Mah to Low: Stay within your sandbox

The Minister for National Development has basically told Low Thia Khiang to stay within the confines of his town council and stop trying to manage the Lift Upgrading Programme.

In what is probably one of his most insulting and condescending statements to date, the Minister for National Development, though his taxpayer-funded press secretary, has basically told Opposition leader and Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang to stay within the confines of his town council and stop trying to manage the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP), period.

Here are excerpts of what the press secretary to the Minister wrote in his Straits Times Forum letter today:

These programmes have to be implemented through government channels. In the case of HDB upgrading, this channel is the advisers to grassroots organisations, who are appointed by the Government. Opposition MPs are not answerable to the Government, nor are they obliged to carry out and explain the Government’s policies.

The government has just admitted that all grassroots advisers are government appointees. This settles the ambiguity once and for all — that the PAP thoroughly controls the taxpayer-funded grassroots organisations and is using them to its own political advantage.

The Government pays up to 90 per cent of the cost of the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP), with the rest shared between the residents (5 per cent) and the town councils (5 per cent). Funding for LUP is possible only because of the Government and the Budget surpluses it has generated through prudent policies.

If town councils are expected to fork out 5% of the LUP costs, don’t they deserve a say in the upgrading? This is taxation without representation. It is nothing short of political gymnastics to say LUP is only possible because of budget surpluses. Why don’t they say road maintenance, MRT lines or government polyclinics in Hougang are possible only because of budget surpluses?

It was HDB that built the flats without proper lifts in the first place. Therefore installing proper lifts is part of HDB’s “service recovery”, not a privilege accorded to residents by a magnanimous government.

Opposition MPs are not responsible for generating budget surpluses. There is therefore no basis for opposition MPs to lead the LUP…

This is a red herring. Neither are the PAP grassroots advisers, the PAP MPs, and even the PAP ministers responsible for budget surpluses. These surpluses would not have come about without the taxes paid by Singaporean workers and companies. Why should the PAP grassroots advisers front the LUP then? Is is just so that they can claim credit for the LUP, which they have already been doing?

The will of the people expressed in general elections is to elect a government for the country as a whole; and not to elect separate local governments for each constituency.

This flies in the face of then-PM Goh Chok Tong’s rationale for setting up town councils in the first place, which was to provide a form of municipal government that is closer to the ground and more responsive to residents’ needs. This was articulated quite clearly in an interview with the Straits Times on 22 July 2009. The PAP has now basically changed its tune completely just to sideline the Opposition.

However, MPs do have a role in running town councils. Their role in town management and maintenance is clearly defined in the Town Councils Act, and does not extend to implementing government programmes such as the LUP.

In future, I will expect the MPs in PAP town councils not to have any role whatsoever in implementing LUP. They are not to publicize it, take credit for it or manage it.

This overtly partisan political manoeuvring by the PAP has really woken up many Singaporeans to the reality that the ruling party will do anything just to get a few more votes for themselves. Each reply from the HDB, PA, MND or the Minister digs them deeper and deeper into a hole of disdain in the eyes of Singaporeans.

Is this the direction we want to see politics heading in Singapore?

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

6 thoughts on “Mah to Low: Stay within your sandbox”

  1. “Opposition MPs are not responsible for generating budget surpluses”

    If this logic is correct, this would also mean that the reverse is equally true “Only PAP MPs are responsible for generating budget surplus (or deficits) “.

    So is that why the CEO of Temasek Holdings, wife of the Prime Minister, who is not a MP is absolved from all responsibilities for all the losses at Temasek ?

    What kind of logic is that ? They have pig-brains, is it ?

  2. From the letter written by the Press Secretary on behalf of Mr Mah Bow Tan, the Minister for National Development, it has implied that grassroot organisations, such as the RC and CC, are a part of the government.

    If that is so, then as a member of a grassroot organisation, can I now demand for a salary and yearly bonuses (and backdated up to all the years that I have served in the grassroot organisations) from the HDB or from the Ministry of National Development?

    This is a very serious issue. All members of RCs and CCs should start to demand for pays and bonuses for the number of years they have served FOC.

    WHO is to foot this very huge bill? I think the PAP should take full responsibility and be made to pay and pay for this, yah.

  3. People joined grassroot for a multitude of reasons. In the past, it used to be that they joined them for some free seasons parking in the HDB carparks, some took pride in being a community leader (for whatever that is worth) and of cuz there are the genuine group that from the offset is indeed bent on contributing their effort to serve the community. Most of them actually want to rub shoulder and be nearer to the MP’s who themselves may be nearer to the Godverment. Rubbing shoulder has its advantages, like pulling strings to get certain things done for the family members and some other help (perks) which otherwise a layman citizen will have to queue deep into the night to just bring up their problem.

    These people will not demand a pay, let alone desiring for a bonus. Getting close to their God is already bonus enough.

    That is the reason why, despite invitation, I have never wanted to get involve in RCs, and all the other C’s. Peter, there are other ways to contribute to society. Sad to say, this grassroot system has been abused and misused by some grassroot leaders.

Comments are closed.