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'This is not about PAP versus WP'

"I’m a reasonable man. I’m also a very religious man. Where possible, I try to help. Whoever, doesn’t matter. The key point is, are you sincere in wanting to help the residents? If you’re honest, you’re clean, I will do my best to help you." — Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan responding to AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim, who asked to work with MND on certain aspects of financial reports the town council is expected to submit by June 30

The AHPETC saga shares similarities with the one involving the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan (right) in his speech rounding up the debate.

In 2005, former NKF chief executive T.T. Durai took out a defamation suit against Singapore Press Holdings, after news reports exposed lapses in NKF's corporate governance.

Following government investigations into the charity, Mr Durai and the NKF board resigned.

Said Mr Khaw yesterday: "The Charities Act (back then) lacked teeth. But the new NKF board was able to sue the old NKF board and Mr T.T. Durai in the civil court. I am not sure if this may happen in the case of the town council."

He repeatedly called on Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Kiang to "take ownership" in the matter and take action against the town council's managing agent, instead of waiting for the Government to send in the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau or the Commercial Affairs Department.

"I expect him to take action against the (managing agent) for their monumental incompetence," he added.

Mr Khaw called it a "painful debate" but reiterated that this is an issue about responsible governance.

He said: "This motion is not about PAP versus WP. This motion is about Singapore.

"This is about us assuring Singaporeans that as MPs, we uphold the highest standards of governance, to safeguard our residents' well-being and interests, and to protect the public monies entrusted to our town councils."

Earlier during the sitting, various People's Action Party (PAP) MPs called on the WP to explain their actions, instead of blaming the situation on not being able to find a managing agent.

BULLYING

Mr Hri Kumar Nair called it a "red herring", since some town councils, like Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, run the town themselves.

He and MP Liang Eng Hwa noted that members of the public have told them not to "attack the WP", or the ruling party would be accused of bullying the opposition.

"I could not get my head round it - has it really come to this?" asked Mr Nair. "This is really a matter involving public funds, how could anyone with good conscience ignore what the AGO (Auditor-General's Office) and (auditor) PricewaterhouseCoopers have found? These are not partisan."

Mr Liang said: "An auditor friend asked me why PAP is doing the WP a favour by helping them get their house in order? And then be accused of bullying the WP?

"But what we are concerned about is public money, and that the WP is bullying its own residents."