Eight observation points on opening statement by SC Chelva Retnam (Part 2 of 8)

2. THE HOUGANG EXPERIENCE

The party-political competitive context of town council work was recognised by MND in its review of the AIM deal, but it was probably theoretical for the MND officials. So it was for the newly-victorious WP MP-elects of Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC on 7 May 2011.But not for Low Thia Khiang. He had a long experience of this party-political competitive context, 20 year…s firsthand. And he experienced its UNEVEN-ness up close and personal. This was the next point that SC Chelva Rajah raised in his opening statement that struck a deep chord in me.

Rajah varied his tone somewhat, going softer, letting his voice quiver at times, as he read from Mr Low’s affidavit for the case. He was letting Mr Low’s words speak for themselves, and they sounded very much like him. These were Mr Low’s words:

“Following the 1991 GE when I was elected as MP for Hougang SMC, the constituencies of Paya Lebar and Punggol left HTC [Hougang Town Council] and the HTC was then responsible for Hougang SMC alone. I took over as the Chairman of the reconstituted HTC on 7 September 1991. However, on 30 September 1991, barely a month after I was elected as MP for the Hougang SMC, HDB served notices on me informing me that:

(a) HAD [HDB's Housing and Administration Department] would be terminating their MA services to the HTC with effect from 31 December 1991; and

(b) HTC had to quit their then-premises at Block 810 Hougang Central by 31 December 1991.

I was faced with the huge challenge of being left on my own and without a physical office to operate from to manage the Hougang SMC. However, I knew that the Hougang residents would suffer if their elected MP was not able to manage the town properly. As such, I was under tremendous pressure to overcome these obstacles. I had to work day and night to recruit new staff for the HTC and arrange for these staff to receive training on how to use the Town Council Financial Management System which was at that time provided by HDB.

Given HDB’s Notice to Quit, the premises which had been used by the previous PAP TC at Block 810 Hougang Central had to be vacated by 31 December 1991 (i.e. 3 months from the service of the Notice to Quit), I had to build a new office from scratch on a very tight timeline. At the time, I was told by HOB that they needed 40 weeks to build the new premises which meant that these new premises would not be ready when the premises at Block 810 Hougang Central had to be vacated. To make a bad situation worse, HOB rejected my request for an extension of time to use the Block 810 Hougang Central premises in the meantime.

As such, HTC had no choice but to appoint its own architect for the office project on 23 October 1991 and awarded the tender for the construction of the office premises on 12 November 1991. The construction was completed as planned on 29 December 1991 and HTC moved into the new office on 31 December 1991. With the help from my family members, supporters and friends, I managed to establish the new HTC and its new office at Block 701 Hougang Avenue 2. HTC was therefore able to commence operations on 1 January 1992 without causing major disruption of services to the residents.

Even after the challenging early days of my being elected to the Hougang SMC, I found myself having to face similar obstacles along the way. In the mid-1990s, HDB terminated its EMSU and computer services for HTC. EMSU is a 24-hour service provided by the TCs to attend to the residents’ maintenance and urgent essential services requests such as lift rescues. While the many PAP TCs could pool their resources together to meet these changes, the TCs in opposition wards had to fend for ourselves and struggled to put in place EMSU and computer services after they were terminated. There were 4 opposition wards at the time: The SMCs in Hougang, Potong Pasir, Bukit Gombak and Nee Soon Central. The opposition wards tried to pool our resources together to develop our own computer software. Eventually, an alternative computer software was developed which HTC eventually adopted.”

Why does this matter for the trial? These 20 years of LIVING through the terribly uneven partisan political field honed Mr Low’s instincts — instincts of how to get the essential town services to the residents despite the certainty of challenges thrown at you. These were the instincts the other MP-elects look towards to guide them in the sobriety of the morning after the sweet victory, as the MP-elects got down to work to take over the town council.

And these instincts told Mr Low that CPG would be unwilling to carry on the town council managing agent work — it would be HAD again.

Why did it strike a deep chord in me? I imagined how listening to his own words being spoken by Rajah in court, his terrifying Hougang experience being repeated, would have affected Mr Low. I have been assisting him on town council work and home visits to residents in the last few years. In the face of angry disrespectful and unrestrained adoring residents alike, Mr Low always maintained his composure, a face of resolve to hold his ground and the principle of service, never to give in to his emotions and ego. I imagined that face, though I could only see his back.

Later, Png showed me a sketch of Mr Low in the courtroom used in a CNA article, sitting next to Kenneth Foo, one of the two councillors being sued. It was a beautiful illustration by Kenneth Choy. Exactly that face. It hurt and I clenched my fists.

 

Daniel Goh

* The author is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the National University of Singapore and blogs at http://www.danielpsgoh.com/.

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23 Responses to “Eight observation points on opening statement by SC Chelva Retnam (Part 2 of 8)”

  • oxygen:

    TOWN COUNCIL SERVICES BELONGS TO HDB, no voters elect MPs to clean their street, clear their rubbish chutes and toilet bowls – MPs are elected to fight and contest national policy matter and economic agenda.

    Municipality services has become a TOXIC POISON of PAPpypolitics fabrication of FIXING THE OPPOSITION and in that journey destroying this nation’s survival.

    PAPpys are determined to destroy opposition thoughts and oppress peasantry into serfdom.

    Voters must wake up to save themselves and this nation.

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  • Gangster Behavior:

    Clearly an abuse of power. How can institutions be not serving the People of Singapore but instead be utilized against Political Opponents? This is clearly unacceptable. This is not the kind of government I want. No different from gangster behavior.

    Wasting tax payers money on the tearing down of the TC and rebuilding another. I won’t be trusting my money on them.

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  • oxygen:

    ALWAYS REMEMBER THESE – in PAPpypolitics and PAPpynomics, CPF is NOT your money. CPF is funding your HDB purchase is NOT your property, it is a SCAM of your “ownership” belonging – contrary to common law and equity law applications. You are either a lessee or a tenant paying for 99-yr lease in advance – PAPpys won’t debate this with M. Ravi or Lim Tean. Together, these will vaporize to nothing at lease expiry. Your life slavery till 65 to 70 retirement is worthless of legacy to pass on to your children.

    You want this misery continuing or you want to protect your family and the country?

    PATRIOTS, I BELIEVE, WILL VOTE FOR CHANGE. This country belongs to peasants and no political party.

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  • Asd:

    Like what bro said… organs of the goverment… like they owned the country… democratic ?? More like communist ….

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  • Fix the opposition:

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10357823.2018.1479729
    Hoi-Yu Ng
    Asian Studies Review, Volume 42, 2018 – Issue 3
    Published Online: 25 Jul 2018

    Decentralised Institutions and Electoral Authoritarianism: The Case of Town Councils in Singapore
    ABSTRACT
    Singapore’s electoral autocracy is well known for its innovative use of political institutions such as Parliament and elections to enhance its durability, but relatively little attention has been paid to decentralised subnational institutions such as Town Councils, which require elected Members of Parliament to manage public housing estates in their constituencies. This paper focuses on Town Councils by examining the motives behind their formation and exploring how they serve as institutions to support authoritarianism. Based on analysis of a range of primary and secondary sources such as parliamentary Hansard, government documents and newspaper articles, this paper argues that the formation of Town Councils was politically motivated and specifically designed to thwart opposition growth. It also argues that Town Councils support authoritarianism in three ways. First, they create extra hurdles and disadvantages for the opposition. Second, they give the ruling party an additional election issue on which to attack the weaknesses of the opposition and allow it to shift the focus of elections in its favour. Lastly, they facilitate more effective and targeted material distribution and create more opportunities for elite co-optation. The implications of the study for Singapore politics and the role of decentralisation in electoral autocracies are discussed.

    KEYWORDS: Decentralisation, electoral authoritarian regimes, Singapore, Town Councils

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10357823.2018.1479729

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  • Samuel S:

    After this trial, we will understand how PAP treatment of Singaporean (though belong to opposition), how disgusting HDB in serving its residents. I hope the 70% who voted PAP will think twice before next voting.

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  • HarderTruths:

    it is fitting that the Garbage is the rightful owner of our garbage.

    Who else is more qualified in matters of garbage?

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  • rukidding:

    After reading the above on how Mr Low was asked to “vacate” and even had to “resource” and “reform a Maintenance unit” ,….I sincerely wonder how much “sincerity and strength” does our Indian/Malay President give in her speech…..”Do Good, Do Together” ???

    Afterall,…she was once a PAP member herself ???

    I guess she will have a HARD Time “convincing” many ?

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  • lky the pap departed evil:

    the pap plp’s say pap departed evil lky lied to give Singaporeans a better life?

    so ffffing plp.

    the pap departed evil lky Lj did everything for his own political power.

    but, as justice rules ultimately, the lying evil lky died. even Dr Mahatir is laughing at the lky. so ffffing evil this lky.

    so much so karma comes back to haunt his posterity. grandson is ffffing gay. 2nd son and only daughter openly expose elder son’s abuse of power.

    in Chinese philosophy, the lying evil lky is a ffffing failure. cannot run his own ffffing family. expect him to run a nation?

    ffff. No.

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  • Misuse of Money:

    How much was spent on tearing down the TC, AIM, EMSU, forcing WP to build another?

    PAP should use their own Party Money to pay for their own Political Objectives instead of using the tax payers money for their own purpose and Political gains.

    Hello, don’t abuse my hard earned money!

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  • HarderTruths:

    Just turn to the last page of this wayang and the word ‘GUILTY” is hard to miss.

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  • Bapak:

    I did mention before, this toxic PAP will not be gentlman enough to hand over power peacefully. Singaporeans have to suffer for their apathy attitude of PAP’s immatured & gangsterism (rightly said bro) treatment on Opposition wards. All heads at State Boards & uniform groups must be removed & procecuted for betraying the Constitution of Singapore. And PAP must be charge for abuse of power.

    Gangster Behavior:
    Clearly an abuse of power. How can institutions be not serving the People of Singapore but instead be utilized against Political Opponents? This is clearly unacceptable. This is not the kind of government I want. No different from gangster behavior.

    Wasting tax payers money on the tearing down of the TC and rebuilding another. I won’t be trusting my money on them.

    GD Star Rating
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  • patriot of Temesak:

    The Eloquence-Intelligence & Reasoning of a good Legal Mind will fall on DEAF ears when a LEEgal system filled with LEEgal sparrows is Beholden

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  • AHTC Trial Reveals...:

    Lies were told in Parliament!

    More will be spilled over the next few weeks.

    The ‘real bosses’ of AIM ought to be summoned to Court too!

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  • AHTC vs AMKTC:

    How come AGO audited AHTC but not AMKTC?

    In addition, AHTC’s case is based solely on Audit Reports while AMKTC is based on Hard Evidence.

    Sylvia Lim is proven right again!

    As SC Rajah said in Court “What is ok for Paul may not be so for Peter?”

    This Court Case will surely ‘embarrass and damage’ the Pappies and more votes will be lost!

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  • LHY/LWL words ring LnC:

    Reading thru the affidavit of LTK, somehow LHY/LWL words ring again loud and clear n the arrogant promise of the 3 PMs on defamation if not challenged. A very important question is are HDB, CCC, CC and such constituency public establishment operates on PAP party fund or on state or other fund. If they are not operated on PAP Party or PAP MP personal fund then all these organization should work in the interest of the citizens and in these cases for the constituency regardless of which party the MPs belong. If these establishment management remain loyal to PAP when the constituency is under the opposition party and not helping the current opposition MP to work in the interests of the constituents and their benefits, this itself is violating the Constitution and misuse of state fund. They should be charged legally instead of the opposition having to work against obstacles and hostility of these state funded institutions.

    LHY/LWL words ring loud and clear. LHY n family self exiles speak loud for themselves. Professionalism, human dignity and integrity of professionals should be upheld at all costs as failing which will undermine the Constitution in regards to its guarantee n safeguard of the interests and rights of the citizens.

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  • Playfair:

    All the housing board estates should be run by a central body i.e. HDB as was done in the past. The economy of scale will give rise to substantial saving. The total of all the budgets of the Town Councils will be many times smaller than a single budget if the estates were to be run by just HDB. There will be substantial savings from manpower, rental, computer services, maintenance services, etc. There will be no disruption to the maintenance services should be a change of MPs. Lower budget will be translated into lower conservancy charges and lower taxes so that there may not be a need to increase the GST rate. The advantages of a single body running all the estates are hard to matched. If the town councils are set up for political reasons, then the more they should be disbanded. Why should public fund be used for such purpose?

    Perhaps, MND should let us know what is the total of all the budgets of the Town Councils as compared to a single budget if the estates were to be run by HDB.

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  • True facts:

    His own brother already said he abuse authority what say you.

    Understooded.

    Time for change la.

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  • Bapak:

    That is why the ShitTimes only report one-sided news. They know it is embarrassing for them to report the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.

    AHTC vs AMKTC:
    How come AGO audited AHTC but not AMKTC?

    In addition, AHTC’s case is based solely on Audit Reports while AMKTC is based on Hard Evidence.

    Sylvia Lim is proven right again!

    As SC Rajah said in Court “What is ok for Paul may not be so for Peter?”

    This Court Case will surely ‘embarrass and damage’ the Pappies and more votes will be lost!

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  • Bapak:

    This case will open many eyes and wake up many sleepers if they bother to read the details.

    I am sure WP is happy to be given this golden opportunity to expose what PAP had done ‘injustice’ to them and citizens of Singapore. HDB should be put on the stand to confirm Loh claims. That will be interesting, to question them under the oath swearing, to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.

    ALL YOU 70% SINKIES, WAKE THE FxxK UP. FOLLOW THIS CASE CLOSELY, YOU WILL KNOW YOUR PAP YOU VOTED IS FxxKING DISGUSTINGLY DIRTY.

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  • oxygen:

    PAPpys SPENT THE LAST 15 YEARS buying supporters’ votes with taxpayers’ funded LOLLY and FIXING the opposition.

    They LEFT THE ECONOMY TO ROT!

    and continue to SCAM the peasants of their CPF and HDB property rights.

    AND THEY ARE STILL AT IT now OF THIS CHICANERY AND TRICKERY.

    How long more do 70% of the dumbfarked sinkies think LEE-jiapore will survive with this mob in charge?

    My mind is still sane of thoughts, VOTE FOR CHANGE. Future generation must have a BETTER Singapore than this sh*t we are stuck with until the next GE.

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  • Just Like Port Dickson....:

    You have a choice – Screw or Get Screwed!

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  • Bystander:

    Why Sinkies like to complain and complain, you vote for this Govt time and time again, so just live with the injustices.
    Just note PM Lee won’t be here much longer, PAP would split, until that time, then you step out and put Humpty Dumpty back on the wall again, first audit the accounts of the two SWFs, like what Mahathir’s PH Govt is doing with Malaysia’s financial situation.
    What do to. Now we are all guessing why CPF minimum sum keeps on jacking up, why so many new regulations out to tie up our CPF funds.
    So be patient. Nothing is permanent in this world.

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