Monday, January 7, 2013

PAP's transparent figleaf: Threatening Alex Au with legal action

Source: Occupy Singapore (here)

News of PM Lee Hsien Loong sending a lawyer’s letter to activist blogger Alex Au is going viral fast and, ironically, building even greater global awareness of the whole shameful PAP-AIM saga. Our dear leader had his fave lawyer demand that Alex remove his post and apologise for defaming him. Alex’s post “PAP mis-AIMed, faces blowback” had questioned the computer systems deal involving People’s Action Party (PAP), 14 town councils and Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM) a $2 company owned by the party.

I shall not repeat the PAP-AIM issues and Teo Ho Pin’s pathetic salvage letters which have been picked apart by numerous netizens and well-respected bloggers. For more info, please visit these blogs which provide incisive analyses and which ask sharp questions over the AIM deal that comes in 50 shades of grey.

Coincidentally, PM’s New Year present to Alex, comes just four days after I wrote my commentary which had contained an imaginary conversation between PM Lee and his father Lee Kuan Yew. This conversation had concluded with Papa Lee telling Ah Boy:”You know what I think Loong? I think you have been too soft. Stick some spurs into their hides and show them who is boss and tell them to stop complaining! They will live and repent if they keep harping on the unimportant stuff…”

PM’s action of sending a lawyer’s letter to Alex, who had asked very valid and serious questions in the interest of the public, makes one wonder if he did it wholly of his own accord or if it was with a nudge (shove?) from his old man who is known for his fast and furious responses at the slightest sign of dissent.

The other question that I want to ask is just why did the PM suddenly step forward into this AIM maelstrom? After all, Teo Ho Pin the coordinating chairman of the of 14 PAP town councils, had been the one issuing the media statements to explain the sale of the town council computer system to AIM, a dormant company owned by PAP.

I had read Alex’s allegedly defamatory post before it was removed (search online and you can still find it here), and no where did he mention the PM nor accuse him of being corrupt! And yet, PM’s lawyer cleverly put up a case by sewing bits and pieces together. Alex’s post was said to contain “very serious suggestions of criminal breach of trust”, and because he referred to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, “of corruption” as well, reported TODAY.

According to the papers, the lawyer had highlighted 21 comments on Alex’s post that he said, when either taken together with the blog post or read on their own, would suggest that PM Lee “is guilty of corruption in relation to the AIM transaction and will abuse his powers to cover up the matter or prevent any investigation into his corruption”.

Well, well, so now it looks like the big guns will fire even if they are not mentioned and even if the comments that they find offensive were not made by the blogger but by those who comment on the blog!

Is PM being infantile in his reaction as admonished by activist Andrew Loh in his commentary “Stop being so childish Prime Minister” (see below)? Yes, I think PM is being immature and unpolished as a political leader in how he has responded given that no corruption accusations were made about him although very valid concerns were raised by many citizens over the AIM saga.

Instead of responding like a courageous and dignified leader should, he chose to respond with a cheap low blow – the bad habit of threatening people with legal letters. Such quick-to-sue actions remind me of the foul-tempered childish Red Queen in the story ‘Alice in Wonderland’ who loved to yell “Off with their heads!” at those who offended her!

Perhaps PM & Company believe that by using the bazooka to kill an ant, it will scatter and scare off the rest. I have news for them. Ants that scatter tend to regroup very fast and they become more ferocious when angered.

What PM needs to learn is that as the country’s political leader, we expect the highest level of accountability and honourable behaviour from him. What kind of values is he exhibiting when he does things like this? Shouldn’t he answer pertinent questions such as why PAP awarded the contract to AIM when there was a clear conflict of interest in awarding and selling the rights of the computer system to a PAP-owned company?

As the head of our country, he owes the people an honest explanation and not a lawyer’s letter.


Stop being so childish, prime minister

Andrew Loh  (source)

It is barely the first week of the new year and we already have a threat of legal action from the People’s Action Party (PAP) / Government. PM Lee Hsien Loong had sent a lawyer’s letter to well known and very much respected blogger, activist and writer, Alex Au, demanding Alex removed his blog posts about Action Information Management, the PAP-owned company embroiled in the controversy over a certain computer system.

It is unclear whether PM Lee had sent the letter in his personal capacity, or as the prime minister or secretary general of the PAP. Whatever it is, the demand was clear – remove the allegedly offending post, and publish an apology, or else.

It is the same old tiring, tiresome, and tired tactic of issuing threats instead of engaging the issue or the alleged allegations. Threatening to take legal action over blog postings is, to be honest, infantile. It is childish because it does not befit the office of the prime minister to take offence so easily, when he has in his power all the resources to engage the issue, clarify any perceived falsehoods, or lay out the facts of the issue at hand. In short, he could very well take some time, have a bit of patience, and debate or discuss the issues and in the process enlighten everyone – and maybe gain a bit more respect too from his detractors.

But no. A lawyer’s letter was obviously deemed the better option.

Nonetheless, lets not let this threat of legal action distract us from the very important matter of the AIM/PAP controversy – for there are still many questions, serious questions, left unanswered, even after some 3 weeks since the matter came into the public spotlight.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, the coordinating chairman of the 14 PAP town councils, have yet to explain, for example, why he and the chairmen of the town councils, did not see the conflict of interest of awarding and selling the rights of the computer system to a PAP-owned company. If they did, why did they still choose to go ahead in awarding the contract to AIM?

He has also not disclosed how much was used to develop the software in the first place. Or indeed, how much AIM paid for the software. Why was AIM’s bid for the contract submitted, apparently, one week after the closing date of the tender – and accepted?

Alex raised some very pertinent matters too – such as the danger that there is nothing to stop the PAP from selling out other services to PAP-owned companies. By the way, the PAP has declined to reveal how many companies it owns. This too is a problem because any opposition party which wins a constituency may find itself having to deal with PAP-owned companies, as the Workers’ Party did with AIM in Aljunied.

It is thus important, in the name of full accountability, that the PAP disclose the number of companies it has, and the nature of their business.

In the case of AIM, the PAP declined to disclose its past business dealings, or other details about the company.

So, in spite of the threat of legal action by the prime minister, these questions are being asked even more loudly now – and it would do the PAP a whole lot of good if it addressed each one openly.

And the best way to do so is in a “live” press conference in the presence of the mainstream media and the alternative media. Take the matter head-on, clear all doubts, lay out all facts.

That is, if the PAP has nothing to hide, which I am sure is the case.

And it really – I mean, really – is time to lay down the hatchet.

Engage Singaporeans. Engage the issue. Engage the questions – and not engage lawyers to issue threats.

Stop being so childish, prime minister.


Read Ravi Philemon’s letter to PAP chairman, Khaw Boon Wan, here.

Does PAP pass the "smell" test?

by Tan Jee Say on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 00:05 (source)

If the PM hopes to stop social media talk (and coffeeshop talk) on the AIM saga with his lawyer's defamation letter to well-known blogger Alex Au, he will be sorely disappointed. In fact, Alex has just posted Part 6 of his legendary "PAP''s misAIMed blow" series of blogs as he had promised when he posted his apology. I admire Alex for his persistence and tenacity which can only mean one thing - that he truly believes in what he has written and done to expose questionable deeds and do society good. Well done Alex! Many other bloggers have joined in too, adding greater clarity.

Most postings have so far concentrated on the transaction itself, its propriety or lack thereof, the conflict of interest, the sale of a public-funded asset to a partisan body and many other related aspects. I have not noticed much being written about the supervisory aspects, the rules and regulations of governance which if properly and duly followed could have prevented this misAIMed episode. I hope to fill the gap with this posting.

What are these rules and who are responsible for supervising them? The official website states :

"MND sets the broad legislative framework and financial guidelines under the Town Councils Act and Town Council Financial Rules to ensure proper governance and accountability by Town Councils. As the public housing authority, HDB advises and assists MND in its regulatory duties. HDB also works closely with Town Councils in its capacity as the owner of common property in HDB estates."

So there is a close working relationship between MND, HDB and the town councils, and the Minister for National Development has a lot to answer for in this particular issue; however, he has been unusually quiet these days, which is so uncharacteristic of him; remember the Yaw Shin Leong affair when he was all guns blazing in Parliament, demanding WP to come clean on all aspects, yet was quiet as a mouse when confronted with his fellow PAP MP Michael Palmer's fling? Did HDB officers bring this matter to the minister and if so, what was his response? Did he declare that he was an interested party by virtue of the fact that the bidder was a PAP company? Were the procedures followed? The public tender announcement stated that the closing date of tender was 14 July 2010, but AIM submitted its bid on 20 July, six days after the closing date and was accepted. Was the tender period extended and if so, why and how was this communicated?

Note the tender's closing date of 14 July 2010 - AIM's bid was submitted on 20 July 2010.

Since it was a single bid, did MND/HDB officers ensure that MOF's financial guidelines on single bids were followed? DPM and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told Parliament on 13 August 2012 that "for procurements where only a single bid is received, MOF will require the officers responsible to provide additional justifications to the Approving Authority within each agency, setting out why they consider the single bid competitive or reflective of market prices, before a decision is made to award the contract." Did the MND/HDB officers set out the additional justifications as required of them before AIM was awarded the contract, and if so what were these justifications particularly in light of the basic eligibility requirement stated in the tender announcement that the bidder be "an experienced and reputable company with relevant track record"? Was the MND satisfied with these justifications? Was the opinion of the MOF sought on this matter? If so, what was MOF's response?

So there are more parties involved in this issue of governance than just the bidder and town councils. This should be the case as public money is involved and proper checks and balances need to be in place. The all-important question is whether the gatekeeper is doing his job. The ultimate gatekeeper of the nation's finance is of course the President, but should his office be involved in this matter? Yes I believe so as the sole bidder was a company owned by the ruling party and only someone above party politics can be a judge of its propriety.


No comments: