Reflections of a MP in Aljunied GRC on the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and Bukit Batok By-election

While everyone is talking about the plans put forth by People’s Action Party candidate, Mr Murali Pillai for the Bukit Batok SMC by-election and how he seems to be threatening the voters of Bukit Batok that plans that he proposed would be scraped, should he not be elected. Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC, Mr Pritam Singh wrote on his Facebook page, reflecting upon the experience that the Workers’ Party had with the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP).

Mr Pritam Singh noted in 2011, about 3-4 weeks before the General Elections, the then PAP-managed Aljunied Town Council carried out an exhibition for a NRP at a precinct in his ward of Eunos. The timing and message of the exhibition was political by any stretch of the imagination, i.e. vote for PAP, residents get upgrading.

Below is his write up in entirety.

What the putative PAP candidate for Bukit Batok, Mr Murali is saying is technically not wrong. NRP projects are implemented by Town Councils. Should residents not choose the PAP candidate, the Jurong-Clementi Town Council (which Bukit Batok SMC would appear to be subsumed under after 7 May if the PAP has its way) would not be able to carry on with the NRP – as they envision it.

After the 2011 elections, the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council checked with HDB if the NRP project at Eunos Spring (the precinct in question) could go ahead because of a change of Town Councils, and an opposition Town Council at that. The answer was YES. In addition, we were free to determine if we wanted to change the proposal of the previous PAP-run Aljunied Town Council with regard to the NRP upgrading plans – that’s the nature of the NRP and how it works. A Town Council then seeks resident’s feedback and proposes a plan for residents to approve (requires 75% approval).

I have no doubt HDB will not withdraw NRP funds committed for the NRP at Blk 140-149 Bukit Batok West Ave 4, regardless who wins, based on the post-2011 precedent of Eunos Spring. It would be opening itself up to a judicial review of administrative action in Court if it did.

What is disconcerting is how the issue is left hanging in the air days after the “carrot” is publicly “announced”. For political reasons to favor the PAP? One cannot help but to draw that conclusion.

For some reason, this reminds me of Speaker of Parliament Mdm Halimah Yacob’s comments as she rounded up the recently concluded Committee of Supply debate. The Speaker noted that in the course of the debate, she continued with her house visits and observed that many residents were generally disinterested about what was going on in Parliament over the course of the Committee’s debate. The Committee of Supply debates are probably the most significant (and stressful) time for most MPs and parliamentary staff (and civil servants too)! I think one big reason for this general apathy by the public is a lack of enough depth and explanation on such critical issues by the mainstream media. After all, upgrading funds come from the taxpayer! As a lacuna exists and people are not adequately informed, the public space is filled up by misinformation and a lack of information (even more so during election season) – both of which are unhealthy for our future as one united people.