Why did SLA know about Minister Shanmugam’s communication with a senior Cabinet member?

Why did SLA know about Minister Shanmugam’s communication with a senior Cabinet member?

The recent social media posts by Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the Secretary-General of the Reform Party, have sparked public discussion concerning the residences of Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan.

Mr Jeyaretnam’s posts probed the transparency of the auction process for these homes, specifically whether the ministers paid less than market value. He urged the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to elucidate on this issue.

Previously, TOC sought confirmation from SLA regarding the residences of the two ministers but received no answer.

However, the rising chatter online and media queries about Mr Jeyaretnam’s posts provoked SLA to issue a press release on 12 May.

In the statement concerning Mr Shanmugam’s residence at 26 Ridout Road, SLA stated: “26 Ridout Road had been unoccupied for more than four years since December 2013 before Mr K Shanmugam became a tenant in June 2018. Mr Shanmugam, the lone bidder for this property, made an offer higher than the Guide Rent, which was undisclosed to him. He informed a senior Cabinet colleague about his bid for the property. Mr Shanmugam extended his tenancy for this property in June 2021 for another three years.”

SLA promised more details in the July Parliamentary session.

Following the continued online chatter and the ministers’ silence, members of the ruling party and the opposition raised questions in Parliament on this matter.

The questions filed by the MPs from the People’s Action Party suggest a narrative that everything was done correctly and with due process.

Among these, MP for Bukit Batok SMC, Murali Pillai, questions whether the Minister for Law played an official role in any decisions concerning the rental of these properties.

While the likely answer from the Minister is no, the press release from SLA casts doubt on this response.

The question arises — if the rental bid process was ordinary, why was SLA aware of the communication between the Minister and his senior Cabinet colleague?

If SLA wasn’t privy to this conversation, it could be inferred that the Minister directed SLA to include this detail in their press release. Not to mention directing SLA to note that more information will be disclosed in the July parliamentary sitting. Clearly SLA could not have directed the Minister to answer on its behalf.

If this is the case, the Minister’s influence over the agency seems apparent, muddying his bid for the Ridout property.

Furthermore, the tender documents necessitate the inclusion of particulars. What would SLA’s perception be if their superior was bidding on a property of interest?

The public is eagerly waiting for further questions and answers from SLA or the Ministers during the upcoming Parliamentary session in July, as they seek transparency on these issues.

Bidding form for residential property under Singapore Land Authority
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