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Newly Appointed Independent Panel Handles Court Appeals for Sengkang Town Council

The Sengkang Town Council, helmed by Workers’ Party Sengkang team leader He Ting Ru, has recently appointed an independent panel. The panel includes two lawyers and a law professor, designated to handle all matters related to the pending appeals against a High Court judgment involving the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC). 

The newly appointed independent panel follows the upcoming transfer of all assets and liabilities relating to the area of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, which now forms part of Sengkang GRC. 

“The appointment of the independent panel is in furtherance of the SKTC’s previous public statemenCredit: t that it is fully committed to ensuring that all decisions taken in relation to the management of the appeals are fair, transparent and in accordance with the law,” said SKTC in a statement on Tuesday, 8 September.

Last October, a High Court judgment had found that the Workers’ Party leaders acted based on their political interests and mismanaged town council funds. The leaders in question are Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim. They are said to have put their political interests above the interests of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), with regards to the way they handled the appointment of a managing agent. 

The claim is backed by how they had gone to great lengths to keep the town council’s managing agent CPG unaware while the takeover by FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) was set in motion without a tender being issued. The appointment of FMSS as the managing agent has led to a misuse of S$33 million. 

Ms Lim and Mr Low had also asked the owners of FMSS to prepare a “sanitised” report for a meeting with AHTC’s other town councillors, illustrating a false and misleading narrative of why a tender was waived. The act of undermining CPG for a takeover by FMSS after the 2011 General Election had resulted in a civil suit initiated in 2017 to recover improper payments. The PRPTC had also sued to recover losses incurred when the WP-led town council managed Punggol East constituency from 2013 to 2015. The WP had won the seat in 2013 but lost it in the 2015 General Election. 

Now, the former single seat is part of Sengkang GRC and returned to Workers’ Party at the recent General Election. Sengkang Town Council has now taken over the management of this lawsuit.

Formally appointed on September 5, the independent panel will not charge a fee and promises to act “independently and impartially in the best interested of SKTC”, mentioned in a statement by the town council. The panel consists of Senior Counsels Kenneth Tan, Lok Vi Ming, and Dr Kevin Tan, who is an adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) law faculty and a public law scholar. 

In the town council’s statement, it is also mentioned that Mr Tan graduated with first-class honours from NUS and was among the first group of senior counsels appointed in 1997. Mr Lok had served as president of Singapore’s Law Society in 2013 and 2014. All three individuals are appointed on their personal capacities. 

“The fact that other persons in their organisations have been or may be engaged by or have any dealing with SKTC, including on matters potentially relevant to the work of the independent panel, would not of itself give rise to a justifiable doubt as to the independence of the members,” the town council added.

The panel will be reviewing previous instructions and advice to PRPTC’s lawyers and decide their next steps concerning the appeals. It also can appoint experts, such as accountants or consultants, to help with its work. Panel members will not be paid a salary, but SKTC will reimburse them for any expenses incurred while they work, including engaging legal advisers or a secretary. 

The panel will be providing updates and reports to SKTC on the progress of its work and how they are exercising their power, and make decisions based on a majority vote of its members.

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