Many well-intended people advised me not to pursue this saga. It was too mundane, and people wanted to move on.
But I felt duty bound to resolve this matter, because it goes far beyond clean ceilings.
The core issue is integrity.
The Property Manager of AHPETC, Mr Tai Vie Shun, demanded extra money from hawkers for cleaning the high areas of hawker centres. He did so on three occasions – 8 March 2013, 26 April 2013 and 28 April 2013. The hawkers have confirmed this consistently, and their account is backed up by notes of meetings.
When this scandal came to light, instead of putting things right, the Town Council Chairman, Ms Sylvia Lim, and the Vice-Chairman, Mr Pritam Singh, publicly denied that the Town Council had ever asked hawkers for more money.
That was why I said in Parliament that these denials by Ms Lim and Mr Singh were false and untruthful. And I say it again here.
Ms Sylvia Lim acknowledged that this was a very grave charge, but then she beat around the bush, and claimed confusion between spring and annual cleaning. But how can she, on the one hand, claim that the Town Council never asked for more money; and then, on the other hand, maintain that this was spring and not annual cleaning, i.e. the Town Council was justified to ask for more money?
Mr Pritam Singh sat conspicuously silent throughout the proceedings.
Mr Low Thia Kiang argued that it was all ‘a misunderstanding’. But interestingly he did not strongly defend the Town Council’s actions, or Ms Lim and Mr Singh’s public denials.
Politics is a contest for power, but people with power must never take advantage of those in their charge. Equally important, we must always be honest with everyone, including ourselves, especially if a mistake has been made. I therefore urged Mr Low to conduct a full investigation and clean up his Town Council.
To my surprise, at this point Mr Low, Ms Lim and Mr Singh all chose to remain silent, and raised no further questions or objections, and so the debate in Parliament ended.