People's Association lifts restrictions on sites

The Workers' Party has accused the HDB of abusing its power and of being politically-motivated. (Yahoo! file photo)The Workers' Party has accused the HDB of abusing its power and of being politically-motivated. (Yahoo! file p …


In a major about-shift, the People's Association has lifted restrictions on who residents can invite to events held on public sites leased by the Association.

However, these activities have to be "non-political" in nature and that they have to be organised by "non-grassroots organisations".

The liberalising of rules, announced in a joint Ministry of National Development-PA statement on Tuesday night, is the latest twist in a public debate over the use of open spaces in Aljunied GRC, which is under the Workers' Party (WP).

The row was sparked off when WP MP Chen Show Mao posted a note on his Facebook page on Saturday said his invitation to a Hungry Ghost grassroots dinner organised by Hougang residents had been withdrawn.

Residents said they withdrew their invitation to him because the Paya Lebar Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC) told organisers that, as a condition to getting approval for the venue, they could not invite their MP.

On Monday, WP chairman Sylvia Lim joined in the fray and said those who applied to the CCC for permits were "told verbally that they could not invite the elected WP MP or they would risk their applications being turned down in subsequent years".

"Residents have told us that they are confused by the new requirements of the CCC and annoyed by the intense politicking by the PA grassroots organizations.  They felt torn and in an emotional dilemma," she said.

On its part, in its statement on Tuesday night, the MND and PA also said there had been times when organisers of grassroots events at open spaces under the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had been told they were expected to invite the WP MP.

"It was only on Aug 19 that the chairman of AHTC stated publicly that the town council would not impose any condition on whom organisers could invite," they said. the chairman of AHTC is Sylvia Lim.

"PA welcomes this new position of AHTC, and is likewise lifting its current restriction on invitees for events organised by non-GROs on sites leased by PA from HDB, as long as they are of a non-political nature."

Earlier this week, Lim said that the HDB had informed the WP-led Aljunied-Hougang Town Council in June that 26 commonly-used sites were to be excluded from the town council's management.

These sites were previously managed by the former Aljunied Town Council, run by People's Action Party (PAP) MPs. "No background nor rationale was given for the decision," said Lim.

After repeated queries by the town council, HDB responded last month that these sites had been leased to the People's Association (PA) in May and June 2011.

Attempts to explore the joint use of the sites with PA did not succeed. This month, PA "indicated that 'booking by WP will not be allowed'," said Lim.

"We were puzzled about the intention behind the move, which occurred before the new management took over the estate. We are left to conclude that the decision by the HDB to shift management of these common properties from the Town Council to the PA was precipitated by the victory of the Workers' Party in Aljunied GRC in the General Elections," she said.

The "unilateral decision" by the HDB to lease the 26 sites to the PA appears to be "politically motivated", said Lim. She added there appears to be a dissonance between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call for political harmony and national unity and the actions of the HDB and PA in Aljunied GRC.

What do you think of the tit-for-tat debate over the use of open spaces?
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