Independent Han Hui Hui: I don’t mind losing my deposit
Independent candidate Han Hui Hui draws curious spectators at maiden rally
Warehouse assistant Irvin Tan, 45, travelled from the eastern part of the island to the Delta Hockey Pitch at Tiong Bahru Road, just to listen to Ms Han Hui Hui speak at her maiden rally.
"(I came here) to give the independent candidate some support even though I don't live in Radin Mas... as it's been quite a while since we had some independent candidates," he said.
Undergraduate Justin Kor, 23, also admitted there was a "novelty factor", saying: "We don't expect much from independent candidates but I came down because I want to see what she has to say."
This curiosity factor was apparent last night among the mixed bag of hundreds of spectators, some of whom told The New Paper they know of her only from her Central Provident Fund-related protests.
A group of three men even showed up with posters of the wrestler Triple H - a pun on her initials.
There were also a few hecklers in the crowd as the youngest candidate in GE 2015 spoke about various issues including CPF, housing and the lack of opposition voices in Parliament.
Ms Han, a blogger who just turned 24, had piqued interest when she collected the election paperwork at the Elections Department after the writ was announced.
She refused to speak to the media but later announced her intention to run as an independent in Radin Mas single member constituency.
She faces a three-cornered fight against Minister of State Sam Tan, 56, and the Reform Party's Kumar Appavoo, 46.
Ms Han made headlines last year after she and fellow blogger Roy Ngerng were among six people charged with public nuisance. They allegedly disrupted a charity event for special needs children at Hong Lim Park with the Return Our CPF rally co-organised by them on Sept 27 last year.
Last night, she switched between English, Mandarin and Hokkien in a speech that touched on affordable housing, affordable healthcare and her pet topic, the CPF.
Ms Han, who said she is seeing someone, added that she would like to become a mother after the election but childbirth would be too expensive because a woman her size would need to have a caesarean-section delivery, and that could not be paid for with Medisave.
Political watcher Mustafa Izzuddin said that having a relative unknown will work against the Reform Party's Kumar Appavoo.
"On one hand, you've got the Reform Party, which has fought an election before. So people know the party but not the candidate well. On the other hand, you've got an independent who doesn't have a party, but people might know about her," the research fellow at Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute said.
When the rally ended after about 1½ hours, Ms Han called an impromptu press conference over dinner at a hawker centre about 2.5km away.While refusing to elaborate on the source of her campaign funds, she said that she was "supported by Singaporeans".
Asked about her chances, she said she did not mind losing her electorial deposit as she wanted to "raise issues" for the residents of Radin Mas.
"I don't think losing the deposit is an important issue at all. But I want the residents of Radin Mas to have their issues raised in Parliament," she said.
- Additional reporting by Hariz Baharuddin
WP's Low: Smearing opponents is 'dirty politics'
In a stark contrast to Wednesday's first Workers' Party (WP) rally at Hougang, many speakers at last night's rally in Jalan Besar moved away from the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) issue.
Only secretary-general Low Thia Khiang devoted a Mandarin speech for a fiery retort to claims that AHPETC was in financial crisis.
"When Hougang Town Council was under WP's management, it was not in crisis," he said in Mandarin.
There was no deficit when Hougang TC combined with Aljunied Town Council in May 2011.
Instead, it actually had an $80,000 gain, he added.
But the People's Action Party ministers have been alarming and misleading voters by suggesting otherwise, he said.
"(With) this kind of party, what kind of sincerity is there to speak of?" he asked.
Mr Low alleged that the ruling party's mindset was so narrow that it could not tolerate anyone with different political views: "I want to ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - this is what you call the character of the PAP?"
Then Mr Low reminded rally-goers that "not agreeing with government policies does not mean (you) don't love the country".
In a democratic country, elections should not be a battleground all the time, he said. Rather, an election should be about building a constructive society with constructive ideas.
Urging Singaporeans to speak with their vote and "tell the PAP" they reject such tactics of smearing opponents, he added: "This is dirty politics."
In a later speech, delivered in English, Mr Low said the people should not let the ruling party dictate the narrative.
He added: "You must have a say in how Singapore is run by having people of your choice representing your voice in Parliament... We must remind the PAP there is a distinction between what is of national interest and what is of party interest."
Calling this "a landmark election", Mr Low told the crowd they can collectively decide on the future direction of Singapore.
GERALD GIAM: 'VERY FEW' BRING UP AHPETC ISSUE
"Very few" residents have brought up the Workers' Party-run town council during the two years of house visits in East Coast GRC, said WP candidate Gerald Giam yesterday morning.
When they did bring up the topic, voters said they wished the WP had explained their side of the story more, he added.
And when they did bring up town council issues, it would be local situations like lift maintenance, he said.
SYLVIA LIM: 'PUBLIC CONFUSION' OVER AHPETC
Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim rebutted accusations that it had been on the defensive after devoting most of its first rally on the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) issue.
Speaking at a walkabout yesterday morning, she said: "Because of the publicity that has been brought to bear on the town council, I think there may be some public confusion over what is happening. We thought that it is important for us to spend some part of our first rally to explain those things, otherwise we will be accused of not being accountable again.
"Either way, we will be wrong."
LEON PERERA: ELECTION IS ABOUT COUNTRY
The PAP seems to be making GE 2015 all about "estate maintenance", fired WP's East Coast GRC candidate Leon Perera last night.
In a rousing maiden political speech, Mr Perera seemed to be obliquely referring to the drama and the exchanges over AHPETC.
To roars from the crowd, he said: "My fellow Singaporeans, we need to ask the PAP: If this is the local election, then when is the national election going to be held?
"This election is about our country."
S'pore football was great until...
PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
While most were at the Worker's Party rally to hear rousing speeches on national politics, few expected the WP chairman to talk about football.
Ms Sylvia Lim (above) even briefly spoke about her boyfriend, former national footballer Quah Kim Song, who scored in the 1977 Malaysia Cup final.
She told the audience: "I am so proud that the man who headed in the winning goal is here tonight as my personal driver."
But Ms Lim was trying to raise a point: Singapore football used to be "a force to be reckoned with" until the PAP decided to nominate PAP MPs to be in charge of the Football Association of Singapore.
Football was her example of how the PAP-led Government wants a hand in "every aspect of Singaporean life, including sports, businesses and professional groups".
She spent a large part of her speech bringing up Singapore's football glory in the 60s and 70s.
She said Singapore was fourth in Asia in 1966, finishing the Asian Games behind Burma, Iran and Japan.
Said Ms Lim: "Everyone had football fever, not just the soccer fans but even grandmothers and housewives too."
She told the crowd at Boon Keng Road that the football example was relevant as they were near Jalan Besar Stadium.
Said the Aljunied GRC candidate: "Where is Singapore soccer today? According to (international football federation) Fifa, Singapore dropped from No. 70 in the world in 1993 to a new low this year of No. 157. We are classified by Fifa as one of the worst movers down the rankings.
"It is time for Singaporeans to take charge of what we care about. Let our passions take us to greatness.
"We have done it before, and we can do it again."
Swee Say: Foreign workers act as buffer
ABOUT THE AHPETC SAGA
The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) ran into trouble after an audit by the Auditor-General's Office highlighted serious financial and governance lapses at the town council in February this year.
The issues included poor record and accounting systems, non-compliance with rules on the sinking fund and the lack of governance over related-party transactions. AHPETC's then managing agent firm, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), was owned by the town council's key officials.
The Ministry of National Development's (MND) court application is now before the Court of Appeal, which has reserved judgment on MND's appeal to admit independent accountants for the Workers' Party-run town council and to add the HDB as a co-plaintiff to the case.
PAP hits back on WP town council issue
Minister Khaw Boon Wan rebuts WP's Sylvia Lim's comments on AHPETC issue
There seems to be no let-up on what has become one of the major issues of this election - the Workers' Party-run town council.
Two People's Action Party (PAP) ministers hit back yesterday at assertions made by the WP on this issue in its first rally in Hougang on Wednesday.
Ms Sylvia Lim, the immediate past chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), had denied the council was in trouble and accused the PAP of spinning four myths about it.
And WP chief Low Thia Khiang maintained that if WP had done something wrong, they would have gone to jail.
Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam retorted yesterday: "So you can pretty much do anything you like as long as you don't go to jail. That is the standard WP has set for their candidates."
He added: "Another observation the High Court made was that if this kind of conduct had taken place in a public company, it probably would attract criminal sanctions."
On a break during a walkabout in Woodlands yesterday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan went through the four issues Ms Lim had described as myths.
He said: "I think it's my duty to point out the distortions, what are the facts, what are the half-truths and what are the semi-truths."
WP RESERVED CONTRACTS FOR FRIENDS
What Ms Lim said:
The Town Council (TC) had called for open tenders, except for the management agent (MA) contract in 2011. This was because the former MA of Aljunied TC, CPG Facilities Management, wanted to terminate the contract. Computer software was also terminated with one month's notice by Action Information Management (AIM).
What Minister Khaw said:
Ms Lim said it was CPG that asked to terminate the contract in "late May" 2011. But contractually, CPG could not terminate unless the TC agreed. Ms Lim agreed.
FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) - AHPETC's MA from 2011 to July 2015 - was set up on May 15, 2011, seven days after the GE results. It was formed as a limited exempt private company, which means there was no need to file accounts.
CPG handed over to FMSS under Ms Lim's supervision. She thanked CPG for it. AIM's contract was extended twice at Ms Lim's request. She thanked AIM for extending.
AHPETC OVERPAID ITS MA
What Ms Lim said:
The allegation was not made by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) or auditors, but by MND.
MA rates also vary across other TCs. MA rates for FMSS took into account MA rates under CPG and other additional costs.
The TC does not check profitability before awarding a contract.
What Minister Khaw said:
It was the AGO that uncovered overcharging by FMSS due to misrepresentation, and FMSS had to pay back.
Per unit MA rates for FMSS in 2011 was 20 per cent higher than CPG in 2010.
Now we also know that FMSS' profit margin was over 30 per cent.
The media reported that the TC had also been quietly trying to recover $450,000 and withheld payment to FMSS of $3.52 million.
FMSS ISSUED INVOICES AND CHECKED ITS OWN WORK
What Ms Lim said:
Cheques are counter-signed by her, Mr Png Eng Huat or Mr Pritam Singh (the TC's immediate past vice-chairmen).
Now AHPETC is managed in-house and is doing fine.
What Minister Khaw said:
The AGO found lack of controls over related-party transactions with FMSS. What happened before under FMSS could only be properly examined with a forensic audit. But WP refused such an audit.
AHPETC IN FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES
What Ms Lim said:
The TC incurred significant but necessary costs in the initial stages. The TC has now managed to turn things around. It is in surplus if government grants are disbursed.
What Minister Khaw said:
The TC had no clean and unqualified accounts for the last four years. The latest is still qualified.
The AGO audit concluded that until the TC's weaknesses are resolved, there's no assurance that public monies can be safeguarded. This is why grants had to be withheld.
Ms Lim asked and MND agreed to disburse the grants for the sinking fund on provision of the TC's current financial status. There have been three reminders but still no response.
But MND is still prepared to consider.