BLK 511 HAWKER ASSOCIATION CHAIRMAN IS A PAP-LINKED GRASSROOTS LEADER TOO

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During the recent exchanges in Parliament between Minister Vivian and MP Sylvia Lim, the Minister released a dossier of documentary evidence [Link] to “prove” that Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) had attempted to charge the hawkers extra for cleaning the high areas of the hawker centres in question.

Mr Low Thia Khiang, in his reply to the press on 10 July 2013 (‘Low stands by Sylvia & Pritam, says Vivian’s attack was not good politics‘), denied this. He restated his stand in Parliament that there was a misunderstanding whether the cleaning session was an annual or a quarterly one.

Mr Low clarified that if NEA was referring to quarterly cleaning, the town council would not have been obliged to clean the high areas since the contract with NEA stipulated at least once a year cleaning for the high areas.

However, if they meant annual cleaning, it would then be the town council’s duty to clean the high areas at its own cost, as stipulated in the contract. He said that if NEA had wanted an annual cleaning session to be carried out, it should have communicated this clearly. In any case, there was no basis for NEA to make such requests since it is up to the town council to decide on the schedule for the annual cleaning for the markets in the constituencies under its charge, he added.

On a conciliatory note, Mr Low said that both the town council and NEA have “room for improvement” when it comes to communication.

In the dossier, there are 2 petition letters by Block 511 and Block 538 Hawker Associations which were forwarded to the press. It was the petition letters which, after being published by the press in early June, brought the cleaning issue to the public’s attention.

Jonathan Oh Swee Yang

The dossier also includes email exchanges between Block 511 Hawker Association, NEA and AHPETC. In the series of exchanges, it was revealed that a “Jonathan Oh” is the Chairman of Block 511 Hawker Association. He was the one representing Block 511 Hawker Association in its correspondence with AHPETC. He goes by the email address “jonathan@etronin.com“, indicating that he is working for Etronin.

A cursory check of the company’s website (www.etronin.com) reveals that Etronin is a shop at Blk 510, Bedok North St 3 #01-51, selling electrical appliances:

Its website says:

Etronin Electromart began life as Etronin Electrical Co in 1980, re-incorporating in 1997 to reflect its new focus.

We have always been located in Bedok New Town, and we carry a great range of household, electrical, airconditioning equipment and audiovisual products.

Etronin carries a great variety of products and brands, ranging from Toshiba, Electrolux, JVC, Samsung, Sanyo, Pioneer, to Kenwood, etc. You can visit us regularly at trade shows and exhibitions at Singapore Expo, Suntec City and World Trade Centre.

Our strength is not only our reasonably priced products, but also our value-added services, such as delivery/installation, hire purchase, product sourcing, etc. As such, we have built up a network of loyal satisfied customers island-wide.

Feel free to drop in at our premises or our website to view our products. You can also give us a friendly call to find out more about that electrical appliance you are interested in.

Checking the business listing for “Etronin Electromart” at ACRA, TR Emeritus discovered that the business is a sole-proprietorship owned by Chew Wee Peng. It lists Oh Swee Yang as the person managing the business [Link].

Hence we surmised that the “Jonathan Oh” working for Etronin and “Oh Swee Yang” are likely to be one and the same person.

A search on the Net for “Jonathan Oh Swee Yang” turns up more interesting finds.

In the old copies of Marine Parade Town Council Annual Report prior to 2011, his name appears inside. He was a town councillor and member of the Audit Committee for Marine Parade Town Council:

Marine Parade Town Council Annual Report 08/09 [Link]

Jonathan Oh is likely to be a PAP member since PAP normally allows only their own members to be town councillors. However, his name, together with the known PAP grassroots leader Ng Kok Khim (‘The man in the centre of AHPETC controversy is a PAP grassroots leader‘) was absent after 2011:

Marine Parade Town Council Annual Report 11/12 [Link]

In other words, both Jonathan Oh and Ng Kok Khim were no longer town councillors of Marine Parade Town Council anymore, after 2011.

Why is this so? The reason is quite simple. Jonathan Oh and Ng Kok Khim are now grassroots leaders in Kaki Bukit ward. In the 2011 General Election, Kaki Bukit ward was cut out from Marine Parade GRC and put into Aljunied GRC in the hope of bolstering the PAP votes in Aljunied GRC.

As it turned out, PAP lost Aljunied GRC, thereby ending the town councillor careers of Jonathan Oh and Ng Kok Khim. They could not represent Kaki Bukit as town councillors in the opposition-controlled (then) Aljunied Town Council. Both of them must have been quite “disappointed” when they lost their town councillor jobs.

Indeed, if one was to Google search “Jonathan Oh Kaki Bukit”, one will find his many links to grassroots activities in Kaki Bukit. The following are his postings on Kaki Bukit CC Facebook page [Link]:

Now, clicking on “Jonathan Oh” on the Kaki Bukit CC Facebook page brings you to his own Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.oh.75):

As can be seen, he has been GM of Etronin Electromart, running the electrical appliance retail business since 1979. Interestingly, he also put down “Kaki Bukit Community Center” and “People’s Association” as his other employers. He has 2 brothers, Oh Swee Kim and Oh Swee Hwa.

On his Facebook page, he remarks that it is interesting to meet “all types of people by moving around the estate” and states his political views as:

MEETING NEW PEOPLE and CREATE LAUGHTER. Enhance the estate enviroment (sic) for better of the people living in….

Further search on the Net reveals an interesting Facebook posting he supposedly made on PAP MP Faishal’s Facebook page in late 2011 or early 2012 [Link]:

“Omg, what will happen to us living in Aljunied GRC, what have we got into. Help is nowhere from the MP (WP) except the Govt (CDC). One should see the numbers of people in Kaki Bukit who need financial welfare, and only those whom had helped during the last will know….. so those who see “no matter” should think harder and consider for others……or one of those day..”

Conclusion

We have hence established 2 facts – that both Block 511 and Block 538 Hawker Associations in Aljunied GRC are represented by PAP-linked grassroots leaders:

  • Block 511 Hawker Association – Mr Jonathan Oh Swee Yang
  • Block 538 Hawker Association – Mr Ng Kok Khim, PBM

It is not known why the hawker associations are not represented by the hawkers themselves but by non-hawker PAP grassroots leaders. Take the case of Jonathan Oh. He is clearly a retailer and GM of a electrical appliance shop. He is certainly not a hawker selling Char Kway Tiao or Satay, is he? So why is he representing the hawkers? Should not the hawkers elect an apolitical representative among themselves to represent their interests?

It is perhaps time for Singapore to depoliticize all these so-called grassroots organizations and return to the basics of helping the people.

TR Emeritus

*Article first appeared on www.TREmeritus.com