Charles Chong, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, is retiring from politics after 32 years in Parliament. He will not be contesting in the upcoming General Election (GE) on 10 Jul.
Straits Times calls him “the man the PAP sends in when it has a tough fight on its hands”.
Yesterday (27 Jun), PAP Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to Chong, saying that Chong won by the “narrowest of margins” in the last two elections not because he was a weak MP, but because he could be relied on to “fight hard and fight smart” in elections.
In 2011, Chong won Joo Chiat SMC with 51.02 per cent (388 votes) against WP’s Yee Jenn Jong. Joo Chiat then disappeared from the electoral map in the following GE in 2015. And in 2015 GE, Chong beat WP’s Lee Li Lian with 51.76 per cent (1,159 votes) in Punggol East SMC. Similarly, Punggol East disappeared from the current electoral map in the upcoming GE.
“Always by the skin of his teeth… because when there is a tough fight, and we need a strong candidate who will fight hard and fight smart, we send in Charles Chong,” Lee said. “And every time, Charles has delivered.”
Speaking to reporters, Chong said his 32 years in politics have been most meaningful.
“I leave with the confidence that I will be handing over to capable leaders who, with the support of a resilient people, will get us through these difficult times,” he said.
Indeed, Chong certainly fought very “hard” and fought very “smart” in the last GE when he beat WP’s Lee Li Lian at Punggol East.
How “smart” did he fight?
On 8 Sep 2015 just 3 days before 2015 GE, Chong distributed flyers alleging Workers’ Party 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…,” he wrote. Note that he even used the word “indisputable” in his allegation against WP.
Final KPMG report clears WP-run AHTC
Three years later on 15 Feb 2018, Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) finally said that it has resolved all its outstanding audit issues and ended its engagement with auditors KPMG, concluding a two-year long clean-up of its accounting system and internal controls.
In the report, KPMG confirmed 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.
Issues flagged previously include incorrect computation of required transfers to the Sinking Fund and incomplete disclosure of transactions with related parties in the financial statements.
Writing on his Facebook page on the same day the auditor’s report was released, then WP MP Png Eng Huat took the opportunity to dispel the accusation put forth by Chong on the eve of 2015 GE earlier, which no doubt, must have swung certain number of votes against WP.
Mr Png explained that by the time WP got wind of the flyers distributed by Chong, it was already Cooling-Off Day. After the election, which Chong won by a slim margin, Mr Png met him to discuss the handover matters. “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 brushed off my question and said he had already explained. I did not recall there was an explanation given anyway.”
Mr Png then waited until PRPTC under PAP, filed its annual report in 2016 and noted that there was $24.7 million attributed to PE sitting in its book too. And finally, the KPMG report also exonerated WP with regard to the imaginary “missing” $22.5 million as alleged by Chong.
“I waited further for KPMG to publish its final report to complete the final piece of the puzzle. The final report speaks for itself,” Mr Png added.
“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,” he countered Chong’s 2015 allegation.
“The end of the KPMG audit also marks the end of my attempt to find some answers into this matter.”
In any case, the damage was already done. Chong helped PAP win back Punggol East in 2015 GE with the help of his “smart” flyers delivered to the many households in the constituency.
Lee certainly chose the right person to send into a tough fight.