SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Tuesday (23 May) that Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, is to conduct an independent review regarding two residential properties under the management of the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), occupied by Cabinet Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan.

The review aims to establish whether correct procedures were adhered to in the leasing of the properties, amidst allegations of possible misconduct. The results of this inquiry are set to be revealed before the Parliamentary sitting in July.

In its 12 May press release, SLA had earlier assured that it would provide further details during the forthcoming session.

PM Lee stated that the review was requested by Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan, that is independent of the ministries and agencies they supervise.

This announcement came in response to the rising social media speculation and media inquiries surrounding the circumstances of the ministers’ tenancy at 26 and 31 Ridout Road.

Following SLA’s confirmation of the residency of the two properties, the Secretary-General of the Reform Party, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, criticized the opacity of the auction process. He estimates the annual rent of such a property could be approximately $1.65 million, despite the SLA’s claim that the ministers’ rent exceeded an undisclosed guide price.

The Workers’ Party (WP), too, voiced concerns and announced that it had raised parliamentary questions about the case.

WP Secretary-General and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Pritam Singh, has specifically called for a clearer explanation of why no press conference was held to address these allegations. He has also sought assurances from the Prime Minister that the Ministers did not exploit privileged information to secure the leases.

However, the lack of response to clarification requests from the Online Citizen Asia (TOC) and absence of tender information for the two properties have continued to stoke doubts about the transparency of the tendering process.

WP, along with other Members of Parliament, have indicated they will continue to investigate the matter and may pose further questions as new information surfaces.

The party has also called for the SLA to release all pertinent facts, including the guide rent for both properties, to facilitate a comprehensive and meaningful parliamentary debate in July.

Is SM Teo the appropriate person to head the review?

Senior Minister Teo, tasked with the review, had previously chaired a committee examining the options for 38 Oxley Road, which included cabinet members responsible for heritage, land issues, and urban planning. The executors of the late Lee Kuan Yew’s estate termed the committee a secret committee.

The SLA’s press release also noted that Mr Shanmugam had informed a senior Cabinet colleague of his bid for the property in 2018. However, it has yet to reveal who that colleague was, adding to the atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the case.

As members of the same party, the People’s Action Party, would it not be expected that Senior Minister Teo knew where Minister Shanmugam has been residing since 2018?

Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Secretary General of the Reform Party, and Lim Tean, leader of Peoples Voice, have both instead called for a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate matters relating to two properties.

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