The motion calling for Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to require Workers’ Party (WP) leaders Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang to “recuse” themselves from financial matters has been passed in Parliament on Tuesday (5 Nov).
After a lengthy debate of more than four hours over the motion, 52 Members of Parliament stood in support of the motion and nine WP MPs voting against it. There were two abstentions by Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong and NMP Walter Theseira.
The current parliament has 82 PAP MPs, 9 WP MPs and 9 nominated members of Parliament.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his opening address of the debate, called on the WP to “take action” in light of the recent judgement which the party was accused of misusing of town council funds. He also accused the party of not having to account for their dishonesties and untruths.
“All that this House is asking, is for Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from dealing with or having oversight over financial matters, until the court case is concluded,” said Mr Heng who is also the Finance Minister and First Assistant Secretary-General of the People’s Action Party, adding that “this is the least they can do” given the court’s findings.
In response, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said that she along with her colleagues have reviewed the judgment with their lawyers and be filing an appeal with the Court of Appeal.
She added that Mr Heng had acted “prematurely” in his decision to file the motion and asked the House to reject it.
“The DPM acted prematurely in his decision to file the motion – and I ask the House to reject it”, said Ms Lim.
WP Secretary-General Pritam Singh also stood up and described the motion as “hurried and premature”.
“There is no reason for Parliament to be prematurely hijacked as a substitute for the judicial process”, said Mr Singh. He added, “The Workers’ Party have read the motion carefully and all the Workers’ Party MPs will unanimously vote against it,”
High Court finds WP’s Aljunied GRC MPs Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang liable for damages against town council
Last 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).
Judge Kannan Ramesh, in his written judgement, ruled that Lim and Low as town councillors had acted in breach of their fiduciary duties to AHTC.
He reasoned that such breach of fiduciary duties was evident in the waiver of tender leading to the award of the first managing agent (MA) contract to FM Solutions & Services (FMSS).
The waiver, said the judge, was “not justified under the Town Council Financial Rules (TCFR), and that subsequently, Lim and Low had “failed to act in AHTC’s best interests and had acted for extraneous purposes”.
“The evidence shows that there was a clear plan for FMSS to replace the incumbent MA CPG regardless of CPG’s intention as regards the existing MA contract, and that this decision was made by Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang shortly after the 2011 General Elections,” said Justice Kannan.
“There was no urgency of circumstances that would have justified the waiver of tender, particularly since CPG was contractually obliged to continue serving as the MA under the existing MA contract, and the defendants should have held CPG to that contractual obligation, at least for such time as was necessary for a tender to be called,” he added.
The judge also stressed that the TCFR does not permit such waiver “except in very special circumstances”, and said that it was “clear” to him that “other alternative solutions had not been explored in this case before tender was waived”.
“This was because the sole objective was for CPG to be replaced as MA by FMSS,” he said, pointing out that Low’s “own evidence” had demonstrated “the real reason” behind the waiver of tender.
Low’s purported “distrust of CPG and other entities he perceived to be affiliated to the People’s Action Party”, in addition to his “sense of loyalty towards the staff of Hougang Town Council who risked being retrenched if CPG continued as MA of the expanded AHTC” were reasons cited by Justice Kannan behind Low’s move to waive the tender.
Commenting on Singh’s role in the case, Justice Kannan said that while “it cannot be said that he has breached his fiduciary duties to AHTC” based on the available evidence, the former had breached his “duties of skill and care” to the Town Council in relation to the award of the first MA contract.