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Red Dot United calls for greater transparency and accountability over ministers’ residency controversy

SINGAPORE — Red Dot United (RDU) has issued a statement addressing the controversy surrounding the rental and residency of two People’s Action Party (PAP) ministers in public estates at Ridout Road.

RDU recognises that while there may be legal and economically sensible reasons justifying the ministers’ decision, Singaporeans are justified in their concern about a perceived lack of accountability and transparency surrounding the rentals. It noted that this perspective was echoed by senior legal experts, who flagged the situation as potentially problematic.

RDU highlighted the puzzlement of many Singaporeans regarding the ministers’ ability to rent such expensive black-and-white bungalows, typically within the budget of top-level expatriates.

It stated that this situation has emphasised the disparity between the everyday concerns of Singaporeans and the seemingly extravagant lifestyles of their elected representatives, particularly during challenging economic times.

The party also questioned the appropriateness of one of the ministers, Mr K Shanmugam, the Minister for Law, overseeing the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) – the agency responsible for administering the rent of the bungalows as state property.

Additionally, RDU expressed concern about the undisclosed ‘guide rent’ paid by the ministers, which was neither disclosed to the public nor matched the market rate.

RDU emphasised that this controversy is not about envy but about principles, using former Member of Parliament Chiam See Tong’s example from 1996, where he was challenged by then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to reveal his assets.

In response to the controversy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced an independent review, led by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean. This review will determine whether correct procedures were adhered to in leasing the properties amid allegations of possible misconduct.

In its statement, RDU has called for a truly independent inquiry into the matter, expressing concern that the review will now be overseen by a colleague from the ministers’ own party. The party urged the government and the ministers involved to reflect on the fundamental principles, values, and compassion.

Following the SLA’s confirmation of the ministers’ residency on 12 May, the Secretary-General of the Reform Party, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, criticized the opacity of the auction process and estimated that the annual rent for such a property could be around $1.65 million, despite the SLA’s claim that the ministers’ rent exceeded an undisclosed guide price.

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

RDU in its statement, said: ” In light of the deep implications revealed by these circumstances, we feel that it does not help that this will now be reviewed by an internal committee headed by the Ministers’ own party’s colleague. We thus call on the government to convene a truly independent committee instead to review the matter to the satisfaction of all Singaporeans.”

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