Residents mostly shrug off AHPETC debate

Residents living in Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East mostly appear little affected by the fierce debate in Parliament last week on the financial statements of their opposition-run town council.

Yahoo Singapore spoke to residents from these constituencies over the weekend and found that, while a few have since had a sharp negative change in their views of the Workers' Party or the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), many were unconcerned.

This comes after two days of fiery exchanges in Parliament between Members of Parliament of ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and the WP over the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO's) findings of lapses in the AHPETC's financial accounts.

[READ ALSO: The dramatic things people said on day 1 of the debate, and the even more dramatic things people said on day 2 of the debate]

"I'm very confused by all the numbers, and also very worried," said tutor Anna Seow, 33, who lives with her parents in Ubi under the Aljunied group representation constituency (GRC). "My parents and I would like a full explanation and breakdown of what we have been paying for. If indeed there was financial manipulation, we would be extremely disappointed."

She said she felt that while the PAP seems to have over-dramatised the issue, her view of the WP has also taken a turn for the worse.

"I would be less convinced that they can do a good job leading us or doing anything more than debating in Parliament," she said. "I need a first world living space and constituency more than a first world Parliament."

Another Aljunied resident, who wanted to be known as Mr Tan, agreed with Seow, saying this entire episode has weakened the WP's position in the constituency.

"It was only when the government looked into the town council that we came to discover what really was happening [with its accounts]," said the 61-year-old semi-retired driver. "I think many of us are getting quite irritated by this issue... in the next election we will have to choose carefully and think about what's good and what isn't; what gives us better insurance and what doesn't."

Little impact on support

A Chinese New Year banner displayed in the Workers' Party-run Punggol East single-member constituency, photographed in February 2015. (Yahoo photo)
A Chinese New Year banner displayed in the Workers' Party-run Punggol East single-member constituency, photographed in February 2015. (Yahoo photo)

For 35-year-old Richard Tan, a delivery driver living in Hougang, however, the controversy has not shaken his support for the opposition party.

"If they did any wrong or its members are [doing unlawful things], why isn't the government taking them to court instead of debating the issue in Parliament?" he asked. "[The WP] is a kind, friendly and trustworthy opposition party... Singaporeans need their voices in Parliament. Without them to question the government, we will have a much tougher living."

Finance analyst Lim Yun Lu, also a Hougang resident, questioned the timing of the government's exposé of the AHPETC.

"A lot of things are not transparent; we just don't know of them," she said. "I feel the PAP is using this as ammunition against the WP. How sure are they that the PAP is all clean? Isn't it too much of a coincidence that all these are suddenly getting exposed just because elections are coming?" she asked.

The issue of transparency and accountability hit home for a longtime Bedok Reservoir Road resident who wanted to be known as Ms Koh.

"All of us don't know the accounts of all the other town councils either," said the bank officer. "Perhaps they, too, should be more transparent with their accounts on the whole, in the way listed companies publish their annual reports with all the details of their expenditures broken down on their websites."

She said she did not follow the debate very closely, however, and so it has not affected her view of the WP from when they were voted in in 2011.

"Estate-management wise, I've lived here for 26 years and honestly, not much has changed since the handover [from PAP to WP]," she added.

In man-on-the-street video interviews, one resident also told Yahoo Singapore that she has seen little difference in the management of her estate whether under the PAP or WP.

One man said he would give a slightly lower rating to WP now, but most of the residents said they ultimately didn't care about the debate.