Singapore

Civil lawsuit may cost WP support: experts

Political observers weigh in on impact of investigation into AHTC

The Workers' Party (WP) risks losing support among residents if its leaders do not handle the civil lawsuit filed by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) well, political observers said yesterday.

They gave two reasons why the latest turn of events was serious: First, it is now before the courts. Second, the independent panel that directed the lawsuit in AHTC's name was appointed by the WP MPs themselves in February.

"The town council is not only being investigated, it is being sued. This is quite a big step back for them because they were the ones who appointed the members of the independent panel," said National University of Singapore (NUS) political scientist Reuben Wong.

He was one of five political watchers interviewed on how the lawsuit might affect the WP's standing among constituents and Singaporeans, and whether it would fracture the party itself.

AHTC wants party leaders Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim to account for more than $33 million in payments to then managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) and service provider FM Solutions and Integrated Services (FMSI).

It also alleges that they breached their fiduciary duties by, among others, directing long-time WP supporter How Weng Fan and her husband, Mr Danny Loh, to set up FMSS.

Some will see the lawsuit as the latest salvo by the authorities against the WP, while others will be genuinely concerned, said NUS Associate Professor Bilveer Singh.

"The first group... will see it as continued persecution by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP)," he said.

But to the second, "much more discerning" group, the lawsuit is a credible cause for concern, he said.

Observers noted that the town council's financial issues already cost the WP votes during the 2015 General Election.

WP held onto Aljunied GRC with a razor-thin margin of 50.96 per cent of the vote, down from 54.72 per cent in 2011, when it won the constituency.

AHTC has been unable to submit an unqualified set of accounts since it was formed after the WP won Aljunied GRC, a point PAP candidates repeated in the 2015 polls. Last October, audit firm KPMG found that more than $33 million in payments to FMSS and FMSI were co-signed by persons with conflict of interest or by FMSS employees.

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