Minister’s Belated Statement Uncalled For
I refer to the statement of Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on 9 June 2013.
I have been truthful in communicating the Town Council’s position on the facts of the matter concerned. Equally, there is no reason to doubt the honesty of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (“AHPETC”) staff in this matter. If the Minister has any proof to the contrary, he should present these, rather than make sweeping allegations.
The Minister asked AHPETC to cooperate with the National Environment Agency (“NEA”). I refer the Minister to the various AHPETC media statements below:
1st Media Release on 1st June 2013 – AHPETC stated: “We will use our best endeavors to work with all stakeholders to bring any outstanding issues to an amicable resolution.”
2nd Media Release on 3rd June 2013 – AHPETC stated: “The AHPETC is committed to fulfilling all its obligations. We hope the NEA will adopt a solution-focused approach to the matter.”
3rd Media Release on 4th June 2013 – AHPETC stated: “Any matter involving public health and safety can be resolved administratively in good faith. AHPETC is committed to dealing with all public agencies in good faith, as both parties, Town Councils and government bodies like the NEA, ultimately serve the people of Singapore, albeit in different capacities.”
4th Media Release on 7th June 2013 – in response to attack made by the NEA that AHPETC deflected the blame (which NEA issued on 6th June just after AHPETC had met NEA to resolve matters), the AHPETC media release still stated, even under such an attack: “AHPETC is always prepared to work with the relevant government agencies for the benefit of the residents it serves.”
AHPETC has been consistent in its attitude and is always prepared to cooperate with government agencies for the benefit of the residents it serves. However, the Minister should not mistake this to mean that AHPETC can be bullied or is an easy target to be used by the government to score political points.
As this episode wore on and even earlier in April 2013, the Minister visited the hawker centres at various markets in Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East (AHPE) town. In doing so, the Minister could have used his not insignificant powers as Minister overseeing the NEA and exercised his leadership to reach out to all parties, including both the Hawkers Association and AHPETC, to resolve any matter amicably. We expected that as Minister, he would use his office to play a positive and constructive role in this episode, but this was apparently not to be.
The Minister also said that NEA was doing its job. The hawkers and AHPETC were satisfied with the outcome of meeting with the NEA on 6 June 2013. Why is the Minister weighing in now, after the issue has been resolved? Is the Minister fair in his statement, resorting to name-calling and character assassination?
The PAP constantly warns Singaporeans of divisive politics and clamours for an inclusive Singapore. However, the Minister’s approach appears to perpetuate the opposite. Accusing the elected members of AHPETC of arrogance and being untruthful does not help resolve matters. The elected members of AHPETC are committed to serving all residents to the best of our abilities.
We invite the Minister to a dialogue with the elected members of AHPETC to settle any outstanding matters, on this or any other matter in future, should he wish to do so.
ALJUNIED-HOUGANG-PUNGGOL EAST TOWN COUNCIL
10 June 2013