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Ex-PSP member Kala Manickam sues party for wrongful termination, seeks S$10,000 refund for election expenses

Ex-PSP member Kala Manickam sues party for wrongful termination, seeks S$10,000 refund for election expenses

Source: TODAY
Article Date: 18 Nov 2021
Author: Natasha Meah

The party is challenging her application, which is now with the State Courts.

  • Ms Kala Manickam filed an application to seek a declaration that her termination from Progress Singapore Party was “wrongful and invalid”
  • She is also seeking a refund of S$10,000 that she said she forked out for election expenses in 2020
  • She said the party did not follow due process in terminating her and never explained what issues it had with her conduct
  • The party is challenging her application, which is now with the State Courts
  • It claims she had been disrespectful and efforts to reconcile with her had been unsuccessful

Former Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Kala Manickam has started court proceedings against the opposition party to seek, among other things, a declaration that her termination on Dec 24 last year was “wrongful and invalid”.

The former candidate for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in last year’s General Election is also seeking to be compensated S$10,000, saying that she had contributed the amount as part of her election expenses.

Yahoo News Singapore first reported the lawsuit on Wednesday.

In court documents seen by TODAY, Ms Kala laid out the events leading to her expulsion from the party, saying that she realised something was amiss on Sept 12 last year, when she was suddenly suspended from all constituency-related matters, including group chats and activities that PSP was organising for Nee Soon GRC.

A day later, the party's secretary-general Francis Yuen told her that there had been “lots of serious complaints from members of the Nee Soon team” against her and asked her to step back from party activities while an investigation was being launched.

On Nov 25, she said that she met PSP chairman Tan Cheng Bock, with their discussion centring around her ability to work with the Nee Soon team.

During this talk, she added, he asked her to “move away” from Nee Soon GRC and when she asked why, he told her to leave the party altogether.

Then on Dec 3, Ms Peggie Chua, a member of PSP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), told Ms Kala that Dr Tan’s decision was “no more”, and that he wanted Ms Kala to “step back and lie low” instead while retaining her party membership.

Two weeks later, however, Ms Chua told her that Dr Tan had changed his position again and wanted her to leave the party.

At this point, Ms Kala said that she asked Ms Chua for an official email or letter from the CEC outlining its rationale for terminating her membership.

Ms Kala said that she did not receive such a letter, but instead received a letter of termination from the party on Dec 24.

In her affidavit, Ms Kala argued that the party did not follow due process and breached its constitution in terminating her, noting that she was neither informed of the specific issues or details of the “charges” brought against her by other party members, nor did she have the opportunity to present her case.

She also said that she has never been formally informed of the results of the investigation into her conduct, and she has still not received replies to several emails that she sent to the party to ask for an explanation for her suspension and termination.

PSP’S RESPONSE

Yahoo News Singapore reported that PSP is challenging the application, which Ms Kala filed in the High Court in July.

In court documents filed on behalf of PSP, which were seen by Yahoo News Singapore, it was stated that PSP is arguing that Ms Kala was terminated “after efforts to reconcile her with the party were unsuccessful”.

Dr Tan, PSP's chief, stated that her termination was a "last resort".

At least seven party members, including Dr Tan, Mr Yuen, and two fellow former Nee Soon GRC candidates Muhammad Taufik Supan and Damien Tay Chye Seng who contested alongside Ms Kala last year, submitted affidavits on behalf of the party, Yahoo News Singapore reported.

Mr Yuen said in an affidavit that Ms Kala's application to be compensated S$10,000 was unfounded since each candidate contributed the amount towards the PSP's election expenses due to the party having insufficient funds to cover all such expenses.

Mr Yuen added that the contribution was also to determine a candidate's intention in contesting. He said that Ms Kala's expenses ran up to S$33,627, with the party forking out S$23,637.

Mr Taufik and Mr Tay said in their affidavits that Ms Kala was "uncooperative" and "disruptive" during last year’s election campaign.

For example, she did not join the team for morning meetings at coffee shops and walkabouts and also demanded that things be done her way, they said.

Mr Taufik also claimed that Ms Kala would go for walkabouts on her own with her own volunteers and only turned up at two team walkabouts in the nine days of campaigning.

A petition was then filed by 17 party members and a party volunteer to PSP’s CEC on Aug 26 last year, calling for her removal.

An investigation sub-committee, however, recommended that Ms Kala be redeployed to "start anew" as she could still be an asset to PSP should she be “persuaded to change her attitude”, Yahoo News Singapore reported.

As for the meeting on Nov 25, Dr Tan said in his affidavit that he and CEC members had met with Ms Kala in an attempt at reconciliation, but her conduct was “far from conciliatory”.

“I recall that when (Kala) entered the meeting room on 25 November 2020, she appeared composed but confrontational, as if she was raring for a fight.”

“Each time any of us tried to stop her to say something, she would shout over us and continue with an angry spiel about the wrongdoings of the other members of the Nee Soon GRC team. (Kala) then aggressively questioned if we had any proof of her wrongdoings by shouting, 'What proof? What proof?'" Dr Tan stated.

At the end of the meeting, a CEC member asked to speak to Ms Kala privately to propose a reconciliation but she allegedly proposed her own conditions, including continuing to be a member of the Nee Soon GRC team. The CEC declined to accede to that proposal.

Yahoo News Singapore said the CEC concluded that PSP was unable to work with Ms Kala and decided to terminate her membership, giving her a week to tender her resignation from Dec 17, 2020.

The party terminated her membership a week later on Dec 24 when she failed to do so.

Her termination letter, signed off by Dr Tan, stated that her conduct in the Nov 25 meeting "was disrespectful and tantamount to insubordination".

Ms Kala unsuccessfully appealed against the termination twice, last year and this year.

The case has been transferred from the High Court and is now pending before the State Courts.

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