Saturday, 30 September 2023

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SDP calls for independent inquiry into ministers’ Ridout Road property rentals

SINGAPORE — In response to the recent parliamentary proceedings on the rental of Ridout Road properties, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has issued a statement expressing its dissatisfaction with the exoneration of Ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan.

The SDP statement read: “The Parliamentary sitting that exonerated Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan was, in our opinion, remarkably unsatisfactory – raising more questions than it answered.”

The party expressed concerns that the public’s reactions to the findings – marked by anger and a sense of injustice – were warranted.

The controversial rentals involve bungalows from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) at 26 and 31 Ridout Road.

Through the reports by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, it has come to light that these properties were rented not under the ministers’ names but their wives’, a situation that the SDP describes as particularly troubling.

“The issue becomes even more contentious when we learn that bids for the bungalows were not made by the Ministers themselves but their wives. We question whether the SLA was able to determine that the aforementioned Ministers’ wives had earnings of at least three times the bid rent of $26,000 a month, and if not, against what criteria were the spouses’ financial status evaluated and deemed sound,” the party’s statement noted.

In the recent parliamentary session, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and other Cabinet members affirmed that there was no evidence of criminal activity or improper conduct involving the Ministers, over the rentals of black-and-white bungalows, closing the matter altogether.

However, the SDP has called for a comprehensive independent investigation, preferably led by a retired judge or law professor, to delve into the case further.

“PAP Ministers have long been criticised for paying themselves the highest salaries in the world… However, as wealthy as they are now and living in houses that the vast majority of Singaporeans cannot afford, the two Ministers had sought to live in even larger properties – all while the sizes of HDB flats have steadily decreased,” the statement from the party added.

The SDP statement further argued that the biggest indictment of the Ministers might not come in Parliament, given the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) support of the two. However, they suggested that, “in the minds of the people, this episode is heavily laced with the stench of hypocrisy.”

The party concluded that “this matter has shown, yet again, that without a strong opposition presence in Parliament, Singaporeans cannot hope to consistently and procedurally hold their Ministers accountable.”

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