Workers' Party lying about hawker centre cleaning: Govt

Workers' Party lying about hawker centre cleaning: Govt
Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan. TODAY File Photo
Minister urges Workers’ Party to admit its mistake and investigate the matter
Published: 4:01 AM, July 10, 2013
Updated: 9:33 AM, July 11, 2013
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SINGAPORE — The Government yesterday twice accused the Workers’ Party (WP) of lying about the cleaning of hawker centres in its ward, and called on the opposition to be transparent on the issue and clean up its act in an extraordinary admonishment in Parliament and online.

The WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) was accused of asking hawkers for extra money to clean the high areas of hawker centres — a charge it has repeatedly denied — even though town councils are obliged to do so once a year without imposing additional costs on the hawkers.

This is the third time that the Government has accused the WP of lying over the matter.

Last month, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan first charged in a media statement that the AHPETC was lying in its version of the protracted dispute.

Yesterday, he fired another volley at the integrity of the WP during a 30-minute terse exchange in Parliament with AHPETC Chairman Sylvia Lim. Hours later, he hit out again, posting on Facebook that Ms Lim and fellow Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament Pritam Singh were “false and untruthful” in their denials. This time, he noted that the WP MPs remained silent.

He also said he wanted to pursue the matter because the “core issue” of integrity was at stake and he challenged WP chief Low Thia Khiang to investigate the matter and “put things right” in the town council.

During the exchange in Parliament — where Mr Low also waded in and described the matter as a “misunderstanding” — Dr Balakrishnan handed out a dossier of documents with evidence backing his allegations and stressed that the issue was “not about cleanliness of the ceiling, it is about clean politics”.

Urging the WP to admit its mistake, Dr Balakrishnan said: “Politics is a contest for power but the key principle when you have power is, don’t take advantage of people under your charge, and always be honest and upfront with them. All of us will make mistakes. When a mistake is made, just come clean and say so but don’t cover up. That’s why I have not let this go.”

The exchange in the House began when Dr Balakrishnan rose to respond to a question tabled by Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah on the role of town councils in cleaning and maintaining hawker centres under their charge.

The minister said that spring cleaning was done by hawkers once every three months while town councils are responsible for conducting and paying for an annual cleaning, including for high areas such as ceilings, beams and exhaust ducts. He then cited a quotation issued by ATL Maintenance — AHPETC’s contractor — to the hawkers at Block 538 Bedok North, billing them S$7,200 as payment.

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