Sunday, 1 October 2023

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Lim Tean questions delay in releasing promised review of ministerial rentals by Teo Chee Hean

SINGAPORE — Lim Tean, leader of the Peoples Voice, stirs the ongoing ministerial leasing controversy, demanding transparency over the rentals by Cabinet Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan and questions the delay in the publication of the review promised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Their residences at 26 and 28 Ridout Road are under the management of the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which is under the purview of Mr Shanmugam as Minister for Law.

Mr Lim voiced his concerns via a detailed Facebook post, urging for Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean to release the findings of his review, which is supposed to explore potential issues of conflict of interest, breaches of the Ministerial Code, and various other specifics related to the leases and property management.

“We are less than a week away from the parliamentary sitting on 3-4 July,” Mr Lim wrote.

“On 23 May, Lee Hsien Loong told the public he had asked SM Teo to carry out the review expeditiously. Yet more than a month has passed since that announcement, and we have not heard from Teo Chee Hean.”

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

In his post, Mr Lim shared a photo of a list of bids for 1 Goodwood Hill, another Black & White heritage house, which closed a couple of months ago.

The top bid for the property, boasting a land area of 106,000 sq ft, stood at $70,000. In comparison, Balakrishnan’s property at 31 Ridout Road is notably larger, with a land area of 136,100 sq ft, while Shanmugam’s property at 26 Ridout Road dwarfs both at a gargantuan 306,930 sq ft.

“I leave it to you to work out what is the appropriate rental for 26 and 31 Ridout Road,” said Mr Lim.

Other political figures, including Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Secretary-General of the Reform Party, and Mr Pritam Singh, Leader of the Opposition and Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party, have also expressed concerns about the transparency of the auction process and the potential misuse of privileged information.

Mr Jeyaretnam estimates the annual rent of such a property could be approximately $1.65 million, despite the SLA’s claim that the ministers’ rent for the two estates exceeded an undisclosed guide price while Mr Singh is seeking assurances from the Prime Minister that the Ministers did not exploit privileged information to secure the leases.

The announcement of the independent review by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was a response to growing social media speculation and media inquiries.

However, the silence from both the SLA and Teo Chee Hean since the announcement has only amplified the public’s skepticism.

Other Members of Parliament, along with the Workers’ Party, have pledged to persist in their inquiries, seeking full disclosure of all pertinent facts to facilitate a comprehensive parliamentary debate in July next week.

As the Parliamentary sitting looms, the nation awaits the findings of Teo Chee Hean’s review, with hopes that it will provide much-needed transparency on these contentious ministerial leases.

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