Monday, 10 June 2013

Sylvia Lim: "Is NEA Playing Politics?"

Update: Dr Vivian: "Clean up and apologise, then we talk"

Making political attack on NEA officers is "arrogant and wrong": Vivian Balakrishnan

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said it is "arrogant and wrong" of town council chairman Ms Sylvia Lim to make a political attack on National Environment Agency (NEA) officers for simply doing their job.

In a media statement released Sunday evening, Dr Balakrishnan said this is a "completely unnecessary distraction caused by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and its managing agent FMSS."

All town councils, he said, have always done routine spring-cleaning of hawker centres and there is no excuse for the town council (AHPETC) to delay the current cleaning programme as the safety of the public must remain the paramount concern.

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AHPETC proposes dialogue over hawker issue as row continues

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) has invited the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan to a dialogue with the MPs in the council to “settle any outstanding matters”.

Its vice-chairman, Workers’ Party MP Pritam Singh, made this invitation at the end of   statement on Monday evening, continuing the ongoing argument between the Government and AHPETC over the cleaning of hawker centres in Aljunied GRC.

Mr Singh sought to rebut suggestions made on Sunday that he had been untruthful over the matter of whether hawkers had been asked to pay extra for the ceiling of the hawker centres to be cleaned. National Environment Agency (NEA) has said that hawkers in Block 538 and 511 have been asked to pay more. Mr Singh stressed that AHPETC had made no such request.

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NEA-AHTC Saga: why there is more to come

Like an elephant that has been conditioned to fear a tiny man with a stick and to respect the boundaries set by a flimsy piece of rope around the ankle, the PAP is operating with a heightened seige mentality as it fears being further ridiculed or out-ed by a crafting

WP media strategy of deploying public opinion. Because even if the PAP had all the right facts, the domain of public opinion is their achilles hill, and the WP is well aware of this.

So what does this mean? Well, expect more public dispute between Government entities and WP entities all the way up the the next election. And many more misinterpreted emails and letters.

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AHPETC-NEA Stand-Off: What’s Really Going On? (Part 2)

Obviously, many observers would consider that the PAP and the Worker’s Party are both playing politics, so it would be seen as a case of the pot calling the kettle black – perhaps one more so than the other.

But as to whether it’s obvious that the hawkers are “speaking the truth”, who really knows at this point? The only evidence that we have so far are the “hawkers’ petition to the media” that the NEA had released and AHPETC’s claim that they had “investigated the claim and found the claim published in the press report to be baseless”.

I hardly consider that Mr Balakrishnan could make such a sweeping statement at this point about who is speaking the truth. This is political.

Part 1 can be found here.

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NEA is "contradicting itself": Sylvia Lim

Responding to National Environment Agency (NEA), Workers' Party Chairman Sylvia Lim said the agency's assertions "fly in the face of logic" and that it is "contradicting itself".

She released an email exchange on Sunday, where a NEA officer had told the town council on 7 February that the "hawkers’ association will make the necessary arrangements with the contractor for scaffolding" to be put up and dismantled.

Ms Lim also took issue with NEA's interpretation of Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap's letter.

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Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's media release on 9 Jun 2013

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan joins NEA to slam Sylvia Lim

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has joined in the hawker centres’ cleaning disputes.

NEA and Dr Balakrishnan, however, continue to assert that they were behind the hawkers and the hawkers were right.
Meanwhile, while NEA and Balakrishnan continue to be busy “battling” with AHPETC over the cleaning saga as to who was right or wrong, more people are dying from dengue. Yesterday, a second person died from dengue fever at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (‘Second person died of dengue‘).

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While NEA is busy playing politics, Singapore reports second death from dengue

Xinhua, 9 Jun 2013
 SINGAPORE, June 9 (Xinhua) -- A 60-year-old man died of dengue fever in Singapore on Sunday, the second dengue death reported so far this year in the city state.

The man went to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Wednesday with fever, shortness of breath, vomiting and rash on his left leg. He was diagnosed with skin inflammation of the left leg and prescribed with antibiotics. He was also told to return to the polyclinic for a repeat blood test, the Ministry of Health and the Environment Agency said in a joint statement. Full story

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Vivian Balakrishnan making a political comeback?

‘Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has joined in the hawker centres’ cleaning disputes.

He said it is “arrogant and wrong” of Ms Sylvia Lim to make a political attack on National Environment Agency (NEA) officers for simply doing their job

Vivian is calling Sylvia Lim arrogant and wrong for taking a shot at NEA in the hawker centre cleaning dispute. So who is arrogant and who is not arrogant, and who is right and who is wrong?

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NEA-AHPETC saga - V Balakrishnan yaks too much and exposes his sinister intention

Vivian Bala should practise what he preaches. If he believes "politically attacking" NEA officers is wrong because they have a job to do, isn't he himself doing that now, politically attacking members of the AHPETC, who also have a job to do? Hellooo, Mr Minister, why aren't you showing enough competency to match your pay?

PS - did you see today's ST on page A6? There's a two-third page news on this saga, all about placing blame on WP. So there you have it, hawkers association, NEA, V Bala and the ST. That's four PAPpy parties working in tandem to slime WP's town council management.
Now convince me there's no concerted effort and sinister intent.

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Vivian Balakrishnan accuses Sylvia Lim of making political attack against NEA officers who are "just doing their job"

Question: Is playing politics one of their job scope?

XIN MSN News, 9 Jun 2013
SINGAPORE: Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said it is "arrogant and wrong" of town council chairman Ms Sylvia Lim to make a political attack on National Environment Agency (NEA) officers for simply doing their job. In a media statement released Sunday evening, Dr Balakrishnan said this is a "completely unnecessary distraction caused by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and its managing agent FMSS." Full story

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NEA rejects allegations made by AHPETC

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has rejected allegations that its actions relating to the dispute over the cleaning of hawker centres managed by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council have been politically motivated.

The agency released three documents to support its case.

NEA said taken together, the documents show that the hawkers of Block 538 of Bedok North Street 3 had expected the hawker centre to be cleaned per normal during the spring cleaning exercise in March this year.

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Town council tried to deflect blame: NEA

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) tried to get hawkers at Block 538, Bedok North Street 3 to pay extra cleaning costs, and when that failed it deflected blame, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday night.

In a statement issued hours after it reached a resolution with the town council about the cleaning of two other hawker centres, NEA sought to address one last issue - who exactly was to blame for the failure to clean the ceiling of Block 538 in March.

When NEA e-mailed AHPETC on Feb 7 saying the hawkers would make "necessary arrangements" for scaffolding for the cleaning exercise, it said it was referring to scaffolding used to put up canvas sheets over stalls, and not for the cleaning of high areas.
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NEA is Politically Motivated to Tarnish the Image of AHPETC

I find the conclusion of the NEA on 6 June 2013 that “AHPETC tried to get hawkers to pay extra cleaning costs, and when that failed it deflected the blame” puzzling and unprofessional as a government agency. 

The whole episode started with a Sunday Times report dated 26 May 2013 alluding that Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is collecting money from stallholders for the cleaning of the market & hawker centre.  Has any stallholder been approached by AHPETC staff or its contractors for the extra charges? If so, please make it public. AHPETC has investigated the claim and found the claim published in the press report to be baseless. 

The latest attempt to substantiate this baseless claim was to show a quotation by the cleaning contractor ATL Maintenance Pte Ltd, who has clarified that it was in response to a separate request by the hawker association and not pursuant to its contractual obligation with the Town Council to do annual cleaning of the high areas at markets / hawker centres.

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NEA “politically motivated” to tarnish WP town council image: Sylvia Lim

The chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) Sylvia Lim has accused the National Environment Council (NEA) of being “politically motivated to tarnish the image” of her council.

In the latest salvo fired in the long-running dispute between the Workers’ Party-run council and the NEA over the cleaning of hawker centres in Bedok, Ms Lim said she found the agency’s latest claims “puzzling and unprofessional as a government agency”.

The NEA on Thursday accused the council of trying to get hawkers to pay extra for cleaning, and attempting to “deflect blame” when that failed.

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NEA vs AHPETC: Cleaning of Hawker Centres

What WP and its AHPeTC have done so far was beating around the bushes without giving any concrete facts to prove that AHPeTC has indeed paid for scaffolding in past cleaning sessions. WP may keep insisting that it has not asked hawkers to pay extra but it is not clear whether it has closed both eyes for its contractor to ask the hawkers to pay extra for the scaffolding. It should know that the contractor has contractual obligations to supply the scaffolding. It is thus a mystery why it didn't stop the hawkers to pay for something which has already been contractually included for its own contractor.

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Beyond the Smokescreen: NEA-Hawkers-WP AHPeTC Saga

The peculiar timing of this NEA-Hawkers-WP AHPeTC saga right after the AIM-FMSS issue has definitely given rise to suspicion that it is politically motivated attack on WP's core competency in Town Council management.

But this is politics and PAP has no qualms in making it known that Town Council management IS POLITICAL! This has been done right from the start when the Town Council system has been enacted way back in the late 1980s.

Singaporeans, especially those who are too young to understand how Town Council system comes about, should do some research and not bear any delusions about it. Thus for all opposition parties from then till now, are always very careful in managing the Town Councils because it is potentially where PAP's fixing will come.

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WP troubles from cleaning hawker centres

I haven't been following this story very much beyond the headlines, which is nothing but allegations of wrong doing, negligence or mischief. In fact, this wouldn't be newsworthy if it were a PAP town council.

Just as MSM had shown unusual interest in the first WP MPS after they won Aljunied GRC, it is consistent and right that this issue is given prominence too.

So who is in the wrong? I don't care now but I am recording it here (click on graphic to read the story) to review when the time comes. I would need to also refer to other stories I have missed

NEA is Politically Motivated? 

In the latest exchange of words between NEA and Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), Workers’ Party Chairman, Sylvia Lim charged that NEA is “politically motivated”. So is NEA “ politically motivated” as alleged?

I do not know and I do not want to comment. I am not a politician. But what I can point out is that NEA seems to be quite involved in political news these days.

Apart from the war of words between NEA and AHPETC, NEA first makes news in the political arena from the news reporting of a NEA officer called Yoga Dirga Cahya who has expressed his interest to run for the Indonesia Election. Yoga is a potential Indonesian President if he proves his worth.

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Tough to be opposition – in addition to PAP, got to deal with Govt bodies

It is indeed tough to be in the opposition. Even though they have done a great job, against all odds and obstacles, they, not only have to contend with the PAP but also all the government bodies that are out to tarnish their reputation, make life hard for them, put obstacles along their way, and/or put a blemish on their performance.

If indeed the Workers Party are that pathetic, non performers, corrupted, etc. why aren’t the ruling party coming on hard on them, slam them with their sledge hammer, knuckle dusters, sue them, kick their butts outta parliament?

I give the Workers party my thumbs up for their resilience, for their cool and professional approach, for not falling into the same trap as to sue everybody that blemishes them, for their sterling performances. Keep up the good work. Your approach is right, challenge all the insinuations, point by point but never, never take them to court as that will be the pot calling the kettle black.

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Time Out Between WP and Hawkers, and PAP 

The storm in a teacup that made WP look mean and niao. You bet the PAP, with the help of its papers and TV, would look for other little things to chip away at WP's credibility soon, regardless of what achievements underdog WP made or obstacles it faces.

Make no mistake, this AHPETC hawker misunderstanding is a small WP slip, nothing like its FMSS pie in the face. Now that was a serious WP blowback, which was so AIM-like in the poor corporate governance and town council money going from right pocket to left pocket. LOL

BTW what blogger black out today? Why should the PAP tell us what to read and what is objectionable, and bloggers to tell us what they think is objectionable and that they are the blogs to read more as they stood up to PAP? Riiight.

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In the ST Forum page today (18 May), ST published a letter from a Mr S. Ramamirtham (‘Time for managing agent to come clean’), essentially attacking WP in the recent AIM saga in Parliament. 

Mr Ramamirtham wrote:
“When Workers’ Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim brought up the Action Information Management issue last year, she surely expected the People’s Action Party and the Government to come clean on the matter.

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"WP had raised this issue inside and outside Parliament as it viewed the transaction as jeopardising the public interest. We could not see any justification for the sale to a third party, let alone a company owned by a political party, of the most critical town management IT system developed with public funds, leaving a Town Council powerless and at the risk of disruption of services. It is most regrettable that Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan and Dr Teo Ho Pin have decided to distract the public by casting aspersions on WP’s management of the Town Council and on its Managing Agent, FM Solutions and Services Pte Ltd (FMSS). It is disappointing that the Ministry, too, has been drawn into the fray."
During the debate in Parliament on Town Councils on 13 May 2013, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan made several remarks about the Workers’ Party (WP), Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and AHPETC’s managing agent (MA), FM Solutions and Services Pte Ltd (FMSS). 

Ms Sylvia Lim (Chairman of the WP and AHPETC, MP for Aljunied GRC) and Mr Pritam Singh (Vice-chairman of AHPETC, MP for Aljunied GRC) responded in Parliament to the Minister. The following is a summary of the key clarifications raised:

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Hawker centres’ cleaning dispute resolved but NEA continues to blame AHPETC

The recent dispute over the cleaning of hawker centres managed by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) was resolved at a meeting yesterday (6 Jun) involving AHPETC, NEA and the affected hawkers.

The parties agreed that spring cleaning at the hawker centres at Block 511 in Bedok North Street 3 and Block 630 at Bedok Reservoir Road will be done within a month. AHPETC is not charging any cost to the hawkers for the cleaning. In addition, AHPETC has proposed a new cleaning method that will not require the closure of the food centres.

The hawkers are happy with how the meeting has turned out.

AHPETC refutes NEA’s allegations

The spat between Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) continues with AHPETC describing NEA's comment on June 6 as "puzzling and unprofessional as a government agency".

On Thursday, NEA said "AHPETC tried to get hawkers to pay extra cleaning costs, and when that failed it deflected the blame."

Responding to that on Friday, AHPETC maintained that neither its staff nor its contractors had approached any stallholders for extra charges.

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Aljunied Town Council refutes NEA’s allegations

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) notes with concern the inaccuracies contained in the releases from National Environment Agency (NEA) over the last few days relating to the cleaning of two hawker centres within the jurisdiction of AHPETC.

To allay unnecessary anxiety caused to hawkers and the public due to the media reports, we enclose as Annex A, the tentative schedules for annual cleaning of the five hawker centres within our jurisdiction. At these annual cleanings, the Town Council will bear all cost related to cleaning the high areas, including all necessary scaffolding and canvas costs. This is in keeping with our obligation to clean the high areas annually, as confirmed by NEA’s Advisory of 31 May 2013.

We also wish to set out the facts as we know them relating to the cleaning of the two Bedok North markets under our charge and to refute the unfounded allegations against the Town Council.

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NEA, town council war of words heats up

The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Saturday accused the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and its vice-chairman Pritam Singh of making "misleading and inaccurate" statements, as the war of words over the cleaning of hawker centres was taken up a notch.

The NEA also released a letter from a hawkers' association to show that hawkers had been told by a town council staff member that they would have to pay extra to clean the higher parts of their food centres, contrary to the council's previous claims that no such statement was made.

The NEA responded after Mr Singh, a Workers' Party MP for Aljunied GRC, put out a media release on behalf of the town council, saying it had "duly carried out its responsibilities as required" in the cleaning of hawker centres
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AHPETC, NEA and hawkers agree on cleaning schedule

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) has agreed to bring forward the annual spring cleaning of two Bedok hawker centres from the end of the year to “within a month”.

The cleaning - which will cover the high areas of the hawker centres - will also be done using a staggered method which does not require closing the hawker centres and therefore will not result in loss of income for hawkers. AHPETC will bear all cleaning costs.

This latest compromise in the three-month-old spat over hawker centre cleaning was announced after a meeting on Thursday afternoon between the National Environment Agency (NEA), AHPETC and hawker representatives.

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Another Bedok hawker centre complains about extra charges for cleaning high areas: NEA

Another hawker centre in Bedok has lodged complaints with the National Environment Agency (NEA) about having to pay extra to Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) for high-area cleaning.

The agency said on Sunday night that apart from Block 511 and 538 at Bedok North, it has also received “similar feedback and concerns from hawkers at Block 630 Bedok Reservoir that AHPETC does not intend to clean areas above 2.5m”.

It has also been told by contractors that for the spring cleaning of Block 209 in Kovan which starts on Monday, they will be using long poles, and not scaffolding, to clean the centre’s ceiling.

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