The hotly contested Punggol East over last 3 elections which saw the single ward changed hands twice between PAP and WP has been absorbed into a newly formed 4-member Sengkang GRC.
It is the only completely new GRC proposed by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) in a report released yesterday (13 Mar). The EBRC is chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s own secretary.
The new Sengkang GRC comprises parts of the existing Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, parts of Sengkang West SMC and the whole of Punggol East SMC. It will have a total of 117,546 voters.
“The move has been widely anticipated, given that the area’s population has swelled in recent years,” Straits Times said.
Punggol East was first carved out as a single ward in 2011 General Election. In 2011, PAP’s candidate Michael Palmer beat WP’s Lee Li Lian with a 54.5 per cent win.
Palmer has affair with PA’s girl
The next year in 2012, a major scandal broke out when Palmer resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair with a girl from the People’s Association. He was the Speaker of Parliament then. His affair with the girl was discovered by the girl’s boyfriend before the boyfriend broke the news to the media with screenshot evidence of the affair.
A by-election for Punggol East was subsequently held in 2013. A four-cornered fight ensued despite opposition supporters telling Kenneth Jeyaretnam of Reform Party and Desmond Lim of Singapore Democratic Alliance to back off, since WP’s Lee Li Lian was deemed to have the highest chance of beating the ruling party.
In the end, Ms Lee did win the seat for WP beating the rest including PAP’s Koh Poh Koon. She won with 54.5% of the votes. Both Kenneth Jeyaretnam and Desmond Lim lost their electoral deposits with only 353 and 168 votes respectively.
However, in the 2015 General Election, Ms Lee lost to PAP’s veteran politician Charles Chong by a small margin of 1,159 votes. Chong won with a marginal 51.8% of the votes.
Chong alleges WP “lost” $22.5 million of town council funds
During 2015 GE, Chong stirred up controversies accusing WP of “losing” town council funds. Just 3 days before the GE on 8 Sep 2015, Chong and his grassroots members distributed flyers alleging WP has somehow “lost” $22.5 million of town council funds.
“The indisputable fact is that when Punggol East was transferred to the Workers’ Party, $22.5 million was transferred to the new town council. That sum is now unaccounted for…,” the flyer said. Note the use of the word “indisputable” in Chong’s allegation against WP.
However, three year later in Feb 2018, auditing firm KPMG confirmed in its report that it is “reasonably satisfied that AHTC is compliant with section 35(c) of the Town Council Act” and that all audit points and control-related matters identified earlier have been resolved with the town council managed by WP.
Writing on his Facebook page on 15 Feb 2018, WP MP Png Eng Huat went back to question Chong’s distribution of flyers just days before 2015 GE. Mr Png explained that by the time WP got wind of the flyers, it was already Cooling-Off Day.
Mr Png related that after 2015 GE, he met Chong to discuss the handover. “I asked him about the alleged missing $22.5 million. I told him we would want to return every single cent to PE residents if he could point out what this money was all about,” Mr Png recalled.
“In every audited financial statement since 2013, there was $22.8 million to $26.3 million attributed to PE sitting in our accounts. He (Chong) brushed off my question and said he had already explained. I did not recall there was an explanation given anyway.”
Finally, the release of KPMG report in 2018 definitively exonerated WP with regard to the imaginary “missing” $22.5 million as alleged by Chong. “The final report speaks for itself,” Mr Png said. “We will never solve the mystery of unaccounted $22.5 million now as none of the audited statements from the two town councils and special reports by KPMG and PwC (hired by PRPTC to also look into the accounts of PE after GE2015) could shed any light on the allegation.”
“The end of the KPMG audit also marks the end of my attempt to find some answers into this matter,” Mr Png ended his Facebook post.
It was also revealed Chong had been diagnosed with a liver condition known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis about 2013 after a routine medical checkup only after he had undergone a liver transplant on 1 December 2016 and was discharged on 14 December 2016.
WP Chief: Residents said they had moved constituencies without moving homes
But sadly, the damage has already been done. No doubt, some of the Punggol East voters would have likely been swayed by the flyers distributed by Chong and his grassroots members to vote against WP during 2015 GE.
And now, WP will not have any chance to re-contest in Punggol East, since it has already disappeared altogether with the boundaries re-drawn by EBRC chaired by PM Lee’s secretary.
With the ERBC report released, WP yesterday also formally questioned ERBC over the removal of Punggol East as well as 2 other SMCs – Sengkang West and Fengshan.
“As is its custom, the EBRC has not disclosed how it came to its decisions,” WP said. “While the number of SMCs has increased from 13 to 14, the EBRC has not explained why it chose to carve out some new SMCs while dissolving Sengkang West, Fengshan and Punggol East SMCs, areas where WP has been active for many years.”
It also noted that the committee had taken more than seven months to complete its task. “The WP will decide on the areas where it can best serve Singaporeans, and make its announcement when the elections are called,” it added.
Last night, WP Chief Pritam Singh commented in a Facebook post, saying that the EBRC report had generated buzz “with some residents commenting on how they had moved constituencies without moving homes for reasons they do not comprehend, but can ‘fully understand’.”