PAP went on trial last week


The newspaper headlines might have mentioned that it was Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) in the dock, but once it was disclosed that a Workers’ Party event needed approval from a People’s Action Party “grassroots leader”, it was the PAP that was on trial — in the court of public opinion.

It is very hard to see how the PAP can win an acquittal.

The bare facts are that in the run-up to Chinese New Year early 2014, the Workers’ Party-run AHPETC organised a tiny bazaar in their area with only five stalls selling festive items such as decorations, cookies and sweets, fruits such as pomelo, flowers and assorted potted plants. The National Environment Agency (NEA) said they did so illegally since they did not have a permit. AHPETC did send in some forms but because they made amendments to it, the NEA deemed the forms incomplete.

More reports about the trial can seen in The Online Citizen:

(There are also reports in the Straits Times and I would have provided the links to them except that the Straits Times is behind a paywall.)

The bombshell from the first day of the trial was that the forms required AHPETC to obtain a letter of support from the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC). CCCs are part of the Leninist superstructure created in the early days of PAP rule. It strongly resembles the Communist Party committees interpermeating all manner of social organisations from work units to theatre groups. Like Communist Party committees, CCCs are headed by party loyalists. Although they are technically a part of the People’s Association (which receives a lot of tax-payer money) and although their role is to help the government “mobilise” the masses – another good-ol’ communist concept — it is a well-known fact that senior positions in the People’s Association are drawn from the ranks of the PAP.

Specifically, the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol CCC is reported to be chaired by a PAP member, Victor Lye, who is also chair of a PAP branch (source: The Online Citizen, 5 Feb 2014, The rehashed lamentations of PAP’s Victor Lye, link). Given this fact, it would be a fool’s errand for AHPETC to try to obtain a letter of support from him and his committee.

Counsel for AHPETC, Peter Cuthbert Low, attempted to ask NEA why there was this requirement.

During cross-examination, Mr Low wanted Mr Tai [Ji Choong, NEA’s director of environmental health] to explain why it was necessary to get the CCC’s approval as a condition for the permit.

The judge, however, agreed with [NEA prosecutor Isaac] Tan’s objection that the issue surrounding the conditions for a permit should not be argued in the present trial but at a judicial review.

— Straits Times, 15 Oct 2014, Court battle over WP town council’s CNY fair begins

I certainly hope the matter indeed goes to judicial review.

* * * * *

What seems to have emerged from the trial is that laws may be rather messy.

Subsidiary legislation under the Town Councils Act, Chapter 329A “Town councils (Use of common property) rules 2005” has a line under Section 2 (of the rules), which says “A Town Council may impose charges only for the following uses of the following parts of common property in its Town:” under which subsection (b) (iii) lists “Holding variety shows, mini fairs, carnivals and book fairs in void decks, open spaces and precinct pavilions.”

In essence, it says that town councils can levy fees for the use of the spaces they control for a mini fair. It is only logical that if the town council can levy fees, then the town council is also the body with the power to approve its use. Logically too, if the town council can approve its use, then the town council can also be the organiser.

However, Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act says “No person shall promote, organise or stage any temporary fair, stage show or other such function or activity without first obtaining a permit from the Director-General.” The Director-General referred to is the Director-General of Public Health. The NEA asserted at the trial that AHPETC’s “mini-fair” was a temporary fair and therefore fell within the ambit of Section 35. Consequently, approval from the Director-General was (also) necessary, if one accepts NEA’s interpretation.

pic_201410_08This may be fair enough, but NEA’s form for seeking permission does not allow a town council to be an organiser. You can see the form here. In case it is later changed, the thumbnail is an image of page 3, the relevant portion. I have highlighted two passages in yellow.

Besides the question of why a letter of support from the CCC is required, there is also the question why the form limits the potential organisers, by saying ” Only grassroots organisations and charitable, civic, educational, religious or social institutions are allowed to hold fairs.” What is the basis in law for this? What is the justification, and does it pass scrutiny in terms of fairness and economic liberty? Is this an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of other parties, e.g. individual citizens or business enterprises, or for that matter, town councils, to hold fairs?

Particularly intriguing is a point made by Peter Low.

Mr Low later showed the court a revised trade fair application form dated July 2008, which states “only grassroots organisations, town councils and charitable, civic, educational, religious or social institutions are allowed to hold fairs”.

But the forms the AHPETC received last December did not have the words “town councils”.

— Straits Times, 15 Oct 2014, Court battle over WP town council’s CNY fair begins

Sometime between 2008 and 2013, the form was amended to exclude town councils.

This brings to mind a change made in June 2011 right after the general election, when the Workers’ Party won the Aljunied constituency, thus taking control of the town council. The government transferred the control of open spaces in Aljunied and Hougang (also won by the Workers;  Party) to the People’s Association. The spaces had previously been run by the town council.

Earlier this week [of 23 August 2011], [WP chairperson Sylvia] 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.

— Yahoo!, 23 Aug 2011, People’s Association lifts restrictions on sites, Link

* * * * *

The motives for both the 2011 transfer of open spaces and the amendment to the NEA form are probably the same, and probably linked to the desire to deny an opposition party the physical space to interact with and serve its constituents. This reveals a very anti-democratic spirit.

More troublingly, the execution of these anti-democratic moves came though (a) the People’s Association, (b) the Housing and Development Board, and (c) the National Environment Agency. All are tax-payer funded. The second and third are arms of the civil service which is supposed to be politically neutral. These moves therefore should not be seen as “politics as usual”, but as visible effects of the PAP, feverish in its political insecurity, destroying state institutions.

I have said before: the PAP would rather destroy Singapore than lose power. This party is shaping up as a mortal threat to the state as we would like it to be, and to democracy.

Here’s the irony: In the 1960s, during the early days of PAP rule, political groups were outlawed and politicians jailed without trial because — as the PAP’s allegations went — they were communists or communist sympathisers, with an ideology incompatible with and a program of action ruthlessly opposed to the democratic state that Singaporeans, post-independence, aspired to.

And where are we now? Who is filling whose shoes?

9 Responses to “PAP went on trial last week”

  1. 1 James Tan 22 October 2014 at 01:51

    Looks like another case of wanton disregard for the rule of fair and reasonable laws. But then since 1965,political barbarity has been the order of the day. So this is nothing new. It’s going to take a great deal of changes to bring things to the level of less unfairness and inequality. Tolerance like everything else has it’s limit.

  2. 2 Qiao Zhi 22 October 2014 at 02:07

    Such machination is sickening to the stomach. It is no wonder that history is often repleat with violence in order for the ordinary people to re-claim their democratic rights from oppressive regimes. Let’s hope it wouldn’t come to that here. There is always an invisible line in every society that once crossed leads to the inevitable downfall of such regimes.

  3. 3 Richard Lee 22 October 2014 at 08:25

    As the recent ban on “To Singapore with Love” shows, only the Min. of Truth (dedicated to improving & correcting History) in service of the Ho*ee Family, their Ministers & friends, are allowed to obfuscate and whitewash illegal, and subversive acts aimed at Singaporeans.

    Teo Chee Hean’s Min of Love is just making sure this policy is extant in ALL spheres of Singaporean life. The PA is indeed one of MiniLuv’s greatest secret weapons.

  4. 4 Tan Tai Wei 22 October 2014 at 10:03

    Thank you, Alex. But we need citizens with the “moral development” befitting a “democracy” to appreciate true journalism, such as yours here. Haven’t some of us been not infrequently frustrated, when we attempted to bring out such suspected unscrupulousness occurring in our workplaces, etc., by retorts such as “O, that’s being smart, street-wise”, or “Don’t be naïve; that’s what you ought to have done also”; or “You can’t beat them, so join them”. It’s as Kishore said some time last year over CNA, not disapprovingly, that a politician had to be “cunning”. Or as LKY said to Devan Nair, as Nair himself told us, as regards what he could do to JBJ: “We control everywhere here. I will make him crawl and beg for mercy”.

  5. 5 Chanel 23 October 2014 at 11:29

    Good article, Alex.

    I have been wondering for many years why the PAP has to resort to such underhand tactics against their political opponents (or any critic, for that matter).

    The PAP keeps trumpeting their objective of “serving” the people and strongly claim that all their actions are for the good of S’poreans. If all these are true, surely the people are not stupid enough not to notice. Maybe the PAP thinks we are a bunch of idiots who don’t know what is good for ourselves?

    All the PAP needs to do is focus on making our lives better and the votes will flow to them. Engaging in underhand tactics only makes people highly suspicious. It makes people think that the PAP is hiding something. It only pisses people off.

  6. 6 joker 23 October 2014 at 12:36

    I am really tempted to write a book called, The Hard Truth about fixing the opposition

  7. 7 henry 24 October 2014 at 12:09

    Evidence of power is ugly, and history usually paints it with pretty shades of colour.
    The people seldom see and believe in the ugliness.
    thank you peeling away the wet paint

  8. 8 The Pariah 28 October 2014 at 17:12

    Well said, Mr Alex Au. PAP is “guilty, as charged” insofar as this citizen is concerned. Bang-bang goes my gavel.

  9. 9 The Critical Citizen 13 November 2014 at 23:07

    The PAP is undeserving of such a detailed and critical analysis of the TC fiasco. Heck, these traitors shouldn’t even deserve the tiniest benefit of doubt to begin with.

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