Transcript of the Exchange between Mr. Low Thia Khiang and Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament on 9 July 2013
Reference for the transcript has been taken from:
Transcription begins at 29:30.
Mr. Low Thia Khiang: Thank you, Madam. Madam, I do agree with Ms. Lim. Umm, from my understanding, the Town Council is well aware of the obligation to clean the high area of the market.
And what I gather from the whole episode is arising from a misunderstanding between “annual cleaning” and “spring cleaning”. In the past in Hougang, we don’t require the market to close for annual cleaning and we fulfil our obligation to clean the market once a year. Everything – high scaffolding and all that.
Umm, and thereby I can understand the perspective of email, whatever the meeting, because you are talking about “spring cleaning”. “Spring cleaning” is conducted quarterly, four time a year (sic). “Annual cleaning”, cleaning the – clean the high-rise area of the market, once a year. So, if the Town Council is obligated to clean also the high-rise area in the “spring cleaning”, then the question is: how many times do you have to clean?
I’ve not spoken to Mr. Tai, this is the first time I’ve read all these things but I gather that’s how it came about, you know, because of the “spring cleaning”.
The next issue about the ATL quotation – it is a puzzle, and, umm, umm, I’m trying to find out who actually ask them to quote (sic). Obviously, people ask them to quote and then otherwise they won’t quote (sic). But there’s nothing to do with the Town Council. The Town Council has not asked them quote either.
What happened? I mean, I don’t know. But, I’m very certain the quotation has nothing to do with the cost of the cleaning the high area of the market (sic). It is not. This is my understanding of the whole issue.
Okay, umm…Because of that difference in terms of arrangement of the cleaning of the high market (sic) or the market high-rise area, and thereby there was this problem of the “spring cleaning” – the market close for five days, umm, but not necessarily that we’re going to clean. In fact the Town Council has come up with a schedule.
But I thought it would be good if you get the “annual cleaning” together with the “spring cleaning”, and thereby you save all the problem of after the “annual cleaning”, after the “spring cleaning” you come back and clean the high-area. And that’s why I went down to speak with them and just get the work together lah! I mean, “spring cleaning”, once a year, or the four “spring cleaning”, or one of them, just do the high-rise cleaning and finish (sic). That’s the position. (end transcription at 32:08)
32:11 Minister Balakrishnan speaks.
Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan: Mr. Low, that’s precisely the point. There are four cleanings a year. One of those four will be a full, comprehensive cleaning including the high areas. This is not something new. This has been going on for ten years.
Even – let me finish – even in 511, your Town Council did it last year. Of course, I think it was a different contractor, but you did it last year. So, you cannot say that your staff are confused or didn’t know, or that Sylvia didn’t supervise, and all this is a misunderstanding. It’s – I’m afraid it’s not, you see.
The evidence is incontrovertible that your Mr. Tai said, “not my problem” anything above 2.5 – it’s clear. And he also said, and not once – you see – on three separate occasions, with witnesses, you want it clean, pay me extra. Now, that is the crux of the whole matter, you see, unless you say Mr. Tai is not your officer, not your authorised one.
But my understanding – and when I checked – I understand that he is an employee of FMSS, your Managing Agent, he is the Property Manager of Aljunied Town Council. So what he says, those words have to be taken seriously. What he says is the position of the Town Council. And you have asked for money, you have denied responsibility. And I’ve tried to show you in my answer. We’re not inventing new rules here you know? It’s been around for ten years! Everyone, including you when you were personally supervising Hougang Town Council, had no problem. We had no problem working with you.
But now – I don’t know if it is a lack of supervision or people somewhere in your organisation someone is trying to cover up, we have this unnecessary distraction. That’s basically what – that’s why I said we can discuss all the minutiae that Sylvia wants to. But the simple crux of this matter is what did Mr Tai say, and what did he fail to do. And to me, that is very clear. And because that is very clear and backed up by evidence, I find the denials, the public denials, by Ms. Sylvia Lim and Mr. Pritam Singh very, very troubling.
You know, let me make this further point. Politics is a contest for power. But you know, the key principle when you have power is don’t take advantage of people under your charge and always be honest and upfront with your people. All of us will make mistakes.
But when a mistake is made, just come clean and say so. But don’t cover up. That’s why I have not let this go. Because it is not about cleanliness of the ceiling, it is about clean politics.
And I appeal to you, because I know you to be an honourable man, I appeal to you, go back, do a thorough investigation of what’s gone on and what’s gone wrong in your Town Council and put it right. Set it right. I have confidence that you will do so, Mr. Low.
Transcription ends 35:38