On Saturday (19 October), the People’s Association’s (PA) grassroots adviser, Chua Eng Leong, for Eunos ward took to his Facebook to hit back at Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh over what Mr Chua refers to as “unsubstantiated comments” about the delay in the completion of a barrier-free-access (BFA) ramp at Blk 108 Bedok Reservoir Road.
Mr Chua – who was part of the People’s Action Party (PAP) team that lost to WP in Aljunied GRC during the 2015 General Election – stated that Mr Singh’s allegations are “politically divisive and factually inaccurate”, and he decided to respond to it in order to maintain a “level of accountability” to the people of Singapore.
He was referring to Mr Singh’s Facebook post on Tuesday (15 October) where the opposition MP said that the BFA ramp was only opened to the public, seven years after it was first proposed. He noted that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) has been waiting for documentation and additional pipe diversion to be completed before receiving approval to open the BFA for resident use.
Mr Singh also highlighted that the government allocates about S$40 million to all Town Councils around Singapore for community improvement projects. However, for projects to be funded, MPs have to raise them to the Grassroots Advisers for consideration, which can be challenging as the losing PAP candidate are appointed as Grassroots advisors in opposition wards like Aljunied and Hougang.
As such, Mr Singh asserted that the PAP is “divisive” and have “double standard” when it comes to how certain process operate in opposition party.
He also pointed out that the project took years to complete when it should have only taken months.
“How many senior citizens, immobile, and yet others recovering from episodes such as debilitating strokes could have benefited from this facility earlier, but for how the PAP determines the People’s Association operates in opposition wards. Other proposals by opposition MPs for the community are commonly ignored by the People’s Association,” Mr Singh lamented.
In response to this, Mr Chua clarified that the BFA ramp is only one of the many community improvement projects by the People’s Association Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCC) in Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC.
Therefore, Mr Chua urged the public to look at other projects undertaken by the CCCs like “the covered linkway for BFA ramp at Blk 118 Hougang Ave 1 and the linkway from 409 to Blk 460 at Hougang Ave 10, which have been conveniently ignored by Mr Singh”.
Mr Chua also said that Mr Singh’s allegation that the completion of the BFA ramp was deliberately delayed as it was mooted by the opposition was “unjustifiable” since the project was also proposed by the Eunos CCC.
“I should also add that the truth of the matter is that the BFA Ramp was concurrently proposed by the Eunos CCC and definitely not proposed only by the Aljunied Hougang Town Council (AHTC) which Mr Singh seems to be alluding to. Considering this BFA Ramp was proposed by Eunos CCC, why would Eunos CCC delay the project,” asked Mr Chua.
He continued, “Regardless of whether a project is proposed by the AHTC or the Eunos CCC, the Eunos CCC and the PA would ensure the seamless completion of the project once the necessary approvals have been granted. Any insinuation that there was a delay in the completion of the BFA Ramp because it was a proposal mooted by the opposition party is therefore unjustifiable.”
Additionally, Mr Chua also revealed that the funding for the ramp and other community improvement projects were secured in September 2016, and the construction for the ramp commenced in December 2018 and it was handed over to Town Council this month.
The grassroots adviser also mentioned that the contractors “did ask for extensions of time” which is “part and parcel of constructions works”.
“Nonetheless, it is important to highlight that the BFA Ramp, like all other CCC projects were completed within a reasonable period of time once the underlying issues were resolved,” he wrote.
Separately, Mr Chua also said that it’s “politically mischievous” for Mr Singh to say that the proposals raised by MPs are usually ignored.
“In fact, Mr Singh had acknowledged in 2015 that 17 of AHTC’s proposed projects were accepted. Even proposal, whether from MPs or from the CCCs, must be scrutinized and prioritized carefully, with accountability in how we justify and award such contracts,” he said.
He added, “In any event, regardless of whether it is the People’s Association, the CCCs or the opposition MPs, I believe there should be no distinction drawn when serving our fellow Singaporeans and we must not forget our promise to the people, which is to serve them with our hearts.”
On the subject of accountability, Mr Chua also sarcastically noted that accountability is a responsibility of all parties to the people of Singapore, including those “parties (who) have been found to be in breach of their fiduciary duties”.
Earlier this month, the High Court found Workers’ Party (WP) Aljunied GRC Members of Parliament (MPs) Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang liable for damages against the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC).
Referring to this case, Mr Chua said that he has “received queries from numerous residents about what the incumbent town council has done for them over the course of these past 8 years”.
“Instead of engaging in an online debate, I urge everyone to remember our priority is to our fellow Singaporeans and we should focus on accountability to them and not debate on a completed BFA Ramp, which is but a mere red herring,” Mr Chua wrote.
Mr Singh responds
A few hours after Mr Chua’s Facebook post went online, WP’s chief responded on the same social media platform.
He said that he was glad that the “CCC finally engage this issue, albeit only after things have to go to public”. He also noted “repeated emails, requests for answers have gone unanswered and ignored, over many years”.
Mr Singh revealed that in the heat of the previous general election, the PA openly said that they have approved a few of the Community Improvement Project Committee (CIPC) for AHTC, which includes the two for Eunos.
“So naturally, my attention would be fixed on why one of the two projects in Eunos had taken seven years to be finally completed. There has been no news from the PA on the other proposal for Blk 633 to 635, in spite of repeated reminders,” he wrote.
He also stated that now he understands that the BFA ramp was “concurrently proposed”. Hence he asked “why was there a delay” given that the funding was secured in 2016.
“If funding was already secured in 2016 (putting aside the fact that it oddly took 3-4 years to secure funding, especially since the MND allocated about $40m each year for CIPC projects), I cannot find a substantive reason for the delay in Mr Chua’s long post below,” he said.
On top of that, Mr Singh also questioned if “a seven year wait for a proposal to come to fruition the norm in PAP wards where taxpayers monies are also used to fund CPIC projects?”
Although Mr Singh agrees with Mr Chua that “every CIPC proposal must be scrutinized and prioritized with accountability”, he also hinted that Mr Chua can perhaps “share some numbers so the public can understand how much was allocated to the Aljunied CCCs” after the opposition party took over the division in 2011, compared with the average for CCCs in all other constituencies.
“If the difference is stark, maybe the Aljunied CCCs would raise their hands and acknowledged the elephant in the room?” he said.
Mr Singh also added, “Mr Chua contends that the BFA ramp is a red herring. He is wrong. It is a metaphor – A very powerful metaphor for the double standards when it comes to CIPC funding in opposition wards.”
In a reply to Mr Chua’s move to bring up the findings discovered by the High Court on the AHTC case, Mr Singh said that he “fully expected some reference in any reply to my original post to the ongoing Court case”. However, he said that the will not be commenting on it as the matter still remains before the courts.
In the end of his post, Mr Singh suggested that the “Aljunied and Hougang CCCs and elected opposition MPs in the ward sit down together to develop a protocol on how CIPC proposals should be handled in opposition wards so as to ensure equity in disbursement of taxpayer dollars and efficient execution of CIPC projects?”
“I will be happy to be a part of the solution,” he said.