WP chief hits back at PAP in Hougang rally
He was the man they came to see and hear. And Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang was at his oratorical best.
In his first rally speech of GE 2015 last night, he elected to speak only in Teochew and used it to good effect.
He explained in simple terms that the Government had been "determinedly digging" at a "hole" - referring to the controversy swirling around the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and WP - but had found nothing for 10 months.
He also expressed his exasperation at the treatment, drawing cries of support from the massive crowd that had gathered at the Hougang Central open field.
Accusing the People's Action Party (PAP) of using the town council issue to tar the WP's achievements, he painted a picture of the PAP acting like bullies.
Citing how the authorities had gone through the AHPETC books for 10 months without finding evidence of corruption, he said: "They came and took away our computers, all the materials were inside.
"The Government, through its investigations of the accounts, did not find anything illegal.
"Everyone in Singapore knows, if we really did do anything against the law, 'tio lo' (vernacular for being caught)."
He added that if there had been corruption, the WP leaders would have been caught.
Accusing the PAP of constantly finding fault and nitpicking, he added: "I have tolerated them for a very long time."
Many of the WP's top guns also spoke about the AHPETC issue at the rally, with chairman Sylvia Lim giving a point-for-point rebuttal of the "myths" that the PAP government and their "proxy", the Ministry of National Development, had tried to "spread".
Ms Lim said:
- WP did not use AHPETC to reserve contracts for friends. Contracts were awarded after open public tenders were called
- It did not overpay the previous managing agent, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS). Based on average rates, Nee Soon and Sembawang town councils had overpaid.
- FMSS did not have blank cheques. She, Mr Png Eng Huat and Mr Pritam Singh had counter-signed cheques; and
- AHPETC was not in financial difficulties. Significant but necessary expenses were incurred in the first year, but revenue increases and the use of contestable energy have helped ease costs.
Ms Lim questioned why there had been such constant attacks on AHPETC, saying it was an attempt to shake voters' confidence and make it "painful" for other political parties.
Besides giving their take on the AHPETC issue, the WP speakers had a recurring theme: the need to elect more opposition members into Parliament.
Without referring directly to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's jibe on Tuesday that opposition MPs were like "mouse in the House", Mr Low took a playful swipe at it when he spoke about how the rat problem in Bukit Batok was efficiently solved because it was a PAP ward.
"If this had happened in WP, we will all die very badly."
He said; "All of us must help look out. Don't allow them to put the mice in."
In her speech, Ms Lim took pains to thank Hougang voters, saying that "without Hougang, the Workers' Party would not have Aljunied or Punggol East," drawing rousing cheers.
Mr Low won the Hougang seat in 1991 and stayed for four successive terms before successfully leading a team to victory in Aljunied GRC in 2011.
Earlier yesterday at a walkabout, Mr Low said he viewed Hougang as his "marital home", which is why he wanted to start the rallies there.
For sales executive Rosemary Yap, 45, the chance to hear "issues that resonated with the public" made standing through the three-hour rally worthwhile.
Hougang MRT station was temporarily closed because of the large turnout going home after the rally.
WP's Pritam Singh takes AIM
Workers' Party (WP) candidate for Aljunied Pritam Singh took aim at how a "PAP-owned" company withdrew a computer system meant to help run the town council.
Asking the assembled crowd "remember AIM?", he took them through how the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council had to endure higher start-up costs and public monies had to be used to pay up twice for an operating system - all because Action Information Management (AIM), which is "PAP-owned", had refused to work with them.
He cited this as an example of how the odds were stacked against the opposition.
Then he noted how EM Services, the biggest player in the small pool of managing agents, was partly owned by HDB.
"Should a company 75 per cent owned by HDB decide not to tender for managing agent in opposition town councils?" he asked.
He said that this was a hallmark of a system which had emerged out of PAP's dominance: that because of their "super majority", they were able to skew the odds and make it difficult for the opposition.
WP's Png Eng Huat, who is defending his Hougang SMC seat, also used the AIM issue, noting that WP had shown they were able to run the town council, despite being handicapped by the loss of AIM's software.
He pointedly asked why "fixing the opposition" was more important for the ruling party than "fixing the MRT and the shortage of hospital beds".
"My fellow Singaporeans, the time has come to reject PAP's style of politics... of intimidation, divide and mudslinging," he said.
A committee appointed by the Government later found that the PAP town councils did not lose or misuse public funds in the controversial sale of their software to AIM.
As for the spat over who wanted the contract terminated, the review team put it down to a "different understanding" between the parties of how a clause to end the contract was executed.
No more politics of intimidation
When the Workers' Party (WP) voted against the 2013 Population White Paper, there were only 13 against it and 77 for it.
WP's Png Eng Huat, who is defending his Hougang SMC seat, said: "The PAP took this as a clear endorsement of their population policy road map for you, the people, because all the elected PAP MPs present at the sitting supported the road map to increase the population to 6.9 million people."
He and several speakers called for voters to vote in more opposition members to "stand up against the tyranny of the PAP".
Saying the time had come to reject the politics of intimidation, divisiveness and mud-slinging, he told rally-goers the future of Singapore was at stake.
It is not about running a town council but about "getting our politics right", he said, having leaders "we can respect and empowering ourselves to do what is right and good for the country".
He added: "What we have seen and witnessed from the PAP is not good for the country."
Lawyer Dennis Tan, who is contesting Fengshan SMC, urged voters to vote more opposition members into Parliament to make the Government reconsider policies, so the policies would not be pushed through too quickly.
No PAP MPs voted against the population white paper, he noted.
What's the point of voting more PAP MPs into Parliament, he asked.
(Ms Han Hui Hui)
Delta Hockey Pitch, 900 Tiong Bahru Road
Electoral Division: Radin Mas SMC
Bedok Stadium, 1, Bedok North Street 2
Electoral Division: East Coast GRC
Field opposite Block 274C, Compassvale Bow, beside Buangkok MRT station
Electoral Division: Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC
Choa Chu Kang Stadium, 1, Choa Chu Kang Street 53
Electoral Division: Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC
Jurong Stadium, 10, Fourth Chin Bee Road
Electoral Division: Jurong GRC
Field in front of Block 4, Boon Keng Road
Electoral Division: Jalan Besar GRC
All rallies will take place between 7pm and 10pm.
Party political broadcasts on TV and radio
Airtime on free-to-air radio and television will be allocated for party political broadcasts for this General Election, the Media Development Authority said yesterday.
There will be two broadcasts: from 8pm today, and from 9pm on Sept 10. - The Business Times