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AHTC court case is an opportunity for Workers’ Party to put their side of the story to the public

Workers' Party Secretary General Low Thia Khiang, Aljunied Hougang Town Council (AHTC) Chairman Pritam Singh and Vice-Chairman Sylvia Lim were interviewed by members of the press on 26 July in regards to the ongoing legal suit that was filed by the independent panel on behalf of AHTC.

The independent panel which is chaired by senior counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, and comprises senior counsel N. Sreenivasan and KPMG managing partner Ong Pang Thye is seeking to claim through the legal suit against six individuals for a sum of $622,593.78 in liquidated claims from multiple parties, as well as $4,167,501.71 in unliquidated claims. It further claims that $33 million of payment that was made to FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) for service rendered is void.

Below is the transcript of the interview

Low Thia Khiang: Hello everyone, thank you for coming. I know you have a lot of questions to ask but let me start that first and foremost my conscience is clear , we had acted in good faith and to the best interest of our residents and there is no dishonest intention. You may ask questions that you want to ask.

Reporter: They have said that you have made false representation and misrepresentations with regards to the junction where CPG was being released and the appointment of FMSS, what do you say to that?

Sylvia Lim: I think as we have mentioned in our statement, we reject these allegations against us and as you know the case has been filed in court so we intend to present our defence in the proper forum and we have been advised that it may not be proper for us to go into some of these details right now so we hope you understand that.

Reporter: Mr Low, how do you see this latest move as further eroding the trust that the residents have, first to the Town Council and second, the Workers’ Party.

Low Thia Khiang: Well, we are always open . We leave it to the residents and the voters of Singapore to make their judgement and I say once again here , my conscience is clear . We acted in good faith.

Reporter: Can you share more about what is going to happen next right now? The timeline and the proceedings.

Sylvia Lim: As you know, this is a civil case filed against us in the High Court so in accordance with the rules of court. There are certain documents that need to be filed in the next couple of weeks. The first one will be the memorandum of appearance that will be filed from about one week from the time we received the writ of summons and then two weeks from then we will be entering our substantive defence so in all these things of course, we will be working with our lawyers M/s Tan Rajah and Cheah and in due course, if we can share more information, we certainly will.

Reporter: What is your response to the headline figure of $33 million that they want you to account for?

Sylvia Lim: May I answer? I think that is calculated to be the total value of the payments made but as I said earlier. We reject the allegations that these payments were unlawful or wrong and it will be up to the court to determine what they think is fair and correct position. So I am afraid we cannot go into the merits of our defence in detail now because we have to do it in the court.

Reporter: Will you be liable for any amount? What is your contingency if you are unable to get the funds to pay for it.

Sylvia Lim: I suppose we’ll have to look at the amount and see whether we have the means to pay. If we don’t, we may have to consider other options perhaps raising funds or if we are not able to, then I suppose the law will take its course.

Reporter: Are the MPs having any concerns that given if let’s say the lawsuit is actually successful and as you said, find ways to pay the fund for the settlement. But in case you don’t, are there any chances it might cost you your seat?

Sylvia Lim: I think we are aware of what the law provides for. At the moment, we are focused our defence in court and of course, law suits are never pleasant but we welcome this opportunity to actually go into detail to explain to the court and to the public why we make certain decisions at a point in time and we hope that because town council management is a bit of technical matter , we hope that with this court case there will be greater understanding especially on the public’s point of view to better understand why and what the considerations were when we made those decision and why we still stand firm that what we did was in the best interest of the council based on the information we had at the time.

Reporter: HDB said that they are studying the statement of claim and is seeking AGC’s advice . Will there be concern that there could be further action down the road. Are you prepared in seeing that coming?

Sylvia Lim: Well, we read that news about HDB seeking AGC’s advice on the statement of claim. I mean as far as we know , the statement of claim is still before the court , the case is not over.

Reporter: Mr Pritam Singh, can you give us your perspective as well for the report on the case

Pritam Singh: Well, I will reiterate the words of Ms Sylvia Lim. I see the court case as an opportunity for us to put our side of the story out there and so our defence is expected to be very robust defence and we hope that the residents will also have the opportunity to have a look at the defense quite closely because we will be making it known to the public and I’m sure the media will do its job and put that defence out there for people to get a full perspective of the matter.

It is my firm conviction that we have acted in good faith and we are not in politics for the purposes of, you know, enriching ourselves and you know things of that nature. We hope to serve the community to the best of our abilities. That’s the commitment we made in 2011. Same commitment we made on nomination day in 2015 and that commitment remains

Reporter: My question for Mr Low, the case has been going since 2014 . How do you try to restore the faith and confidence of your constituents?

Low Thia Khiang: I don’t think Singaporeans have lost faith on us. We are acted in good faith and I believe Singaporeans will trust us. 2015 election is a testimony to us and it was worse than this, during the election or before the election. MND or HDB was  coming up with a worse statement during the election and the PAP brought the issue to the ground, distributing pamphlets door to door but we are prepared to be judged by the people . As what I say, my conscience is clear, we acted in good faith and in the best interest of the residents. The residents can see for themselves and I have been in politics for twenty years and more than twenty years I think people know me. So be it.

Reporter: There is a leadership challenge last year for your position. Do you think this issue will erode your popularity among your members within the party itself

Low Thia Khiang: Well I don’t really care about my popularity in the first place. I do my part and I always believe that what is important is that you have to keep your conscience clear in politics. I mean people always have different opinion of you being a public figure but just do what you are supposed to do. What you have to do and be clear of what you are doing , that is my belief and what I have been doing.

And leadership challenge is a good thing. That shows that the workers’ party is maturing. There are people prepared to be in a leadership position because leadership means responsibility and very happy that people are prepared to come forward to serve and to take the responsibility and the worst thing that could happen is nobody wants a leadership position so I am happy that there is challenge and I look forward to more challenges and well.

I have said about renewal since I took over in 2001, that has been my priority . I am happy to see that the party has renewed, we have more new members today and I think I am the oldest in the CEC so ok that is fine . So some of you might be worried what happen if we lose our seat . I can tell you, we lose our seats, there will be more people and the younger generation  Workers’ Party will be prepared to come forward to serve Singaporeans. So I am not worried .

Pritam Singh: You can count on it.