Response to SLA’s statement to CNA & Yahoo on “Pulau Ubin” article

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Pulau Ubin to remain a rustic getaway: Maliki: Processes set up to avoid repeat of notice that upset residents in April” (Straits Times, Jul 10).

It states that “They had tabled questions after a scare in April, when 22 households on the north-eastern island received what they thought was an eviction notice. Dr Maliki, an MP for East Coast GRC, which Pulau Ubin falls under, admitted that communication to households on the island could have been better. The notice, which was issued in March, caused much worry because its subject topic read “Clearance Scheme: Clearance of Structures Previously Acquired for Development of Adventure Park on Pulau Ubin”.

Photo of the letter sent to residents of Palau Ubin. (Photo by Ria)
Photo of the letter sent to residents of Palau Ubin. (Photo by Ria)

The families thought their homes were slated for “clearance”. But, Dr Maliki said, it was to inform residents of a census survey to determine how much resettlement benefits they are entitled to and the amount of rent they need to pay. This is because the land that their houses occupy had been acquired by the Government in 1987 and 1993. To continue living where they are, residents will in the near future have to pay for a Temporary Occupation Licence, which is the equivalent of rent. Several MPs voiced concern over the misunderstanding.

Nominated MP Faizah Jamal asked that in future such information be given to the residents in a language or dialect that they understand. “Some of them have never been to school. This letter was in English and naturally they were concerned,” she said. Agreeing, Ms Irene Ng asked how such a misleading notice could have been sent out in the first place. “Is there a process and system in place to vet important notices that go out to residents, especially those which are potentially sensitive and distressing?”

Replying, Dr Maliki said processes have been rectified to prevent similar incidents.” I refer to the articles “SLA clarifies regularisation of Pulau Ubin” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 20) and “Gov’t slams blogger over ‘misleading’ Pulau Ubin article” (Yahoo News, Apr 20). I would like to thank the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for their clarification to explain that “These tenants are not entitled to compensation from the government. But the government, in 1993, as a matter of goodwill, also provided resettlement benefits to these tenants on an ex-gratia basis” (CNA article); “those who did not receive compensation were tenants and their owners have been renting out the properties since 1993.

Therefore, these tenants are “not entitled to compensation from the government”. However, SLA also stated that resettlement benefits were still provided to these tenants on an “ex-gratia basis” in terms of “money” and “priority for HDB flats” (Yahoo article). I would like to clarify that I had written my article (“Pulau Ubin: Rent will increase at 35% p.a.?“, Apr 17) based on and quoting the media report “Pulau Ubin will remain in “rustic state” but residents will have to pay rent” (Straits Times online, Apr 17), which did not say that “These tenants are not entitled to compensation from the government.

But the government, in 1993, as a matter of goodwill, also provided resettlement benefits to these tenants on an ex-gratia basis” (CNA article). I am sure that the affected residents will be very happy to know of this generosity. After I read the SLA’s statement in the CNA and Yahoo articles, I tried to read all the media reports prior to 20 April (the date of the CNA and Yahoo articles), and also cannot find any mention of the above If I have missed any media report which did cite this.

I would be grateful if the SLA could point it out to me. I appreciate your pointing out that I “had “ignored” the fact that the government” did not charge any rental in 1993 and for 20 years the tenants have been enjoying that”. The SLA statement added that “even now the Government has chosen to phase in the rentals over five years to mitigate the impact on the residents” (Yahoo article).”

May I once again thank you on behalf of the affected residents for your generosity in helping them. I am also grateful for your advice that my “formula in calculating the rent Pulau Ubin residents could have paid in 1993 as “factually wrong”” (Yahoo article). As a layman, may I seek your kind advice and assistance to educate me and others as to what would be the correct “formula”?

– I believe this may be of interest to Singaporeans in general as well as the affected residents or others in the future, as I believe this may be something which most of us may never have been taught in school.

Letter that was put up on residents home in 12th March 2013
To: Owner/Occupier
760-D Pulau Ubin
Survey No. AP14Dear Sir / Madam



SLA has sought HDB Land Clearance Section (LCS)’s assistance to clear the above squatter house. In connection with the clearance, officers from LCS/SLA will visit your premises to conduct a census survey for the purpose of determining your eligibility for resettlement benefits. During the census survey, please furnish the original and photocopies of the following documents for our inspection.

(i) Identity card;
(ii) Birth Certificate (for person below 12 years old);
(iii) Marriage Certificate;
(iv) Property Tax bill or proof of ownership of the affected house (for house owner); and
(v) Death Certificate if the owner had passed away, Letter of Administration or Grant of Probate, if any.

Please note that resettlement benefits offered is strictly ex-gratia. The Cut-Off Date of eligibility for resettlement benefits for the above clearance scheme is 10 Apr 2009.

You may contact my colleagues Ms Neo Bee Lan or Ms Tan Yap Har at telephone No. 64903059 during office hours for an appointment to meet you at the affected premises on Pulau Ubin for the census survey.

Yours faithfully
Lee Boon Sun
Senior Land Administration Manager
Land Clearance Section
Properties & Land Group

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