On market cleaning, NEA’s dossier makes WP look bad

Parliamentary debate, 9 July 2013.

When, sometime in mid-June 2013, in relation to the saga about cleaning market centres, Low Thia Khiang said we should move on, I allowed myself a great big “Hmmm…”

The release of a “dossier” by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources detailing the communications between the National Environment Agency (NEA), hawkers and the the managing agent of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPeTC) confirms my suspicions that we have not seen all that there is to see.

I won’t repeat the background to this story, since readers can get the gist of it from an earlier article, Cleaning market 538 — as clear as mud, published on 13 June 2013.

Piecing together various statements by the Workers’ Party over the last few months, their stand seems to be:

  • They don’t deny that town councils are responsible for one major spring cleaning (i.e. including high areas) a year;
  • AHPeTC’s contract with their cleaning contractor in fact provides for it;
  • Since the town council pays, it shouldn’t be for hawkers to decide when to have a major spring cleaning;
  • There was confusion whether the March spring cleaning of Market 538 and the June spring cleaning of Market 511 were major or minor spring cleanings;
  • Even if major, there was confusion whether the hawkers of Market 538 volunteered to pay for “scaffolding”;
  • AHPeTC never asked hawkers to pay extra to the town council for cleaning high areas.

There are things in the dossier, which refers to Markets 538 and 511, that undermine this position. Some documents we have seen before, but one important thing is new. It is that Tai Vie Shun, the Property Manager, and employee of the managing agent FM Solutions and Services Pte Ltd (see media release dated 5 August 2011), kept repeating all the way into May 2013 that “Spring Cleaning is a practice set by NEA, not Town Council. As such, we advise the Merchant Association to liaise with NEA directly on the requirement.”

It is quite hard to understand this statement and harder to reconcile it with the Workers’ Party’s stand. First of all, what is meant by “Spring Cleaning”?  As discussed in the earlier article, there are two kinds: major spring cleaning, which includes high ducts, fans and other ceiling fixtures, and which typically takes five days to complete, and minor spring cleaning, which covers areas up to 2.5 metres from the ground. For the latter, the market does not need to be closed for more than two days.

Secondly, it sounds as if Tai was pushing away responsibility for a matter which is primarily the town council’s. Even the Workers’ Party, which runs AHPeTC, does not deny this responsibility. See video above at 10 minutes, 20 seconds. At the very least, Tai was being extremely unhelpful to the hawkers who were trying to find out what the cleaning plans were.

Vivian Balakrishnan, the minister in charge, is alleging that AHPeTC and/or its managing agent, was intent on disclaiming responsibility for cleaning the high areas once a year. In this, the internal meeting notes of the NEA dated 26 April 2013 — discussing the upcoming cleaning of Block 511 market — backs him up. It records:

On the scope for the fore coming spring cleaning Mr Tai informed the meeting that they will carry out cleaning only up to areas reachable by the cleaners, i.e. similar or equal to the wall fans height or 2.5m. NEA then informed the TC that for the major spring cleaning they are required to clean areas beyond 2.5m and up to the ceiling area. Mr Tai however disagreed and replied that it is MOM’s rule that no works beyond height of 2.5m be carried out without scaffoldings.

The HA reps commented that the ceiling and beams were dirty, and were covered with bird droppings. However, TC commented that they will not be bearing any costs for the erecting of staging/machinery for cleaning of areas beyond height of 2.5m. Mr Tai mentioned that the costs of erecting the staging/machinery for cleaning of areas beyond 2.5m shall be borne by HA instead of Town Council. Following queries from the HA, Mr Tai said that he is following their SOP for all their works to be carried out.

Here, ‘TC’ stands for Town Council, and presumably it was Tai who was speaking on behalf of the Town Council, since he was listed under ‘AHPeTC’ in the header of the same notes. ‘HA’ stands for Hawkers Association.

One needs to bear in mind however that these are internal meeting notes, not minutes. Minutes are usually shared with all parties seeking their agreement that the record correctly represents what they each said. Internal meeting notes are unilateral, for the internal use of one side only. In other words, if Tai had been misquoted in these notes, he would not have had an opportunity to correct them. This is provided I am correct in assuming that these were NOT minutes and had not been circulated to non-NEA participants.

With that proviso in mind, you see in these notes NEA speaking about “major spring cleaning” and Tai disagreeing that his side was responsible for cleaning walls and fixtures above 2.5 metres.

I believe the Workers’ Party’s stand is that there was confusion about what kind of cleaning was being scheduled (and by whom), and anyway, it is not for hawkers to dictate to the town council when and how often major spring cleaning should be carried out. This may be credible if we are discussing the events up till March 2013 relating to the cleaning of Block 538 market. But after the hawkers shut their stalls for five days in March, paid a contractor to cover their premises only to discover that high-level cleaning was never carried out, and complained about the loss they suffered, it is hard to keep denying that the town council and its managing agent were still confused what the issue was about. They must surely know that the hawkers were concerned about whether or not high areas would be cleaned, and thus, whether they should close for two days or five.

So, when the hawkers of Market 511 raised similar concerns at that 26 April meeting, it cannot withstand scrutiny to now say there was confusion and miscommunication regarding major or minor spring cleaning.

Another possibility is that the town council did not plan to do major spring cleaning of Market 511 in June, but later in the year, and that is why in the internal meeting notes (which was about the June cleaning), Tai was recorded to have disagreed that AHPeTC was responsible. But if the town council had a different schedule for major spring cleaning later in the year, why was the meeting not so advised? This omission allows a presumption that Tai and AHPeTC had no plan to do any high-area cleaning at their cost at any time.

* * * * *

In previous media statements and again in the parliamentary debate of 9 July 2013, Sylvia Lim (Workers’ Party) said that at no time did AHPeTC say they were imposing additional charges on hawkers. In the video above, at 15 minutes 03 seconds, Sylvia Lim says: “Mr Tai at no point in time asked for extra money to be paid to the town council for high area cleaning.” (My emphasis)

Technically, she is probably correct. Mr Tai seems to have asked hawkers to find and pay a contractor directly, not pay the town council, but even so, the Workers’ Party’s reply smacks of sophistry.

Then again, the NEA could have helped create the mess. At 12 minutes 33 seconds of the video you will see Sylvia Lim pointing out that “. . . and the reply that came back [from the NEA] was that the Hawkers’ Association would be making arrangements with their own contractor for the scaffold erection and dismantling.”

The failure to state clearly whether the scaffolding was for cleaning the high areas or to lay canvas over the stalls seems to be crucial. That said, why didn’t anybody make an effort to clarify?

* * * * *

And still, a big question remains. I have long wondered why, after having run Hougang Town Council for decades, this issue of major and minor spring cleaning, who should be scheduling them and who should pay, should crop up now. The Workers’ Party is not new to running town councils, and this has never been an issue before. Why now?

Alas, on this, I am no more informed than before.

58 Responses to “On market cleaning, NEA’s dossier makes WP look bad”

  1. 1 Winston Lim 10 July 2013 at 14:45

    The thing is why do these people call it spring cleaning? Can they just call it annual cleaning and quarterly cleaning? Spring cleaning can mean a major cleaning affair. This term is very confusing to say the least.

    Further, Mr Tai seems to think that spring cleaning is not under the scope of the town council and has repeatedly tried to get NEA to respond. Note that NEA officer Ms Chin Peiyun is in the loop the whole time and only wrote once, without clearing the air whose responsibility for the cleaning.

    It also does not help that Mr Johnathan from the market association did not help clear the air, but instead, repeatedly ask the same question. What I can say is all those involve in that email are not clear of their responsibilities and are not proactive enough to seek clarification.

    This whole sorry saga looks sorrier when a Minister got himself involved. Vivian Balakrishnan should not have wasted precious time to try score political points. It makes him look really bad. I am disgusted by his attitude. He should focus on Dengue and Haze, the two more pressing issues that really matter.

    Look, if the town council failed its obligation, the hawker’s association can always sue. $7,200 is a very small sum of money compared to the $300 over millions spent and wasted on YOG. PAP must learn to get its politics right. I don’t think I will vote for Vivian Balakrishnan and his team if he is ever fielded in my GRC again!

    • 2 MaxChew 10 July 2013 at 19:46

      VB can only have a chance in a GRC like Bukit Timah where the elites will back him in sufficient numbers. In GRCs with predominant HDB voters, he’s done for sure. But I’m not too sure he will be fielded at all in the coming 2016 GE after his dismal performance the last 2 terms. I think he knows it and hence springing his dramatic pounce on the WP in Parliament yesterday simply to score political points with the PM.
      2:08PM May 27, 2013  

      • 3 Fox 11 July 2013 at 03:49

        You are mistaken. Results from the last election indicates the opposition tend to fare better in areas with a lot of private housing, which are less reliant on the TCs and RCs.

      • 4 MaxChew 13 July 2013 at 11:58

        I thought as much…..he had the backing of the whole cabinet to do what he did! This is our PAP Govt folks, fixing the Opp takes priority over other more important state affairs!
        The solution now is simple……Get Mr Tai to do a statutory declaration whether he ask for extra payments or not. And to explain any notes of any meeting

    • 5 forestine 14 July 2013 at 19:23

      After I’ve read the Dossier, I got a qn for Mr Tai Vie Shun. Did you know that TC have a duty to clean the area above 2.5m once a year and to pay for it?

  2. 6 skponggol 10 July 2013 at 15:39

    “I believe the Workers’ Party’s stand is that there was confusion about what kind of cleaning was being scheduled….”

    It is a very lousy excuse for WP to claim that they are confused about the kind of cleaning being scheduled.

    There are only 2 types of cleaning: spring or minor cleaning which cleans only the floor, chairs and tables; major cleaning which cleans floor, table, chairs plus ceiling.

    During the correspondence, WP is already aware that scaffolding and canvas would be used. They even claimed that the hawkers would be providing and paying for the scaffolding, even though it is supposed to be free but WP made no attempt to stop the hawkers from wasting their hard-earned money.

    If scaffolding and canvas were to be used, no one should be confused that this is a major cleaning involving the high ceilings. If this is a minor cleaning, as claimed by the “confused” WP, that involved only the floor, tables and chairs, why is there a need to set up scaffolding and canvas?

    Where on earth do you find anybody wasting time and money on scaffolding and canvas just to clean floor?

    • 7 Xiang Ling 10 July 2013 at 16:31

      You have to take into account that NEA officer Ms Chin Peiyun wrote to Mr Tai that the hawker association will handle the scaffolding. IF Mr Vivian Balakrishnan is being fair, open and transparent, he would have included this MISSING EMAIL that started the whole confusion. To be fair, both are at fault. END OF STORY.

      I don’t know why PAP needs to blow up this matter with TWO SIMILARLY WORDED PETITIONS to the media and drag WP in. Perhaps as put across by the Minister himself,

      “Politics is a contest for power.”

      Then, I am really worried whether we have made the right decision to give them such power.

      • 8 Duh 11 July 2013 at 01:27

        This whole entire issue is to distract people from AIMsgate and apparently, the PAP is quite successful at it. It was AIMsgate that led to the PAP raising this issue.

  3. 9 Lau 10 July 2013 at 15:50

    Well said Winston! VB kept repeating the phrase “clean politics” when everyone knows PAP’s definition of clean politics is very different from ours. I fail to understand how any decent human being can be so shamelessly hypocritical.

    • 10 Jake 13 July 2013 at 14:16

      He who started GE 11 campaign by insinuating Vincent Wijeysingha had a gay agenda. That’s clean alright…

      Or is that part of the contest for power?

  4. 11 For our future's sake. 10 July 2013 at 16:01

    For a minister to spend so much time over this is obvious..cheap political points which he can never get doing his real job. It seems he is trying to salvage whatever whatever he can before 2016 after failing in so many areas.
    He should let the people and the hawker’s association deal with the town council if the town council is in the wrong.
    It is even more pathetic when the newspaper all played up his antics.

  5. 12 Alan 10 July 2013 at 16:13

    Look it was the first time PAP lost a GRC seat to opposition. That is a very sore point especially where our PAP leaders are concerned. Someone has to do something to score back political points for PAP, at least to please the old man who must have lost enough face for having threatened the voters & subsequently losing the seat the seat as well. In other words the old man face is no longer valuable in our elections. So here comes in the role of the paid million dollar Minister. The loss of the GRC seat is just simply too much for all of them not to take it personally, especially the old man.

    That is probably how the saga began. Otherwise why the hell would one think that PAP is that really keen in the wellbeing of hawker centres. Remember they have even stopped building hawker centres for so many years, only until recently they even have ventured to build one for Hougang.
    Just think for a moment, what is really PAP’s agenda for building a hawker centre of all places in Hougang ?

    They must suddenly realised the importance of a hawker centre in fixing the opposition lately ?

  6. 13 LC 10 July 2013 at 16:51

    Yes, VB looks really slick supported by our ST’s shrill headlines hammering the WP on cleaning of hawker centres, but look what happened when he tried the same tactics to demand action from Indonesia. He was slapped down with something along the lines of “don’t behave like a child”.

  7. 14 JG 10 July 2013 at 17:51

    Its a simple case of miscommunication on ALL SIDES (hawkers, WP, NEA, hawkers association) — that is blown way out of proportion. Alex, you’ve only microscopically analysed one side of it — an apparent inconsistency in WP’s communication. To be fair, you need to look at NEA’s email and query that too. Similarly, the PAP grassroot leader’s link to the hawkers assocition and why he was mysteriously addressed to in the letter from the contractor.

    Imagine this were say, a PAP GRC and such a miscommunication occured. How will NEA – as a supposedly apolitical organisation – have handled it? And ask ourselves, how did NEA handle it in this case? Wonder anymore why WP is crying foul that the NEA is politicised?

    Its no longer about the scandal per se, but the response to it. How true.

    I think most Singaporeans have moved on. Probably the hawkers too. Yes, milk the incident all you want, score your political points, hysterically jump up and down about it like the “James Gomez character issue” (funny, why is it only the PAP who points fingers at others about “character issues”?? VB should have a nice chat with say, Teo Ho Pin?). Ultimately, let the voters decide how big a deal to make this. Last I recalled, the James Gomez hysteria backfired (although PAP leaders was gleeful that they’d caught only something).

  8. 15 Bong Kin Chen 10 July 2013 at 20:29

    It appears to be an impassion plea at the conclusion for the revival of moronic further politiking into a miscommunicated matter that seems to have been resolved earlier. Further political polemics will do more bad and no good to all parties. The key focus should be on the Dengue Epidemic and ensuring that the annual Haze does not return next year. MOVE ON, FELLOWS. No more “fixing” …. the resentment will escalate even more !!!!

  9. 16 Rabbit 10 July 2013 at 23:04

    I can’t believe such matters have been settled amicably should be brought up again in parliament and take away precious time for many more important issues affecting Singaporeans. We also know PAP is good in playing gutter politics when opportunity arises. Vivian Bala’s anti-gay agenda, during GE2011, still rings in my ears.

    No party is perfect, there is always a learning curve gained from such incident. WP has already learned from such “confusion’ (whether partly created by NEA or because the Hawker’s association with PA linkage took the opportunity to blow it up). Though questions remain and there is no right or wrong and who is at fault, but most importantly hawker’s problems have been solved.. By bringing up the issue again doesn’t mean PAP is in any high moral ground not unfamiliar to Singaporeans when accountability and transparency is concerned.

    My question to Vivian Balakrishnan is very simple, did he think he is less arrogant than this episode when Lily Neo asked him to help the poor by giving them additional monthly $50?

  10. 17 Anon BDsW 11 July 2013 at 05:22

    I personally appreciate it when things don’t get screwed up. But I appreciate honesty more. However, I don’t know if other Singaporeans feel the same.

    This is an excellent opportunity for the major players in this saga to close this issue by calling a spade, a spade.

    Let’s see who gets there first.

  11. 19 The 11 July 2013 at 09:57

    Relying on internal notes???

  12. 20 hi 11 July 2013 at 10:28

    If I am not wrong, VB mentioned that there were 3 instances that Mr Tai “asked for money” and that there were witnesses which includes NEA officers. How interesting that the NEA officers did not object to Mr Tai’s requests during those meetings if such requests are for money to be collected for an annual cleaning which includes the high area, knowing that such requests are not in line with actual practice. I can only conclude that Mr Tai’s “requests” are not for the cleaning of the high area in an annual cleaning.

  13. 21 mutucurry 11 July 2013 at 10:46

    Habits die hard. And when you have been a school debater this habit of having to argue to win, to press home a point, to make your opponent looks bad – is so evidently present in the trait of a schoolboy debater in VB. Atlas, VB may have win the argument for the day but it could be his Waterloo if he is not careful.

  14. 22 Vernon Voon 11 July 2013 at 11:00

    There were no hawker centres in Hougang Town Council.

  15. 23 Martyn See 11 July 2013 at 11:12

    Via Andrew Loh

    Questions Vivian Balakrishnan did not answer:

    1. Who is Ng Kok Khim and what is his role in this whole matter?

    2. Why was the ATL quote addressed to him?

    3. Why did NEA officer Ms Chin Peiyun write to Mr Tai that the hawker association will handle the scaffolding?

    4. Why did the two so-called letter to the Straits Times by the Hawkers’ Association contain no names, dates, or signatures? (Vivian Balakrishnan presented these as evidence in Parliament.]

    5. What Vivian Balakrishnan presented in Parliament – the so-called “dossier” – contained NOT minutes of the meetings between the various parties involved. They are just “meeting notes” which are not vetted or approved for accuracy by those at the meetings, like how minutes would be.



    The hawkers, the NEA and the WP had a meeting on 6 June to settle all matters. According to Pritam Singh’s letter/remarks to the media, all 3 parties were happy with the issue being resolved. Neither the hawkers, the Hawkers’ Association (HA), or the NEA disputed this.

    Several days later, however, Vivian Balakrishnan suddenly appeared on the scene and started to make all kinds of allegations about WP.

    In effect, AFTER the HA, the NEA and the WP had apparently come to an agreement or resolution on the matter, Vivian Balakrishnan came in and started yelling and pointing fingers.

    In Parliament, Vivian Balakrishnan presented a “dossier” which contained what he would call “evidence” but they end up as nothing more than unilateral meeting notes, with crucial emails missing, questions unanswered such as the role of some key players like Ng Kok Khim, the response of NEA officers, the answer to why ATL’s quote was addressed to Ng Kok Khim, etc.

    It smells of what Vivian Balakrishnan is known for – the gutter-type politics, disguised as “clean politics”.

    [Infographics] AHPETC-NEA Stand-Off: What’s Really Going On? (Part 3)


    • 24 chazza 11 July 2013 at 14:38

      “The hawkers, the NEA and the WP had a meeting on 6 June to settle all matters. According to Pritam Singh’s letter/remarks to the media, all 3 parties were happy with the issue being resolved. Neither the hawkers, the Hawkers’ Association (HA), or the NEA disputed this.”

      This sounds like a good conclusion what? why is VB wasting parliament’s time? is he trying to filibuster so that he doesn’t have to answer for his mismanagement of 5000 other things?

  16. 25 Martyn See 11 July 2013 at 11:12

    Vivian attempted to cloud the AHPTC saga by refusing to acknowledge that his argument was out of context. The first point he needed to address before he spews more irrelevant garbage is to bring himself into the context of how the saga started. He has to ask himself whether he was honestly barking up the wrong tree or he had actually resorted to misleading the public by insisting that the spring cleaning was meant to include the cleaning of the high ceilings. All other questions he may have revolve around this key point.

    If the spring cleaning was not meant to include the cleaning of the ceiling, which Sylvia Lim had been explaining was the case, then all these talks about getting the hawkers to pay for the cleaning of the high ceiling become moot. Unfortunately, this is the only straw that Vivian is hoping to build his case upon.

    This is a dangerous personality trait of this blundering man. Was he also hard on hearing when he was put in charge of the YOG? Was it the same attitude that saw him miscalculate the budget by million miles?

    He had better go examine his own integrity before he goes about questioning the integrity of others. In case he or the State Press had missed what Sylvia Lim had explained in Parliament, below are the two key points which were conveniently excluded from the print press ad well as the video footage showing a seemingly confused WP chief, Mr Low TK.

    The exchanges between Vivian and Sylvia before Low TK stood up to speak, omitted all of Sylvia’s retorts. Singaporeans have witnessed a blatant disregard of the responsibility the state press has in bringing truthful and credible news to the people. If there is any bigger liar in this episode, it would be the state press. So much for all these talks about integrity. It’s more like synchronized tango between the PAP and the State Press.

    Sylvia’s parliamentary retort here: …

    Secondly, Minister makes a lot of substance over certain e-mails that our Property Manager Mr Tai may have sent to the hawkers about spring cleaning. But does he not agree that spring cleaning, and the annual cleaning of high areas, are not the same thing. And his e-mails, as far as I recall the Minister talking, were referring to spring cleaning as such and not the annual cleaning of high areas.

    14 Third point is that the annual obligation of the Town Councils to clean the high areas of hawker centres –I don’t think any goes as far as to dictate the dates of these annual cleanings. There is no law requiring the annual cleanings to coincide with the spring cleanings as such and during our Town Council’s discussions with NEA, we are given to understand that NEA was open to us having alternative dates for the cleaning of the high areas. So does he not agree that really, annual cleaning and spring cleaning need not coincide?

    The Alternative View

  17. 26 chazza 11 July 2013 at 11:49

    it seems to me that the WP town council’s contractor made a cock up which was facilitated by the NEA. and this allows VB to, once again, act like his buey-gan self. even without VB’s antics, this episode would inevitably make the WP look bad. but what VB has said is totally needless and in bad taste, especially given his own track record.

    market cleaning issues can be sorted out OUTSIDE parliament or when there’s nothing else important to talk about.migrant workers get injured cleaning markets, but is that discussed in parliament? no. but the bloody ceiling never clean so must raise in parliament is it? Actually I want to know which MP raised this issue in parliament. for now, let the parliamentarians discuss issues pertaining to the haze, dengue and the MDA regulations.

    for the cleaning issue, the HA, NEA staff and ALHPeTC can have a series of meetings to sort out how the high areas will be cleaned. and most of all, VB should just stay out of this. he hasn’t contributed towards making anything better – cleaning, haze or dengue.

    • 27 Fairplay 11 July 2013 at 18:34

      It was Lee Bee Wah; all pre-arranged.

      • 28 Jack 13 July 2013 at 00:20

        The whole thing looks staged from the Govt’s side. Supplementary question by fellow PAP MP. The dossier produced after when Sylvia made a pertinent rebuttal. The whole damned thing was already settled and all parties were satisfied. WP was moving on, we were also moving on from this episode. Then we have the gung-ho character in the form of VB starting all over again and again ,in of all places, Parliament.
        Frankly, I think we are all sick of all these antics (James Gomez’s 2 GE back , VB’s gutter politics in the last GE )
        And now, just when WP is letting the matter settled down, the PM has to weigh in.
        To all Govt politicians, please justify your high wages and start governing for the sake for your citizens

  18. 29 Sam 11 July 2013 at 12:34

    I think it is the mark of a wise man to be able to address the issue rather than the person. Many WP supporters unfortunately chose to be blind to arguments that are not in their favour and worse still, respond with ad hominem. I am no supporter of the PAP, but I would like to think that I am intellectually honest when considering an issue. My respect for you Alex has gone up a few notches.

    • 30 Real Neutral Party Unlike Sam 11 July 2013 at 21:41

      It is not the mark of a wise man to ignore the following:
      a) email from NEA has been intentionally left out
      b) the fact that HA chairman is PAP affiliated.
      c) when there has been an amicable settlement already.
      The fact that you choose to ignore these shows that you are biased and opinionated as a PAP supporter and not a neutral rational party

      • 31 Richard 17 July 2013 at 01:02

        Oh, and the chairman for both the HAs are PAP grassroots “leaders”. One owns a shop selling electrical appliances and the other has a shop selling children’s apparel. Why are retailers sitting in the chair representing hawkers??

    • 32 Ricky Lye 12 July 2013 at 08:05

      NEA officers were present at the meetings between ATL, Town Council and the Hawkers, Being the proper authority, NEA officers should have intervened and give proper instructions to Town Council and its contractors instead of just recorded why was happened at the meeting and let the “poor hawkers” suffer.

  19. 33 lobo76 11 July 2013 at 13:57

    “Spring Cleaning is a practice set by NEA, not Town Council. As such, we advise the Merchant Association to liaise with NEA directly on the requirement.”

    To be a black hat to your analysis:
    What’s is inconsistent? NEA is indeed the one which did specify the number of cleanings (major and minor), is it not? TCs are bound by this practice set by NEA to ‘do it’.

    NEA should thus also be the one setting requirements else TCs can just throw water all over the place and declared it done.

    As an analogy, a husband (NEA) bought something that needed installation at home (Hawker center), specifically in the Living Room (requirement), and a contractor (TC and FM services) comes to install. The wife (Hawker) wasn’t too happy and complain to contractor… who will of course tell the wife to settle with the husband.

  20. 34 Joe 11 July 2013 at 14:32

    It’s pretty amazing how PAP succeeded in redirecting everyone’s attention from the AIM saga to the Bedok hawker centre cleaning saga. It was clear as day there had been malfeasance on the part of Dr Teo Ho Pin et al., but somehow MND managed to convince everyone that town councils are by nature political, thereby exonerating the aforementioned few, whose misconduct were serious enough to get them expelled from the party and all existing appointments. Do recall that Dr Teo’s issued explanation had holes in his argument large enough to drive a military five-tonner through, giving the online citizenry a field day when many of them were found. The haze should come again, so that Vivian is kept busy at doing something more constructive than this – shouldn’t Vivian be thinking about how to work with the Indonesian government to reduce the chance that the farmers would burn trees again come next year this time? I think that in itself is enough to keep any minister busy for a long time. But then again, he can’t score any political points doing such grunt work, can he?

    • 35 Duh 12 July 2013 at 13:28

      I said this in my earlier comment as well – Singaporeans are so easily distracted like children. Notice how no one argues about the inadequacy of the way the PAP addressed AIMsgate now.

      Questions like – why was a private company like AIM allowed to draft the call for tender requirements for the new tender? AIMsgate showed the problem of blurring the lines between private and public transactions. AIM is a pte registered company but yet it is constantly treated as if it was a public institution even when it was discussed in Parliament (e.g., setting up AIM was in the interest of serving the constituencies). No one sets up a pte company to do public service.

  21. 36 Rabbit 11 July 2013 at 21:47

    The whole motive behind creating HA’s issues, can be easily summed up with the infamous slogan from Lee Hsien Loong.

    “”Right now we have Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong, Steve Chia. We can deal with them. Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 opposition members in Parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I’m going to spend all my time thinking what’s the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters votes….”

    The above is exactly what Vivian Balakrishnan was trying to do to please Lee Hsien Loong. You get attacked by him for being reasonable and unreasonable, he is as good as mind in the gutter.

  22. 37 Moe Gan Thai 11 July 2013 at 23:44

    If it was PAP town council, that guy Ng Kok Khim will surely not complain to the press. This is the only chance to attack WP TC due to Mr Tai’s blunder and non supervision of the site and probably feed back to AHPETC was slow.

  23. 38 Jammie Wong 12 July 2013 at 00:17

    “I believe the Workers’ Party’s stand is that there was confusion about what kind of cleaning was being scheduled (and by whom), and anyway, it is not for hawkers to dictate to the town council when and how often major spring cleaning should be carried out. This may be credible if we are discussing the events up till March 2013 relating to the cleaning of Block 538 market.”

    However, AHPETC emailed NEA on 7 February asking about “scaffolding” (which, according to Sylvia & Pritam, referred to scaffolding for ceiling cleaning).

    Also, in that same email thread, AHPETC was informed about the schedule 4-8 March.

    If there’s still a confusion of “what kind of cleaning was being scheduled” …haiz, *i dunno wat to say*.

  24. 39 AppleLover 12 July 2013 at 07:15

    I dont see VB as politicising this issue. I see it as him defending/fighting for the hawkers, which AHPETC should have rectified early on. Simple as that. VB is not wasting time in parliament. He’s ensuring/ preventing this episode does not repeat itself with any TC. If there’s any time wasting…it is AHPETC’s Mr Tai for not understanding NEA guidelines. He’s the manager. He should eat, drink, breathe the guidelines.

  25. 40 Tom 12 July 2013 at 12:48

    Vivian’s speech is so full of shit that Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah was caught literally rolled her eyes in the background in this short youtube video

  26. 41 The 12 July 2013 at 15:06

    It would be more transparent if we given the date and time when those “contemporaneous” notes were written. They are all serial numbered in the dossier with obvious dressing-up for publication. Why not show the original notes, if there were any?

  27. 43 Chanel 12 July 2013 at 16:53


    I believe you have jumped to conclusion. Like you rightly pointed out, the notes about what Mr Tai said was written by NEA. It wasn’t a minutes which were distributed and agreed by all parties at the various meetings. So this piece of “evidence” is could be tainted. Why was the Feb 2013 email from NEA to WP missing from the dossier? This is the email where NEA says that the hawker centre would provide the scaffolding.

    Questions remain unanswered:

    1) Who asked the hawkers to close for 5 days? WP said the market was cleaned in just one day. Mr Low said hawker centres in Hougang don’t even have to close for the major annual cleaning.

    2) Who ask the hawkers to put canvas sheets over their stalls?

    3) Who was the hawker centre representative? The buzz is that he is a PAP member.

  28. 44 Megaphone 12 July 2013 at 20:18

    This is a very small issue. If VB wants to interfere and set things right, he should have gotten the parties together and settle things behind closed door, instead of using megaphone politics. Such a tiny issue is really not worthy of prime time national level discussion.

    Quite clear that VB, PAP and state media coordinated this very public attack. Reeks of James Gomez saga.

  29. 45 Linda Lim 12 July 2013 at 22:22

    1. Does NEA micro-manage cleaning of hawker centres in the same manner in PAP-controlled constituencies?
    2. The NEA said that the scaffolding it mentioned was for the covering of hawker stalls – why would scaffolding be used when ladders were sufficient to do the job of covering the stalls?
    3. WP pointed out that there is NO regulation that stipulate when they have to do the annual cleaning. The minister did not bother to address that. Why did the NEA communicate to the hawkers that there would be cleaning of high areas during the spring cleaning?
    4. Why should the NEA, the regulator, get involve in the first place when there was no complaint made?

  30. 46 Charles 13 July 2013 at 00:19

    I cannot accept WP explanation even though I supported and voted them in 2011. They gave such lousy reply and their reply seems to avoid important details. The most affected are the hawkers. Close 5 days but yet no cleaning done.

    Lastly, the manager Mr Tai deserved to get sacked. What a bunch of lousy replies he gave to everybody.

  31. 47 Thor 13 July 2013 at 17:18

    Dear YB,

    Regrettably in the interests of fairness and objectivity you have inadvertently lent credence to VB and LHL. The PAP too has plenty of skeletons in the closet. Teh Cheang Wan, Phey Yew Kok and the HPL saga come to mind. When they play so dirty, it ain’t worth fighting fair. This is all a game of perception.

  32. 48 ape@kinjioleaf 13 July 2013 at 23:34

    “And still, a big question remains. I have long wondered why, after having run Hougang Town Council for decades, this issue of major and minor spring cleaning, who should be scheduling them and who should pay, should crop up now. The Workers’ Party is not new to running town councils, and this has never been an issue before. Why now?”

    One possibility I can think of is complacency. TC scope and responsibilities have been refined over the years to suite the needs and aspirations of different towns over the years that towns are pretty much left on their own to whichever political party running them. Although some MPs might have changed but how things have been running remain pretty much the same. I believe some MPs are very comfortable with leaving things as it is and continue to let things run as it was so much so that they may not even know how often or what are the requirements of market cleaning or how arrangements have been made with HA.

    However, in a major change in the makeup of a TC such as when an incumbent lost the constituency to another political party, where the entire TC committee and it’s managing agent has changed, the nitty gritty ground issues becomes a challenge.

    My disappointment in this episode is that WP seems pretty much contented to leave municipal issues to it’s managing agent (I’m not saying PAP is any better or is more responsible). My greater disappointment is with the Minister, to introspect and review and to perhaps amend the market cleaning requirement with clarity on the regularity and scope of cleaning. Instead, both sides attempted to defend their party’s integrity and continue to muddle through.

  33. 49 Me 14 July 2013 at 10:03

    Why NEA dossier after so much time.. well, because they take the effort to investigate..

  34. 50 Rabbit 14 July 2013 at 11:34

    If only, Pinky and his bunch of cabinet, can use the same energy and force (under PM’s backing) to query where AIM get its capital to buy a TC’s software and reaped profit by making the residents pay for the lease

    If only VB can debate aggressively on why PAP TCs have suffered millions dollars loss on Toxic investments without consulting the residents.

    If only PM could drill Khaw Boon Wan how did he managed to get the $8 surgery if he is not lying,

    If only VB with so-called high integrity could list out in detail his YOG’s “general” spending by the millions not known todate, We are not even talking about a mere $7000 HA’s issues.

    If only Brontomp bike case is still not dangling in suspicious after so many months have passed and no clue of it because the whole bunch of PAP cabinet wanted all these unglamarious and ugly side of PAP to sweep under the carpet and move on?

    if only there were truly two exchange of mangoes between PA and the ruling party with nothing more that smell like tax monies.

    If only, PAP can stop using lift/HDB upgrading to bully the people in every election just like VB has said in parliament that being in power doesn’t mean you can ill-treat ordinary people under their care. Ironical isn’t it?

    if only they could stop increasing our TC service fee to pay contractors that never seems to stop drilling/hacking in our neighbourhood over similar projects, many times on unnecessary work. Nobody knows how it happened and under what kind of ambiguous tender again?

    If only PAP can work more for the people and talk less (or down) on the people.

    If only, the ministers could truly serve with their heart and not cry over pay-cut in parliament though they still get paid higher than Obama.

    If only Seah Kian Peng didn’t use his status to tell a car park warden to let him off. If only Lim Wee Kiat can accept what he paid for without whinning about lost of integrity.

    If only, PM said he wanted to work with the opposition constructively and not use parliament to play dirty politics is true. Look what happened in parliament and in msm, it greatly worries us not because WP wanted to move on but the whole ugly side of PAP is sickening to the CORE.

    If only PM can look at all the above matters (not the least) and ask himself why he still wanted to behave like a child in this HA’s episode which pale in comparison to many things he has did (without foresight) at the huge expenses of many Singaporeans.

    If only, Pinky still believe in integrity, transparency and accountability, it is very difficult to accept the man I have no trust in to continue to fool me with his nobility and honourability.

    If PM think WP has lost its credibility, why not call a GE early, right now, and see if people still trust in PAP? i would think, WP may gain another GRC and SMC because I trust Singaporeans have brain to read the the mind of our clueless leader.

  35. 51 Anon 6L12 14 July 2013 at 15:18

    This whole saga is really stupid. All parties are totally dazed and confused. Every culture does spring cleaning once a year and if you recall years ago, we all do this before the Spring Festival and everything is cleaned, fom high ceilings to polishing the floor. Then we have daily, weekly etc cleaning where you clean whatever you like. This saga, if I read it oorrectly, is spring cleaning is where the ceilings are not cleaned whereas it’s done in the annual cleaning. In most parts of the whole, spring comes annually except in Singapore, where there are no 4 seasons. So everyone is lost because what’s spring?
    Then we have a quote to a Ng fellow, as per your request. He must be an idiot to receive an offer when he didn’t ask for it, and the proposer must be damn free to go around quoting (since to quote, you need to do estimating etc,) when nobody asked for it, It’s more likely a quote was asked for.
    What’s most disturbing is the missing NEA email that started the whole chain of events. It’s more like a case to do selective presentation to skew the events, which by default, in any civilized society, will have the case thrown to the bin.
    The conclusion of this case should be left to the people. Unfortunately I tend to be apprehensive of heavy rhetorics, especially when evidence presented is selective or manipulated. And past performances, as the spots cannot be removed….English proverbs are not plucked without wise observation…likewise Chinese ones.

  36. 52 dolphin81 14 July 2013 at 18:37

    I am really amused by the amount of interest shown by the mainstream media & Dr V on this issue. The simple question is : Are cleaning activities by PAP-run town councils subjected to so much scrutiny?

  37. 53 Joseph Teo 15 July 2013 at 15:02

    To attempt to answer Mr. Au’s question, how come they run Hougang so long still donno about the hawker centre cleaning.

    I was told that Hougang only got kopitiam, no hawker centre. Can a Hougang resident verify this?

  38. 54 ithink 16 July 2013 at 00:33

    “I have long wondered why, after having run Hougang Town Council for decades, this issue of major and minor spring cleaning, who should be scheduling them and who should pay, should crop up now. The Workers’ Party is not new to running town councils, and this has never been an issue before. Why now?”

    Mr Low – more involved, committed, close supervision, so this has never been an issue. Why an issue now? Because of the newbies? If a newbie only delegates and never supervise, then problem like this will arise.

  39. 55 Vic 17 July 2013 at 04:07

    My guess of the situation is:
    1) Either NEA or HA or both wanted an extra round of high areas cleaning, to take place in the coming spring cleaning; but then the Town Council’s annual obligation for high area cleaning was not due until Oct/Nov 2013.
    2) Tai considered this not TC’s responsibility to perform; and he as a discretion, he didn’t want to undertake the job even if under a variation order. NEA and HA cited precedent elsewhere TC absorbed that cost for extra high level cleaning. So, a commercial dispute arose who was to bear the extra cost.
    3) At one point, HA conceded and went to call price quotation for the work (for access scaffolding and cleaning high areas), hence, the Market 538 was to close for 5 days for HA’s appointed contractor to do high level cleaning, which didn’t take place.
    5) As NEA and HA’s demand got persistent, Tai showed his frustration and impatience by his stock replies “Spring Cleaning is a practice set by NEA, not Town Council… … …” He was practically saying: “You two decide what you want and don’t bother me.”
    6) Likely he was aware the two HA reps were PAP moles. And, neither was NEA on his side.
    7) Beyond these, the situation degenerate into politicking.

  40. 56 Tan Sk 17 July 2013 at 12:55

    Please refer to the statement by our minister and the email below. The issue is Spring cleaning which according to the minister was to be done by hawkers. Peiyun in her email also said “the Hawkers Association will make the necessary arrangements with their contractors on the scaffold erection/ dismantling during the spring cleaning period from 4-8 March 2013 for the above food centre.”
    The Town Council was not expected to do anything. Why put the blame on the Town Council for something they were not expected to do? NEA must have mixed up spring cleaning with annual cleaning.

    “The minister said that spring cleaning was done by hawkers once every three months while town councils are responsible for conducting and paying for an annual cleaning, including for high areas such as ceilings, beams and exhaust ducts.” http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/wp-lying-about-hawker-centre-cleaning-govt By Woo Sian Boon – 10 July

    Annex A: Email correspondence between NEA and AHPETC
    Original Message
    From: Peiyun CHIN (NEA)
    Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2013 6:45 PM
    To: Pradeep
    Cc: Tai VS; Peng Siang LIM (NEA); Sze Wei TAN (NEA); Jian Sheng YAP (NEA); Andy Phua Son Kok
    Subject: RE: Next Spring Cleaning date at 538 Bedok North Street 3 FC
    Hi Mr Predeep
    Sorry for the delay as I was on course for the past few days, pl note that the Hawkers Association will
    make the necessary arrangements with their contractors on the scaffold erection/ dismantling during
    the spring cleaning period from 4-8 March 2013 for the above food centre.
    Thank You.

  41. 57 funny 18 July 2013 at 14:37

    I think the tide is turning, with the latest declaration that there was no Hawker’s Association in the first place. So what was in the dossier, and who actually is complaining? NEA needs to clean up its act – complaint letter had no name, no letter head, and ….no association.

  42. 58 Humph 30 July 2013 at 23:48

    We’re at the mid-point between GE2011 and GE2016 -> PAP needs to strategize wresting Aljunied back -> of course they’re milking every single WP mistake for what it’s worth. This is muddling, and that’s the point. They don’t need clear thinking people asking pertinent questions on their side, all they need is to swing 5% of the local voters back by playing this game of perceptions.

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