Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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NParks' claim that HDB are 'landlords' directly contradicts statement by Minister of National Development – who is telling the truth?

In this fresh chicken debacle where chicken rearer Eric Woo was cited by HDB for rearing chicken in his HDB flat. HDB officers told the 48-year old that keeping chickens in HDB flats was not allowed.
In a statement to TODAY, HDB said “Poultry, including chickens, are not allowed to be kept in HDB flats. They are not suitable to be kept as indoor pets and, when allowed to roam indiscriminately, may inconvenience the neighbours,” said the HDB.
Mr Woo, on the other hand, cited the Animals and Birds Act which states that people can keep up to 10 birds ‘in any premises’.
Still, Mr Woo does note that the National Parks Board (NParks) says on its website that poultry-keeping is illegal in HDB flat, however, he argued, “Since when does NParks have jurisdiction over HDB?”
NParks, however, said that the Animals and Birds act is a broad law and that landlords have a say on additional rules. In this case, HDB is the landlord, according to NParks.
Group director for community animal management of NParks’ Animal and Veterinary Service arm, Ms Jessica Kwok said, “Owners are also subject to rules of their landlord, which may or may not allow the keeping of poultry within their managed areas.”
The thing is, back in September 2018 at the HDB’s Peak Forum, Minister for National Development Mr Lawrence Wong had said that it is “factually and legally wrong” to claim that HDB flat buyers do not own their flats and are merely renting. He adds that there is no basis to such a claim.
Mr Wong said that all buyers of leasehold properties whether private or public enjoy ownership rights over their properties in the duration of the lease, adding that it is ‘important to set the record straight’ on the matter.
Clearly, what NParks says now about HDB being ‘landlords’ and thus have the prerogative to implement additional rules for residents is contradictory to Mr Wong’s statements.
Under the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act which was hastily passed through Parliament in May this year, the definition of of falsehoods is extended to any statement that is ‘misleading … whether in whole or in part, and whether on its own or in the context in which it appears.
Given the conflicting stances, will POFMA be applied this instance to either party? We’ll say it is probably not given that these are conflicting statements coming from the administration, not to mention that it is the Minister(s) who decide what are the “falsehoods” that should be taken to task.
But let’s say a news site or opposition politicians were to repeat the same kind of conflicting statements, such as the statement by International Property Advisor Pte Ltd and co-founder of HugProperty.com, Mr Ku Swee Yong back in 2018 where he contested the ownership of HDB and advocated that the population should be educated regarding the ownership of residential property in Singapore, particularly that of HDB flats.
Do you think POFMA would be applied to them then?
If you do, which isn’t hard to see why. Isn’t it clear that POFMA is inherently biased and does not actually address falsehoods and misleading statements which are spread by the government itself?

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