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Kenneth Jeyaretnam issued a second POFMA correction direction over Ridout Road rentals by Minsters Shanmugam and Balakrishnan

Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam received a second POFMA correction notice over posts allegedly falsely claiming Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan rented Ridout Road properties below market value.

This follows a similar correction earlier related to false information about the renovation contracts of the same properties.



SINGAPORE: Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam was issued a second correction direction on 2 August under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) regarding the rental of the state-owned Ridout Road bungalows by Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan.

The directive, issued by the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, indicated that Mr Jeyaretnam made an untrue statement in his posts on his Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

It asserted that the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) charged the ministers rent below market value for the properties at 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road. The correction notice requires Mr Jeyaretnam to state that the Facebook and LinkedIn posts contain a false statement of fact.

This follows a previous correction notice issued on 16 July to Mr Jeyaretnam relating to an article on his website, The Ricebowl Singapore. The article falsely stated that the SLA awarded the contract for the renovation of the aforementioned properties to home interior and renovation company Livspace because its CEO is the son of Mr Shanmugam. Mr Jeyaretnam had complied with the previous correction notice.

The POFMA office issued several clarifications on the false statement. According to Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean’s review, the rental paid by both ministers was at fair market value. There was no evidence to suggest the ministers received favourable rental rates due to their positions.

The rents for both properties were not less than the Guide Rents for the properties, which are calculated for all state properties available for rent. The Guide Rents are determined by professional valuers from the SLA’s independent valuation team or those appointed by third-party managing agents.

The SLA valuer determined the Guide Rent for 26 Ridout Road and the adjacent land. At the time of evaluation, the valuer was unaware of the prospective tenant’s identity and only found out that it was Mr Shanmugam after the matter was reported in the media. The valuer followed established market practices, and the rent per unit floor area for 26 Ridout Road was the third highest among the other Black and White bungalows in Ridout Road Estate rented out in 2018.

Furthermore, SLA and Mr Shanmugam reached an agreement to include the adjacent land within the property boundary of 26 Ridout Road, making it clear that the responsibility for maintaining it would fall on the tenant. Minister Shanmugam incurred the cost of maintaining the adjacent land, which would otherwise have been borne by the SLA.

The controversy surrounding the rentals began in early May when it came to light that the two ministers were renting these iconic properties managed by the SLA. Mr Jeyaretnam stoked public interest by suggesting the ministers might be enjoying rents below fair market value, as SLA is a statutory board overseen by the Minister for Law.

However, investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing or preferential treatment given to the ministers.

In a Parliamentary sitting on the matter in July, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong firmly expressed his unwavering confidence in Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan.

The Prime Minister stood to defend the process of rental in Parliament on Monday, stating that as long as the rental process is conducted properly and all procedures are adhered to, there is no wrongdoing.

Mr Pritam Singh, the leader of the opposition and Secretary General of the Workers’ Party, queried PM Lee on the scope of the CPIB’s investigation.

Mr Singh wanted to clarify whether the CPIB was directed to examine the ministers’ adherence to the code of conduct.

PM Lee responded that the CPIB was instructed to probe any potential criminal or corruption offences, necessitating a thorough investigation of all facts related to the case.

He added that though the code of conduct wasn’t the focus, it was indirectly examined due to the overlap with the issues at hand.

He then noted the role of SM Teo’s review in complementing the CPIB’s investigation, by further establishing the policies, backgrounds, and overall operation of the system.

Subsequently, Mr Singh raised the issue of ministers requesting personal use information from civil servants.

“It is quite incongruous in the eyes of many for a minister to be asking a civil servant for details which pertain to information for personal use. I think this is the crux of the issue and when people intersected with the ministerial code of conduct and your letter of prudence, does the Prime Minister not agree that this is an issue that has been flagged out and that there is a better way to address a problem of a similar nature when it crops up?” said Mr Singh, querying if there could be a better way to handle similar situations in the future.

In response, PM Lee noted that the issue of ministers instructing civil servants wasn’t public knowledge until it was disclosed in the report.

“My view is he (Mr Shanmugam) could have done it a different way. He could have done it this way. He has given the House the reasons why he did it this way. I think those are cogent reasons, which I accept.” said PM Lee.

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P0FMA. Cheap way to shut up any complain…. jus use BR0KEN inglish to g0 r0und it! Sti11 deliver the MSG!

Getting too ridiculous now.

Here we go again… pretty soon this POFMA crap is nothing but crap. The more they POFMA something, the more the people will want to know what they are hiding from the public.