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4 reasons why AHPETC arrears saga is not doing S’pore politics any favour

Singaporeans are not paying attention to the exchange of words between MOS Desmond Lee and WP Chairman Sylvia Lim.

Martino Tan | December 15, 2014 @ 09:05 am

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As I write, two intelligent and normally level-headed politicians are furiously crafting words to sway Singaporeans’ opinions on the Workers’ Party and its town council management.

In this contest, they hope that a key word inserted here or there would make one exclaim, “Ah, PAP (or WP) is wrong!”

It is their wish that some Singaporeans will remember this incident when they vote in the next election.

But many Singaporeans are not interested in this partisan fight anymore.

If Singaporeans still read the papers, they will probably ignore stories with “AHPETC”, “town council”, “Desmond Lee” and “Sylvia Lim” when they see those words in the headlines.

Maybe the ten politicos reading this article will highlight to their respective political parties why this AHPETC saga is not doing Singapore politics any favour.

 

1. Politics is not about “name-calling”.

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Minister of State Desmond Lee

It is not even campaign season yet. Is it necessary to start with the name-calling and insinuations so soon?

Criticising online sites and netizens: “Instead, we have seen a coordinated online campaign to distract the public, using falsehoods, half-truths and speculations, by friends, sympathisers and proxies of the WP. The aim is to confuse the public and distract them from the real issues” — Desmond Lee, Channel NewsAsia

Questioning WP leaders’ integrity: “This series of excuses calls into question not only AHPETC’s local competence, but also the WP leaders’ integrity and national reputation” — Desmond Lee, Channel NewsAsia

 

2. Politics is not just about the management of town councils

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In May, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in parliament that it was important to “get our politics right” and explained what “constructive politics” means.

Clogging the airwaves and bickering about the management of town councils is not “constructive politics”.

If one were to use PM’s definition, this whole saga does not “develop effective policies for Singaporeans”, nor does it “rally people together for a common cause”.

While it is desirable for politicians to have “a robust and open debate” about the “high standards of integrity”, the statements made by both parties sound more like “soundbite politics”.

 

3. Politics is not about pointing fingers and shirking away responsibilities 

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Check out the statements from both Lim and Lee on accountability:

Sylvia Lim: “First, the public can expect that the PAP will be the first to hold WP to account. Secondly, the PAP government has all the investigative arms within its disposal to hold WP to account on any matter under the sun”

Desmond Lee: “Ms Sylvia Lim in her statement yesterday put the responsibility on the Government and the AGO to establish AHPETC’s true state of affairs. This is a remarkable proposition: The elected MPs of Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East, who pride themselves on checking the Government, are now relying on the Government to check them, instead of taking responsibility themselves for accounting to the public what they have done or have not done.”

As former ST editor Bertha Henson said in her commentary, “all this ‘you first’’ is quite annoying”.

Here is a suggestion for each politician to stop the ‘you first’ impasse.

Lim mentioned many times that she will account to the public in due course about the town council arrears. Maybe Lim can provide us with a date when she would do so, without any reminders from the government.

Lee can stop reminding WP about the issue unless the government or the Auditor-General has new information for the public.

 

4. Politics is not about political points-scoring

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It has been more than a month since Lee gave his first statements to the media (Nov. 8) about the increase in S&CC arrears and its implications for residents.

His statements to the media continued on Nov. 21Dec. 11, and Dec. 12.

Minister Lawrence Wong also wrote a commentary in The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao about WP’s silence on the issue.

In turn, WP published three responses on their website on Nov. 22Dec. 10; and Dec. 12.

But is this really the ideal way to communicate?

PAP uses the media to press WP for a response, while WP drafts a reply on its own website, the only platform it could really trust.

If we could, we would place both Lee and Lim in this shirt.

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You do not have each other’s contact details?

Sure, we found them online for you.

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In the spirit of Christmas, we hope Lee and Lim could meet over coffee to sort out their differences.

If not, let’s take this AHPETC arrears saga offline and off print, shall we?

Many of us are not Aljunied residents and would prefer to make this assessment about WP’s town council management during the next GE campaign.

 

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About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the words of George Orwell & William F. Buckley Jr., & the music of the Beatles.

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