Below is a piece that appeared in TRE’s letters section. I commend it for yr reading. V.V. good good analysis. Most of which I agree. Actually a better comparison would be with the GE in 1997, when the SDP dropped from 2 seats to zero. Oppo had two seats from 4. And the PAP had a 5 points increase in its share of the popular vote.
Is that you JG that commented on my pieces? If so can you give yr views on Hri Kumar’s latest views on the WP’s stonewalling on the AHPETC accounting issues see below). Basically I agree with Hri Kumar’s comments. For the sake of completness I also include Andrew Loh’s comments on Facebook
Dear TRE and TRE readers,
I have read your comments to my earlier article and not surprisingly, many of you are in denial of this possibility. Many of you think I am PAP IB or just out of touch. I am not. I have contributed comments before to TRE (TRE admin can easily check against the email address that I use) and can see that indeed all my previous comments are not pro-PAP.
In Greek mytology, Cassandra warned the people about what was happening but was ignored to the people’s detriment. I can see what is happening and it is my duty to put this red flag right in front of you so you too do not get shell shocked if it happens.
Simply put : GE 2015 will be to PM LHL what GE 2001 is to GCT. And of all people, WP’s LTK knows it and this is why he is strategising accordingly.
Election rides on waves. GE 2011 was a wave election and even the PAP candidates sensed it. The people were angry – Josephine Teo said “sometimes we don’t know why people are so angry”, WP’s LTK risked everything on the table by leaving Hougang SMC and joining the Aljunied GRC. But don’t assume that just because the last election was a wave that favored the opposition, it will be the same this year.
Sometimes the wave can turn and favor the PAP too, although TRE readers find that hard to believe. GE 2001 was a wave election that favored the PAP because the people were scared when the economy fell off the cliff after the 9/11 attacks. Result : Unexpected +10% swing to the PAP and even WP’s LTK Hougang share of votes went down by 1.7%.
GE 2001 was a crushing blow to opposition supporters. They did not see it coming. They could not believe it. They saw the crowds in the opposition rallies and thought they were going to win, this time. It was totally unexpected and a big blow. I’m writing this article so that you do not feel that same way in this GE 2015.
GE 2015 will similarly be a wave election favoring the PAP. The LKY sentiment is still strong, especially among the seniors. Couple that with the Pioneer Package and recently concluded SG50 celebrations which put many people in a good mood. I’ve elaborated on all these in my last post, so will not do this here.
But I will share this lesson from history : Indira Gandhi was assasinated on Oct 1984 and a snap election was held on Dec 1984. Riding on the wave of sympathy votes, Congress party gained 30 seats and a landslide victory. You ignore lessons from history to your peril. Many of you think LKY is no big deal but to _70% of the voting population, he’s a big big big deal.
In any case, the strongest indication that I may be right comes from no other than WP’s LTK himself. Other than CST, he is the only surviving opposition MP who has lived through wave elections that turn against him. So of all people, he’s easily the shrewdest and most battle hardened politician around.
What is PAP’s strategy when they released the electoral boundaries? Simple –
1) Just contain WP’s influence solely to Aljunied GRC and Hougaing SMC. In other words, give up on these.
2) Fortify East Coast GRC by cutting off Feng Shan SMC. I estimate that pro-forma basis, GE 2011 would have seen East Coast GRC at 60% PAP votes, not just 55%, with this change. Dissolve Joo Chiat SMC.
3) Flood all the GRCs that WP is likely to contest in with veteran, strong MPs. Look at Jalan Besar GRC — it now includes the Chinatown ward of ever popular Lily Neo carved out of Tanjong Pagar. Plus heavyweight unionist Heng Chee How. Look at Yishun GRC — it has now included the strongest ward of former AMK GRC, ie. Kebun Baru.
4) Adopt a new strategy of putting in retiring, veteran MPs into winnable areas. Thus move Charles Chong out of Joo Chiat and get him to win back Punggol East SMC. Punggol East SMC was lost in the 2013 BE not because Li Lian was a particularly strong candidate but because “Son of Punggol” made so many rookie mistakes that he was a bad candidate.
Look at how LTK responded.
LTK sensed that this election will be different from GE 2011 and much tougher because this time, the wave will turn towards the PAP.
Look at WP’s message in this GE 2015 –
“I know you are happy with the changes that the PAP has started to make. But you got all these changes, because you voted us opposition into Parliament. If you are so happy now that you don’t vote for us, you will regret it because PAP will take you for granted again”.
I repeat : ” I know you are happy “. In other words, he knows the electorate mood in GE 2015 is not the same as GE 2011.
He knows that the electoral boundary changes PAP has made will make it more difficult to gain ground. His own people are giving him this feedback too — here is what Gerald Giam posted on 6th Aug in his Facebook :
“Visited Simei again yesterday evening. Many residents told us they were glad we were coming back to contest. Had a good chat with one resident who said she was voting for the incumbent because she liked the local MP. I acknowledged that the local MP has done a good job (Jessica’s work at the local and town level is certainly something we look to emulate) but that a general election is about more than just voting for a local MP.”
He also knows that PAP had attacked AHPETC hard enough that while many people still do not fully buy PAP’s story about “integrity problems”, it is enough to cast doubts in middle-ground voters mind, especially those outside of Aljunied GRC. At the same time, he knows that by 31-Aug, the audit results for FY 2014 must be released and more likely than not, it is again a poor audit results.
This is why he has decided to keep the Aljunied GRC MPs intact. In other words, he is playing defensive, not offensive, in this GE 2015. Uncharacteristic of him, he announces this very early so that the PAP will “lose hope” and not field any changes in their weak team in Aljunied. He hopes that he will get _55% of votes this time, so that he can claim a mandate from the Aljunied residents that notwithstanding all the AHPETC audit issues, they back him strongly. This is similar to how, after the Saw affair, there was a BE in Hougang and all talks about “integrity problem” dissolved when they did better in that BE than in GE 2011 itself.
His best hope for a seat pickup is in Feng Shan SMC and he’ll probably field Gerald Giam there. When PAP cut Feng Shan off from East Coast, PAP is already prepared to potentially lose this SMC in order to save East Coast GRC. (Like I said, on a pro-forma basis, this new “East Coast” GRC would have been 60% PAP votes in GE 2011. A 10% swing against the PAP is extremely unlikely.) But to still give this their best fight, they’ll likely use their “use retiring veteran MP” strategy and probably deploy Yeo Guat Kwang there.
What’s the conclusion from all these tea leaves ?
People’s sentiments for or against a ruling party can change. Sometimes the wave goes against the PAP (like GE 2011) but sometimes it goes for the PAP (like GE 1997 and GE 2001).
If you read the wind condition wrongly, you will get crushed. Look at what happened to SDP in pro-PAP wave election GE 1997 : it lost all 4 seats.
LTK is a very shrewd politician who has lived through these waves – both for and against him. He knows that GE 2015 is not going to be a continuation of GE 2011. He knows that in politics, sometimes you live to fight another day. So he is playing defensive this election. He is smart — he can see all the writing on the wall (as I’ve detailed in my earlier “PAP will do very well in this election” post).
The only possible gains for WP is Feng Shan SMC, offseted by the very real possibility of losing Punggol East SMC.
Meanwhile, because all the other GRCs that WP is contesting in such as Yishun GRC, Jalan Besar GRC and East Coast GRC had been significantly fortified by the PAP, PAP’s share of votes will increase, not decrease.
The only other wild card is Marine Parade GRC. PAP did not expect that NSP will give up this so easily and thus did not expect a WP fight here. But they did win by 55% in GE 2011. Couple this with the expected pro-PAP wave and notwithstanding GCT being a liability, they still expect to win this GRC. Even if they win by 55%, it will be good enough. They are thinking long term too — if WP did no better than NSP in contesting Marine Parade, in future GEs, NSP will not give in so easily to WP and 3-corner fights will be more likely to happen.
If what I’ve said is true :
1) Then PAP will likely win _60% of votes this election. As I said, even if GE 2011 share of votes everywhere remain, but only Tanjong Pagar is now included with 70% PAP support due to LKY sentiment, the total pro-forma PAP votes would have been ~62%.
2) WP’s strategy is absolutely the right one. Play defensive, get a stronger mandate from Aljunied GRC to overcome the AHPETC issue, live to fight another day. By GE 2020, the middle class squeeze will get worse especially with Medishield Life coming in place forcing everyone to buy insurance that increases in price every year. And more and more foreigners crowd this place. And then WP will ride that wave to increase its seats.
3) The other parties all need to wise up. Forget about putting their big guns into GRCs. Put their best candidate into one or two SMCs. And instead of working the ground in different GRCs each weekend, just keep walking the same ground in the SMC again and again, just like Ah Lian did to win the Punggol East BE. Concentrate your time and resources there. At least, get a foothold into Parliament and make a name for yourself, then you will get a chance to get more seats and potentially a GRC in the future. Otherwise, you will forever be relegated as a non-entity, someone who makes noise on the Internet only.
* Submitted by TRE reader.
Hri Kumar’s Facebook post
At the NUSS forum on Tuesday, Gerald Giam told the audience that with regard to the troubles at Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), the Workers’ Party (WP) has“explained every point that has been brought up which demands an explanation and we have spared no effort in that.”
Good grief! Is he serious?
Here are just 7 basic questions the WP has not answered:
- Why hasn’t the WP carried out any independent investigation into the many areas of concern raised by the Auditor General’s Office (AGO)?
- Why did WP hide information from its own auditors?
- Why hasn’t the WP asked its friends in FMSS and FMSI, to whom they gave multi-million dollar contracts, to open their books for scrutiny?
- Why hasn’t any independent auditor hired by the WP been prepared to issue clean, unqualified audit reports on the AHPETC accounts since WP took over AHPETC in2011?
- Why is WP refusing MND’s offer to pay the government grants to AHPETC on condition that an independent accountant safeguards the use of those funds, when WP’s own lawyers accept that the MND can impose conditions and the High Court found that MND’s conditions were reasonable?
- If WP claims to be transparent, why, as the High Court found, did its Chairman Ms Sylvia Lim suppress facts and make a false statement to Parliament, and why did WP MP Pritam Singh say that he will not answer to Parliament?
- Why has WP done nothing to determine whether any public funds are lost or misappropriated?
The WP says that it accepts that the AGO is professional and independent. It says that it accepts the High Court judgment. But 6 months on, we are no closer to knowing the truth. Significantly, the WP has avoided stating categorically that no public funds have been lost, and no damage suffered. How could it, given its own conduct?
The only thing the WP has done is submit qualified audited accounts for FY2013, 10 months late. It trumpets this as an achievement. But the crucial fact remains that AHPETC’s own auditors were unable to verify their accounts for the third year running. So, we still do not have answers.
Despite all of this, Mr Giam claims only the PAP is not satisfied with their answers. He does not give Singaporeans enough credit. Ultimately, the AGO’s conclusion still stands: “until the weaknesses are addressed, there can be no assurance that AHPETC’s accounts are accurate and reliable, or that public funds are properly spent, accounted for and managed”.
The WP’s posturing ignores a more fundamental point. MPs manage millions of dollars of public monies and owe a duty to the people to ensure that Town Councils comply with the law. MPs are all accountable and must act with honesty and integrity. If for any reason a Town Council goes wrong, MPs have the responsibility to be transparent and take effective action to put things right, regardless of how embarrassing it may be to the MPs personally or to their party.
That is what the National Library Board did. The AGO found flaws in the way NLB procured electronic resources and made those findings public. NLB has tightened its processes. NLB’s parent ministry, the Ministry of Communications and Information acted swiftly and decisively by referring the matter to the police. No cover-ups; no sweeping under the carpet. That is what honesty and integrity are all about.
The WP MPs know what they need to do to put things at AHPETC right. As I said in my speech in Parliament in February this year, WP must commission a thorough forensic investigation, get its friends in FMSS and FMSI to open their books, clean up the accounts and sue to recover any losses suffered.
The WP has lawyers, and it know it can be done. But the WP does not want to do it. Why not? That is one more question it has not answered.
Andrew Loh’s response to Hri Kumar
Here are my answers to Hri Kumar’s misguided tirade:
• Why hasn’t the WP carried out any independent investigation into the many areas of concern raised by the Auditor-General’s Office?
– Huh? AGO found certain things were not complied with and AHPETC made the necessary corrections. Just like the ministries and stat boards did when the AGO similarly found lapses in their accounting.
• Why did WP hide information from its own auditors?
– What information did WP “hide”?
• Why hasn’t the WP asked its friends in FMSS (FM Solution and Services) and FMSI (FM Solutions & Integrated Services), to whom they gave multi-million dollar contracts, to open their books for scrutiny?
– The contracts were awarded in open tenders. Why didn’t the PAP also asked AIM to do the same?
• Why hasn’t any independent auditor hired by the WP been prepared to issue clean, unqualified audit reports on the AHPETC accounts since WP took over AHPETC in 2011?
– Because the AHPETC were trying to square accounts after the handover. And AHPETC had even requested the MND to help in squaring these accounts. And the AGO, even after one whole year of investigations, were also unable to square some of the accounts which were handed over.
• Why is WP refusing MND’s offer to pay the Government grants to AHPETC on condition that an independent accountant safeguards the use of those funds, when WP’s own lawyers accept that the MND can impose conditions and the High Court found that MND’s conditions were reasonable?
– AHPETC already explained – this is because the MND wanted to appoint PriceWaterHouse as the external accountant. WP said PwC would present a conflict of interest because it had been involved with helping the AGO in its audit. NOTE: WP is not against appointing an external accountant per se.
• If WP claims to be transparent, why, as the High Court found, did its chairman Ms Sylvia Lim suppress facts and make a false statement to Parliament, and why did WP MP Pritam Singh say that he will not answer to Parliament?
– What “facts” did Sylvia Lim “suppress”, and what “false statement” is Hri Kumar referring to?
• Why has WP done nothing to determine whether any public funds are lost or misappropriated?
– The Ago had done a whole one-year audit and found no funds missing.