SINGAPORE — Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Secretary General of the Reform Party, and Lim Tean, leader of Peoples Voice, have both called for a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate matters relating to two properties managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), tenanted by senior Cabinet Ministers, Shanmugam and Balakrishnan.
Mr Jeyaretnam pointed out in an open letter to President Halimah Yacob that the SLA, in response to his previous social media posts expressing concerns about the properties, confirmed that Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan were indeed the tenants.
Mr Jeyaretnam contends that this matter directly involves state assets and should fall under the remit of the President, given her constitutional duty to safeguard national reserves.
Drawing attention to the Ministers’ remarks on ensuring that the state receives the full market value for the land it owns, Mr Jeyaretnam questioned if the Ministers were paying the full market value for the properties.
He raised concerns about a possible conflict of interest, particularly with Shanmugam’s position as the Minister of Law and his influence over the SLA.
Mr Jeyaretnam further expressed doubts about the tender process’s fairness and transparency and the reported lease extensions without a new auction.
He questioned the value of the properties and asked why these high-ranking Ministers were allowed to rent state-owned properties.
The Reform Party leader also raised eyebrows about reported extensive renovations and the felling of ancient trees on the properties.
He suggested that the renovation costs and the promise of lease renewal may be signs of a “sweetheart deal”. He asked if the SLA had deviated from normal commercial practice and made the tenants responsible for maintenance and upkeep, and if this condition was relaxed for the Ministers.
In addition, Mr Jeyaretnam contended that the properties, given their location and size, could be worth more if they were redeveloped into public or private housing. He emphasized that the SLA’s possible argument about preserving these properties for their historical value would be invalid, considering the extent of alterations and the tree felling that have occurred on the properties.
Meanwhile, Mr Lim Tean, in his Facebook post, expressed support for Mr Jeyaretnam’s call for a COI, voicing skepticism about the potential for self-exonerating Ministerial statements in Parliament.
He emphasized the need for thorough scrutiny and offered his services pro bono as a counsel for the COI, proposing to cross-examine Mr Shanmugam, Dr Balakrishnan, and SLA officials.
Mr Lim also raised questions about the tender process, transparency of rent amounts and rental assessments, as well as the apparent widespread felling of trees on the properties.
Echoing Jeyaretnam’s sentiments, Mr Lim stressed that the SLA’s withholding of information until July is unacceptable and that a COI is the only way to shed light on the many unanswered questions surrounding the situation.