WP's Pritam Singh & PAP MPs to ask about ministers renting Ridout Road properties in Parliament

Questions on the matter were also filed by PAP MPs Murali Pillai, Sitoh Yih Pin and Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim.

Matthias Ang | May 18, 2023, 06:09 PM

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Pritam Singh, the secretary-general of the Workers' Party (WP) and Leader of the Opposition, has filed questions pertaining to Cabinet ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan renting properties at 26 and 31 Ridout Road.

In a Facebook post put up on May 18, the WP said many members of the public have expressed concern over the circumstances surrounding the Cabinet ministers' tenanting of state black and white bungalow properties at 26 and 31 Ridout Road.

Questions were also filed by People's Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai, Sitoh Yih Pin and Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim about the matter.

Pillai noted in a Facebook post that the recent news had given rise to queries by the public.


What were the questions filed by the MPs?

According to the WP, Singh filed the following questions, addressed to the Prime Minister:

  • What are the government's reasons for not calling a press conference to address the public allegations in regard to the lease of the Ridout Road properties to the Law Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister, and
  • How will the government assure the public that the ministers were not in receipt of any privileged information pertaining to the lease of the properties and are there any rules, conventions or policies to ensure that ministers do not receive such information with regard to leasing government properties.

As for Pillai, his questions are:

  • What were the steps taken to market, tenant and renew the tenancies of the properties,
  • Whether the Law Minister was involved in his official capacity in any decisions relating to the rental of these properties, and
  • The measures that have been put in place to ensure that bidding for rental of the properties is fair, with no bidder having an advantage over other bidders.

In the case of Sitoh, he filed the following questions, addressed to the Law Minister:

  • What are SLA's standard tenancy operating procedures, whether these were followed and what are the rental rates for the properties?

For Zhulkarnain, the questions he filed pertained to the circumstances in which the properties came to be rented out to the ministers and how the SLA had marketed the two properties to be leased.

The WP also stated in its post that the party is continuing to study the matter in the meantime and that other WP MPs may also file questions as more information emerges.

The WP added:

"As questions continue to be asked in the public domain about the circumstances behind the leasing of both properties to Cabinet Ministers, we call on the Singapore Land Authority to release all relevant and material facts in advance, such as the guide rent for both properties, so as to make for a fuller and more meaningful debate in Parliament."

SLA: Ministers are renting properties in full compliance with relevant procedures

Earlier on May 12, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said in a statement that both Shanmugam and Vivian were renting the properties in full compliance with relevant procedures.

SLA issued the statement in response to media queries after the secretary-general of the Reform Party, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, published social media posts in early May 2023 about both properties, which he described as "former colonial mansions".

The SLA statement did not list how much rent the two ministers were paying for the properties.

However, the statement provided the circumstances and timeline of how Shanmugam and Vivian rented their properties.

In the case of Shanmugam, 26 Ridout Road had been vacant for more than four years since December 2013 before it was tenanted to him in June 2018, SLA said, adding that the minister was the only bidder for this property.

His offer, made through an agent, was higher than the guide rent, which was not disclosed to him.

Shanmugam also notified a senior Cabinet colleague that he was making a bid for the property, the statement added.

He renewed the tenancy for this property in June 2021 for another three years.

As for Vivian, 31 Ridout Road had been vacant for more than six years since July 2013 before it was tenanted to him.

Vivian put in a bid in November 2018 that was above the guide rent, which was not disclosed to him, SLA said.

It added that he was the highest bidder.

Tenancy was granted with effect from October 2019 and Vivian renewed his tenancy in October 2022.

The guide rent is a reserve rent based on market rates determined by qualified valuers.

SLA added, "More details on this issue will be provided during the next parliamentary session in July 2023."

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