr Chan spoke the above comment to rebut Ms Lim’s claim about PA, he might have forgotten the infamous incident that was caught on video by TOC’s reporter during the General Election 2011.
The reporter had went up to the “supporters” at the PAP’s rally and asked them when they were there. the auntie told the reporter that they were told to attend the rally by the Residents’ Committee (RC) and were ferried to the rally site and given dinner. No one knows exactly who paid for the transportation and food.
But in any case, Mr Chan came into video and behaved in an awkwardly friendly manner, speaking to the auntie before moving off.
That was in 2011.
In 2015’s General Election, TOC also reported a few more incidents and was informed about even more but unable to follow up due to the lack of resources.
One of such incidents that was reported by TOC is the celebration event at Choa Chu Kang during the election period, which is funded and organised by the PA. The celebration event does not seem to have any obvious reason apart from showcasing the PAP candidates for the Choa Chu Kang GRC. (read here)
The candidates were given the spotlight to go on stage and attendees were given handouts depicting what future development will Choa Chu Kang be getting (should PAP be elected). When TOC wrote to the election department on this issue, the ELD choose to keep its silence.
Unless PA is transparent about how it utilise its funding especially during the election period, it is hard to believe that the organisation with Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Secretary General of PAP as its chairman did not use any resources in the interest for the political party. Does any entity conduct audits on its activities? Even ELD kept quiet for over 8 separate queries from TOC on the conduct of PAP during the election.
Bearing in mind that the various subsets of PA, RCs, GROs and etc, had not been subjected to the Auditor General’s Office’s audit from its formation till last year and had numerous counts of financial discrepancies just from a sample audit.
TOC itself did not observe any case where PA held activities for opposition during the election, like what Mr Chan had said in parliament, perhaps he would like to elaborate on the specific incidents if he is keen on convincing the cynical public.
Until more evidence is given by PA that it is indeed non-partisan, PA remains just a P away from PAP in the eyes of the public