Workers’ Party hits back at HDB, PA

Alicia Wong

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

In the latest turn of events, the Workers' Party (WP) is accusing the Housing and Development Board (HDB) of abusing its power, which has resulted in WP Members of Parliament unable to hold or attend activities at strategic sites.

In a strongly-worded statement on Monday, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said the HDB informed the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, managed by the WP MPs, in June that 26 commonly-used sites were to be excluded from the town council's management.

She noted that these sites were "strategically located, being hard courts or amphitheatres highly suitable for organising social activities".

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 further and 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 saga between WP, HDB and PA began on Saturday when WP MP Chen Show Mao posted a note on his Facebook page, saying residents withdrew their invitation to him to attend a dinner because the Paya Lebar citizens consultative committee told organisers that as a condition to getting approval for the venue, they could not invite their MP.

Lim 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.

The "unilateral decision" by the HDB to lease the 26 sites to the PA appears to be "politically motivated and an abuse of power", said Lim. It prevents WP MPs from holding activities at the  sites and curtailed their ground presence.

Pointing out that the PA appears to "capitalise on its close connections with the government to serve the political interests of the ruling party," Lim said this gives PAP candidates "ground advantage and permanent presence, in advance preparation for the next elections".

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.

The PA has not responded to Yahoo! Singapore's earlier requests for comments. Yahoo! Singapore has contacted HDB and PA for their comments to WP's statement.