The People’s Action Party’s (PAP) grassroots adviser for the Eunos ward wrote a lengthy reply on Saturday, Oct. 19, responding to Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh.This was after Pritam wrote on Oct. 15 where he publicly questioned if a barrier-free access ramp in his Eunos estate took a relatively long time of seven years to complete because it was mooted by the opposition party.
The PAP grassroots adviser, Chua Eng Leong, denied that this was the case, calling what Pritam wrote as "unsubstantiated comments", and criticised him for making “politically divisive and factually inaccurate comments".
Chua was part of the losing PAP team that ran in Aljunied GRC against WP during the 2015 General Election.
Pritam did not mention Chua by name in his initial post.
Chua rejects Pritam's insinuations
Chua said that Pritam's allegation of a deliberate delay in the completion of the ramp was “unjustifiable”.
This was so as a proposal for the project was similarly mooted by Eunos Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC).
PAP candidates who lose in the general election become part of the CCC so as to remain as a key decision-maker in the constituency.
Referring to the ramp, Chua wrote: “Considering this was proposed by Eunos CCC, why would Eunos CCC delay the project?”
The Eunos CCC and the People’s Association “would ensure the seamless completion of the project once the necessary approvals have been granted”, Chua further explained.
Funding for the ramp, Chua elaborated, was secured in September 2016.
Construction for the ramp started in December 2018.
The People’s Association on Tuesday handed over the ramp at Block 108 Bedok Reservoir Road to the WP-run AHTC.
Seeking to explain why the ramp took so long to be completed, Chua said the contractors in charge of the projects had asked for “extensions of time”.
This response by Chua appeared to be addressing the question by Pritam about why a ramp took years to complete, instead of just months, when the project was first mooted way back in 2012.
Chua said his response necessary
Chua wrote that he had “chosen to respond only so as to maintain a level of accountability to our residents and my fellow Singaporeans”.
He also suggested that Pritam was leveraging the situation for political ends.
“It is politically mischievous to suggest that proposals by MPs are commonly ignored," Chua wrote.
"In fact, Mr Singh had acknowledged in 2015 that 17 of AHTC’s proposed projects were accepted. Every proposal, whether from MPs or from the CCCs, must be scrutinised and prioritised carefully, with accountability in how we justify and award such contracts.”
Chua said that “regardless of whether it is the People’s Association, the CCCs or the opposition MPs", fellow Singaporeans' interests will be served.
Referred to ongoing AHTC court case
Chua also took a dig at Pritam in his post by referring to the High Court findings on the AHTC case.
Calling the issue a “red herring”, Chua pointed out the need for accountability by those found to be in breach of their fiduciary duties.
Pritam Singh responded promptly
Within three hours of Chua's reply, Pritam responded via another Facebook post.He said he was “delighted to see the CCC finally engage this issue, albeit only after things have to go public”, especially after “repeated emails, requests for answers have gone unanswered and ignored, over many years”.
Pritam also called this issue "a systemic problem", and not a personal one targeted at grassroots advisers.
He wrote: "As far as possible, I have sought to avoid naming the relevant Grassroots Advisers in person because this is not a personal issue."
Responding to Chua's reply, in greater detail for some specific points, Pritam questioned if the “seven-year wait for a proposal to come to fruition” is the norm in PAP wards.
Highlighting an omission in Chua's reply, which appeared to contain information that was previously not revealed before, Pritam wrote: “If funding was already secured in 2016... I cannot find a substantive reason for the delay in Mr Chua’s long post.”
Pritam emphasised the curious issue of securing funding by further highlighting that the Ministry of National Development has been disbursing some S$40 million annually for estates to be spruced up.
Disclosure of financial numbers
The opposition party chief also called for greater disclosure of numbers, even as he agrees with Chua that every proposal submitted to the Community Improvement Project Committee (CIPC) “must be scrutinised and prioritised”.
Pritam called on Chua to “share some numbers so the public can understand” how much funds were allocated to the Aljunied CCCs after the WP took over the running of Aljunied GRC, in comparison with the average for CCCs in all other constituencies.
“If the difference is stark, maybe the Aljunied CCCs would raise their hands and acknowledge the elephant in the room?” he said.
He added: “Mr Chua contends that the (ramp) is a red herring. He is wrong. It is a metaphor — a very powerful metaphor for the double standards when it comes to CIPC funding in opposition wards.”
Pritam responds to reference to AHTC court case
In response to Chua bringing up the AHTC court case, Pritam said he “fully expected some reference in any reply to my original post to the ongoing court case”.
“As the matter remains before the courts, I am sure the public can understand why I will not be commenting on it,” Pritam said about the trial that is moving on to a second stage where the court will assess the quantum of compensation that the town councils are entitled to from the defendants.
Pritam ended his response with a proposal.
He mooted the idea for the Aljunied and Hougang CCCs, as well as the elected opposition MPs in the ward to “sit down together to develop a protocol on how CIPC proposals should be handled in opposition wards so as to ensure equity in disbursement of taxpayer dollars and efficient execution of CIPC projects”.
He said: “I will be happy to be a part of the solution.”