Statement from the Prime Minister's Office on Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council Hawker Centre Cleaning Incident

12 July 2013

1.     Mr Low Thia Khiang said that the grave charges made by Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament, that MPs Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Pritam Singh were untruthful, were ‘personal attacks’. He also questioned if Minister Balakrishnan’s statement was good politics for Singapore. Mr Low is wrong to have done so.

2.     Good politics is first and foremost about integrity. Singapore has succeeded because we have honest, upright people in politics: people who can be trusted to uphold the public interest, to speak the truth even when it is inconvenient, and to admit mistakes when things go wrong. This is how we have built trust between Singaporeans and their leaders, worked together to build the nation and improved everyone’s lives.

3.     If we cannot trust a politician to tell the truth, then we cannot trust him or her to safeguard public funds, to put public interest ahead of personal gain, or to make decisions affecting the well-being and security of Singaporeans. This is the standard that we must hold ourselves to, and that Singaporeans have rightly come to expect from those in politics, whether in government or opposition.

4.     This is why we must take accusations of dishonesty against political leaders very seriously. If any of my PAP colleagues is accused of lying, I will investigate and get to the bottom of the matter. If he has lied, there is only one option – he has to go. If he is innocent, I will insist that he clear his name publicly. The matter has to be resolved one way or other. It cannot be left as an “I say, you say” matter of opinion, which leaves a permanent question mark hanging over his reputation, and the reputation of my government.

5.     Conversely, before any Minister accuses any one of dishonesty, he must make sure that he is fully able to back up his charge. Minister Balakrishnan’s statement in Parliament was not just his personal opinion, but the government’s official position which the Cabinet had approved.

6.     Minister Balakrishnan circulated a dossier in Parliament setting out evidence that AHPETC’s Property Manager, Mr Tai Vie Shun, and AHPETC’s contractor, ATL Maintenance Pte Ltd, attempted to make the hawkers pay extra to clean the high areas. These documents directly contradict the statements by Ms Lim and Mr Singh that the Town Council and its contractor had not asked the hawkers to pay extra for the cleaning. The core issue is therefore honesty and integrity.

7.     In Parliament, Mr Low maintained that he had neither spoken to Mr Tai nor previously seen the documents in the dossier. He promised to try to find out who had actually asked the contractor to quote for the cleaning. But the next day, Mr Low reversed course without explanation, and said that he would not conduct any investigation.

8.     This is troubling, especially in the light of previous similar incidents. In the Budget session last year, Mr Singh plagiarised an article from the Internet, passing it off word for word as his own speech. More recently, AHPETC failed to explain why in 2011 it had appointed FM Solutions and Services Pte Ltd (FMSS), a company owned and run by close Workers’ Party supporters, to manage their Town Council, without tender and at a much higher price than the prevailing rate. Now FMSS, running AHPETC, has tried to charge hawkers extra for cleaning their hawker centres, and Ms Lim and Mr Singh have tried to cover it up.

9.     Mr Low cannot leave these grave doubts about the integrity of his fellow MPs unresolved. This is not how members of a First World Parliament should conduct themselves. Neither is this the sort of politics Singapore needs.

12 JULY 2013