Low asks PAP: Where is Punggol East's surplus?
WP chief Low Thia Khiang flashes document disputing claims that the ward had surplus under PAP Report by NG JUN SEN firstname.lastname@example.org
Just as it seemed both the People's Action Party (PAP) and Workers' Party (WP) would stand down from battling it out on the Aljunied-Houngang-Punngol East Town Council (AHPETC) issue and focus more on national concerns, WP chief Low Thia Khiang took up the cudgels again.
Hours after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong seemed to indicate at a press conference that the PAP was prepared to move beyond the town council issue ("We have made our points. Voters are clear-eyed and we will leave it to them."), Mr Low went on the offensive at the party's Punggol East SMC rally.
He brandished papers that he said showed that Punggol East had a deficit when WP took over in the wake of the ward's 2013 by-election.
He was disputing what Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Mr Charles Chong, the PAP candidate for Punggol East SMC, had previously said.
Both men, on separate occasions, said that the ward's finances were in good shape until it was handled by AHPETC.
Mr Teo had said: "I was very sorry to hand them over. But we handed it over in good order, with surpluses, to WP. Now they're part of a town council that is in deficit. I feel quite bad about that, too."
Towards the end of his speech, Mr Low pulled out a financial document, which he told the crowd showed that Punggol East actually had a $280,000 deficit when WP took over.
In Mandarin, he demanded answers from the PAP: "Since Mr Teo and Mr Chong said that there was a surplus, then I ask the PAP to answer the residents of Punggol East.
"Where has the money gone to?"
Mr Low went on to say: "The PAP candidates distort the truth, mislead the people and are also the first to complain. It's simply bullying.
"These are the type of candidates Lee Hsien Loong is asking us to support."
The WP chief's offensive comes despite his party saying previously that it wanted to move on from the AHPETC saga.
WP's Aljunied GRC candidate Pritam Singh also said that in the three years before WP took over in Aljunied in 2011, the PAP-run town council had received $4 million each year under the Ministry of National Development's Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funds.
Dispersal of CIPC funds to Aljunied stopped after WP took over, said Mr Singh, who accused the People's Association, which disperses the funds through its Citizens' Consultative Committees (CCCs), of being partisan.
He said: "CCCs are intentionally organised to work as a political tool... (they) have become a disease that has permanently hosted itself on our political system."
Political observer Eugene Tan said he did not think the two parties would cease talking about AHPETC.
The Singapore Management University law professor said: "What we are seeing here is that both sides have conflicting accounts and narratives.
"In the end, voters will have to decide which side is more credible."
What is surprising is that while he believes the AHPETC issue is WP's Achilles' heel, it was the opposition party that brought it up again when its rival had indicated a ceasefire.
Prof Tan said: "It seems like it has reassessed that its narrative is gaining traction among the voters, which is why it is politically advantageous for it to bring it up.
"It feels like WP has gained the upper hand, so it pressed the matter."
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