Sunday, 24 September 2023

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Peoples Voice chief Lim Tean voices concerns over historic tree felling at 26 and 31 Ridout Road

Singapore’s Peoples Voice Party Chief Lim Tean has taken to social media to voice his concerns over the felling of historic trees at the residences of two prominent ministers, K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan, which he argues goes against the very essence of preserving the country’s heritage.

In two separate Facebook posts over the weekend, Mr Lim voiced his dismay over the extensive clearing of mature trees at the ministers’ residences, both of which are historically significant black and white houses located at 26 and 31 Ridout Road, respectively.

Just on Wednesday, two reports released by Senior Minister (SM) Teo Chee Hean and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) concerning the rental of state properties on Ridout Road by Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan essentially cleared Mr K Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan of any corruption or criminal wrongdoing in the rental process of these state properties.

Black and white houses, built by the British from 1899 to the mid-1930s, are considered an integral part of Singapore’s historical heritage. Noted for their proximity to large tracts of nature, they are typically preferred by expats for their semblance to their home environment.

In his first post on Saturday (1 Jul), Mr Lim criticized Minister K Shanmugam for the extensive clearing of trees around his residence, despite being a part of a tree conservation area. He cited concerns about public health and safety risks as expressed by Mr Shanmugam and highlighted by the CPIB and Teo Chee Hean reports.

The reports pointed to worries by the Minister about overgrown vegetation leading to problems like snakes, mosquitos, and fallen trees, leading to Singapore Land Authority (SLA) clearing the site for the Minister so that he could reside in the property.

And also as a result of the Minister’s request, SLA expanded the land size of 26 Ridout Road from 9,350 sqm to 23,164 sqm without a corresponding increase in rent for the Minister.

However, Mr Lim noted that the images of the property post-clearance looked as if the land was being prepared for cattle ranching, rather than simply clearing undergrowth and thick vegetation.

From the satellite imagery, one will note that vegetation from 24 Ridout Road was also cleared.

He stressed that the felled trees, which may have been there for over a century, formed part of the property’s character.

“If a person does not like trees or cannot tolerate the thought that there might be snakes or mosquitoes in the vicinity of his house, he has no business living in a B&W,” wrote Mr Lim.

Mr Lim also called into question the changes at the residence of Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Sunday (2 Jul).

Expressing his shock at the extensive tree removal, he described the property’s transformed appearance as resembling a “Japanese Zen Garden”. As a self-professed admirer of historical buildings and a proponent of heritage preservation, he condemned the apparent disregard for the property’s historical significance.

The report by SM Teo stated that the SLA had gotten the approval from National Parks to fell the trees as No. 26 and No. 31 Ridout Road are part of the Tree Conservation Area.

Stressing the lack of explanation from Teo Chee Hean or SLA as to why the trees were felled, Mr Lim argued that this incident demonstrated a disconnect between the government’s ‘go green’ messaging and the actions of its ministers.

Mr Lim concluded his second post by urging Workers Party MPs and the Non-Consituency Members of Parliament from Progress Singapore Party (PSP) to raise this issue in Parliament, as he deems it an issue of national importance, relating directly to the preservation of Singapore’s historical and natural heritage.

The forthcoming parliamentary session tomorrow, where these issues will be addressed, is keenly awaited as the public eagerly anticipates the ministers’ responses to the various questions filed by MPs from both sides of the aisle.

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