Op-Ed: Murali Pillai Should Resign

A 60-year-old woman who was injured in a fire in a Bukit Batok estate on November 1 has died. The victim, who was identified only as Madam Goh, passed away on Monday December 9.

Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai provided an update on his Facebook page. He added that Madam Goh’s family had asked for their privacy to be respected.

Pillai, who is accompanying President Halimah Yacob on her five-day state visit to Germany, told The Straits Times that he is suspending his trip to be with Madam Goh’s family.

Madam Goh had been receiving treatment at Singapore General Hospital for more than a month since the fire. Her son also suffered smoke inhalation and burn injuries.

Firefighters discovered fire hose reel could not work

Pillai had earlier apologised for the fire at Block 210A Bukit Batok Street 21, where firefighters at the scene encountered padlocked hose reel cabinets.

Firefighters were forced to break one of the cabinets to access the hose reel only to find out that there was no water supply. Instead, they extinguished the fire using water from the SCDF’s emergency vehicles.

Action taken by the town council

Jurong-Clementi Town Council (JCTC), which oversees municipal duties in the area, was issued a stern warning from the SCDF. The town council maintained that the cabinets had been locked in order to prevent vandalism.

Following an investigation, JCTC concluded that the contractor had left the pump room selector switch in the wrong mode, leaving firefighters were left without a water supply.

“This was a mistake, as it meant that the cabinets could only be opened with force during an emergency, as SCDF had done during the recent fire incident,”
Town Council statement

Taking Responsibility

Earlier in November, DPM Heng Swee Keat put forth a motion in Parliament calling for Worker’s Party (WP) MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from dealing with or having oversight over financial matters of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) until the court case has ended.

Heng echoed statements by several other PAP MPs and ministers charging that the WP had been dishonest. The mainstream media have also closely followed the case, dedicating entire pages to the story.

Despite receiving a ‘green’ banding for corporate governance – the highest rating possible, the Ministry of National Development has considered taking regulatory action against Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.

In contrast, the government’s response to the Bukit Batok fire has been deafeningly silent, despite clear evidence of gross negligence on the part of the town council in failing to ensure fire safety regulations were followed.

Attempting to shift responsibility to the contractor does not diminish the town council’s culpability. One can only imagine the ruling party’s reaction had the fire taken place in Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.

Given the tragic turn of events, the town council officials responsible, and Bukit Batok’s MP, Murali Pillai must do the honorable thing and resign from office.

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