PAP town council ‘no show’ in an apex court case presided by Chief Justice

Let's hope the parliamentary absenteeism disease is not spreading to court cases too.

By Martino Tan | July 10, 2016

Are you following the town council management disputes between the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and Workers’ Party (WP)?

Probably not.

These disputes — from town council management to handing over issues — has been ongoing for so long that many of us are not so bothered about the case anymore.

Until last Friday.

This is when the representatives from Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) — PRPTC chairman Zainal Sapari, Punggol East MP Charles Chong, and their lawyers — surprised us by displaying a similar lack of interest in the issue.

They did not show up in court.

And it’s not just any court, but the highest court in the land and one that is presided by our Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

In case you are a normal Singaporean not following the issue, this is what the current matter is about:

Basically, WP’s Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) went to court to clarify about reviewing the accounts of Punggol East ward.

As WP lost Punggol East ward in last year’s GE, Punggol East has to be transferred to PAP’s PRPTC.

PRPTC decided to use PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accounting firm. This is different from the accounting firm that AHTC is currently using: KPMG.

So AHTC felt that two accounting firms are duplicating each other’s work — especially since it is funded by the public purse — and decided to go to court.

 

Okay, let’s move on to what the Chief Justice said at the proceedings. 

 

1. CJ Menon said that the way forward is to let the professionals do their job.

CJ Menon, as reported in The Straits Times, said that “the way forward is really to let the professionals — PwC and KPMG — talk to each other and let them work out their issues.”

In other words, this is a win for PAP since CJ Menon did not take WP’s side in thinking that there was a duplication of effort with two accountancy firms involved.

Instead, he opted for the status quo, which was to let the two accountancy firms talk things out.

This was of course the line highlighted by PAP MP Charles Chong.

Charles_Chong_PE
Source: Charles Chong Facebook

2. CJ Menon did not think that PAP and WP need to go to court all the time, but leave the room for them to do so. 

The CJ questioned whether it was necessary for the parties to go to court over an operational issue.

However, he did allow the affected party to apply to the court for directions if there is a difficulty in the access of documents in future.

A draw for PAP and WP then.

 

3. CJ Menon surprised at PAP’s PRPTC’s absence.

This was what CJ Menon said:

“I find it a little surprising that their response to this is they don’t need to attend, that they don’t want to attend, and that really raises the question as to why we are here. The Straits Times, July 9″

In fact, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) told the court that they invited PRPTC to attend the hearing, but they replied that “in their view, there (was) no need for them to attend”.

Needless to say, CJ’s remarks was highlighted in WP’s press release.

Workers_Party_AHTC
Source: Workers’ Party Facebook

In other words, this is a win for WP since CJ clearly felt that PRPTC should have attended the hearing.

And Zainal’s explanation just didn’t cut it — no one is asking PRPTC why they “refused to attend the heating (sic)”.

Folks are asking why PRPTC didn’t turn up, especially since even the CJ felt that they should have been there.

Source: Zainal Sapari Facebook
Source: Zainal Sapari Facebook

So is this situation a win for the Punggol East residents?

AHTC Chairman Pritam Singh said that AHTC would discuss the court’s latest directions with KPMG and “continue to ensure that the interests of its residents and the residents of Punggol East are safeguarded“.

PRPTC chairman Zainal said in a Facebook post that “it is in the interests of the residents of Punggol East,” for PwC to inquire into whether any past payments made by AHPETC had been improper and ought to be recovered.

To be honest, it is in the interests of the residents of Punggol East for both PAP and WP to stop playing politics.

At the end of the day, residents do not care whether it is a win for the PAP and WP.

They just want the two opposing parties to stop trying to score political points and make it a win for the residents.

This severe lack of trust and acrimony between two parties could have been prevented if:

– AHTC allow the joint appointment of accountants initially.

– PRPTC had not independently proceeded to appoint another accountancy firm.

– AHTC provide access to documents to PRPTC without going to court.

– PRPTC chooses to attend the court hearing to show respect to the opposing party.

Which also means that the sun rises from the west no one can score political points from the handing over issue.

 

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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 & D. Bonhoeffer, the words of G.Orwell & T.Sorensen, & the music of the Beatles.

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