Singapore Hawkers Cleaning Saga

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Contribute by Lim Boon Teck

After months of debating and this is still going on? Seem like party are losing their directions and forgetting the most important thing. What Singaporean are worried on are simple, will the hawkers be charged for cleaning and thus making the living standard increase at that hawker center?

What my boss always tells us seem to be the correct working attitude. When problems rise up, the first priority should be on ways to solve the problem, and not pointing fingers on who is to be blame, as we can leave that for later on.

Below news from: ChannelNewsAsia

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan says that the key issue in the cleaning of two hawker centres under the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is about integrity. He made the point in Parliament on Tuesday during an exchange with Ms Sylvia Lim, chairman of the Workers’ Party and chairman of AHPETC.

Dr Balakrishnan called on the Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party Low Thia Khiang to conduct an internal investigation into the matter. Hawker centres are spring cleaned four times a year. During one of the sessions, the high areas are also cleaned and all costs are borne by the town council, said Dr Balakrishnan. But problems arose at two hawker centres in Bedok under the opposition-run town council. Hawkers there said they were asked to pay additional charges for the cleaning of high areas.

But Ms Lim and AHPETC vice-chairman Pritam Singh have denied this. Dr Balakrishnan referred to minutes of the meetings attended by AHPETC’s property manager Tai Vie Shun and representatives of the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Hawkers Association to prove otherwise.

The first was on 8 March 2013 at a meeting attended by representatives from the NEA, the hawkers and the town council. The second was made on 26 April this year during a meeting attended by representatives of NEA, the town council and the Hawkers Association. The third was on 28 April 2013 during a meeting with the chairman of the Block 511 Hawker Association.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “Subsequently the hawkers repeatedly asked the Aljunied Town Council by email to confirm whether they would clean the high areas. Mr Tai Vie Shun refused to give the hawkers a direct answer. Instead he responded three times via email with a stock answer.” The reply was: “Spring cleaning is a practice set by the NEA, not the Town Council. As such we advise the merchant association to liaise with the NEA directly on the requirement.”

Addressing Ms Lim, Dr Balakrishnan said: “My point to you, which you still have not clarified, is ‘did your Mr Tai Vie Shun tell the hawkers that the town council is not responsible for areas beyond 2.5 metres and if they wanted that cleaned, the hawkers will have to pay extra?’

“That is my question to you and that is the central question here, because we believe – based on consistent testimony of all the hawkers, based on file notes and based on email – this is what really happened.

“You have denied it and your denials are not consistent with the facts and I put to you that you have been untruthful and that your statements are false.” Ms Lim said: “As far as our investigations go, Mr Tai had at no point in time asked for extra money to be paid to the town council for high area cleaning.

“This whole confusion started from an email by an NEA official on 7 February. In fact if he looks at that chain of correspondence, the town council staff was asking NEA to confirm the date for the scaffold erection and dismantling and the reply that came was the hawker association would be making arrangements with their own contractors for the scaffold erection and dismantling. How is the town council supposed to read that. Is that something the town council is to be blamed for?”

Dr Balakrishnan asked Mr Low to conduct an internal investigation into the matter. Mr Low said: “What I gather from the whole episode arising from a misunderstanding between annual cleaning and spring cleaning. “Spring cleaning is conducted quarterly four times a year. Annual cleaning – cleaning the highrise area of the market – once a year. So if the town council is obligated to clean also the highrise area, the question is: how many times you have to clean.

“I have not spoken to Mr Tai. This is the first time I read all these things. I gather that is how he came about.” Dr Balakrishnan said: “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.

“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 you will do so, Mr Low.”

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