It was reported that JTC Corporation CEO Tan Boon Khai has acknowledged JTC’s responsibility for the recent fiasco in the accidental clearing of large swathe of forest in Kranji (‘JTC acknowledges it has overall responsibility of Kranji woodland as developer; releases timeline of site clearance‘, 23 Feb).
Speaking to the media on Monday (22 Feb), Mr Tan said, “As the project and site developer, JTC does have overall responsibility for the site. We do not run away from this responsibility. We will not, nor do we intend to.”
This was in light of growing public discontent over the manner in which the Kranji woodland was cleared and JTC’s explanation that its contractor, Huationg, has “erroneously” cleared plots of land in December last year.
Subsequently, JTC ordered the firm to stop all clearing works immediately and told the media, “Since then, no further clearing has taken place on site and the contractor has been issued a stern warning.” It further added that it takes a “very serious view of this incident”.
Even the Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing acknowledged, “It is clear to us that there were gaps in the way that the project was managed and supervised, and that we must do better.” And added, “The public service will learn from this and improve.”
The Commissioner of Parks and Recreation of the NParks, Leong Chee Chiew said that his agency will be investigating whether there were any breaches of the Parks and Trees Act and the Wildlife Act, while Workers’ Party MP for Hougang, Dennis Tan said he will be filing two series of Parliamentary questions to the Minister of Trade and Industry in relation to the fiasco occurred at Kranji.
Tan Boon Khai appointed JTC CEO less than 6 months
Tan Boon Khai who was formerly the CEO of Singapore Land Authority (SLA) took over as CEO of JTC only last Sep, according to information on government website.
He was appointed CEO of SLA on 1 May 2015. Prior to this, he was with the CapitaLand Group. The government website said, “During Mr Tan’s term, SLA has received multiple awards and accolades for its service-centric and principal areas of work. These awards include being ranked 1st in the Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP) rankings in 2017, as well as key industry awards at various international geospatial forums.”
And according to Mr Tan’s own LinkedIn information, he used to be a District Judge and Deputy Public Prosecutor:
- Sep 2020 – Present (6 mth): JTC Corporation, CEO
- May 2015 – Sep 2020 (5+ yr): Singapore Land Authority, CEO
- 2015 – Apr 2015 (< 1 yr): CapitaLand, Head of Group Procurement
- 2011 – 2014 (3 yr): The Ascott Limited of CapitaLand, Regional General Manager
- 2010 – 2011 (1 yr): CapitaLand, Senior Vice President
- 2009 – 2010 (1 yr): Attorney-General’s Chambers, Deputy Public Prosecutor
- 2006 – 2009 (3 yr): MOH Holdings Pte Ltd, General Counsel and Company Secretary
- 2004 – 2006 (2 yr): Subordinate Courts, District Judge
- 2002 – 2004 (2 yr): Drew & Napier LLC, Associate Director
- 1996 – 2002 (6 yr): Supreme Court, Justice’s Law Clerk and Assistant Registrar
Tan Boon Khai helps to make boundary changes in 2015 and 2020 GE
However, it’s interesting to note that not long Mr Tan joined back the civil service as CEO of SLA on 1 May 2015 from CapitaLand, he was roped in as member of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC), overseeing boundary changes ahead of 2015 GE, which was held in Sep that year.
In fact, his name first surfaced on the 2015 EBRC report submitted to Parliament on 24 Jul 2015 (‘Focus: EBRC members – Tan Boon Khai‘, 25 Jul 2015). This means that some time between 1 May to 24 Jul 2015, he was busy helping to make boundary changes for 2015 GE.
One of the most controversial changes made was the scrapping of Joo Chiat SMC in 2015, as it was absorbed into Marine Parade GRC. Joo Chiat saw one of the fiercest battles between PAP and WP in 2011 GE. WP’s Yee Jenn Jong lost to PAP’s Charles Chong with Chong scraping through with a majority of only just 388 votes. At the time when the 2015 EBRC report was released, understandably, Mr Yee and opposition supporters were upset. Mr Yee said there was “no clear justification” for the decision to remove Joo Chiat as an SMC.
“We have walked the ground tirelessly for four years since the last GE (2011), in and around the SMC, week after week, sometimes even in scorching heat and drizzles,” Mr Yee said. “Residents whom I have met were looking forward to a good and gentlemanly contest again, like what we had the last time. Some ‘wise men’ in a small committee decided otherwise, for reasons best known to themselves.”
Later, Mr Tan continued to be a member of EBRC, in-charge of making boundary changes for 2020 GE. For 2020 GE, Fengshan, Punggol East, Sengkang West SMCs were scrapped and absorbed into GRCs. Parts of Punggol East and Sengkang West SMCs went to the new Sengkang GRC, while Fengshan was absorbed into East Coast GRC.
Indeed, since Sengkang West, Punggol East and Fengshan SMCs were reasonably strong stomping ground for WP since 2011, political analysts concluded that those changes made by EBRC had favoured the PAP.
However, the scheme backfired when the absorbing of parts of Punggol East and Sengkang West SMCs into the new Sengkang GRC, in fact, caused PAP to lose a second GRC to WP. In any case, after the 2020 GE last Jul, Mr Tan was transferred to JTC in Sep last year.