The Facebook post from SLA has said that the Young Democrats’ (YD) report of our visit with the residents at Pulau Ubin is “mischievous and irresponsible”. We disagree. Our report is based on oral interviews with the residents and the documents they presented to us.
In Mr Chua Bing Qing’s case, despite the SLA’s denial that it was not an eviction letter but only a “census survey”, we note that the letter from HDB dated 12 March 2013 was titled “Clearance scheme: Clearance of structures previously acquired for development of adventure park in Pulau Ubin.”
The letter goes on to say that
SLA has sought HDB Land Clearance Section (LCS)’s assistance to clear the above squatter house. In connection with the clearance, officers from LCS/SLA will visit your premises to conduct a census survey for the purpose of
determining your eligibility for resettlement benefits. (emphasis added)
The letter adds: “Please note that the resettlement benefits offered is strictly
ex-gratia (‘by favour’ or ‘no obligation’).”
We think that this letter (click on photo to enlarge letter) determines clearly if it was simply a “census survey” or eviction notice. Readers can judge for themselves.
The SLA subsequently is
sued a clarification on 17 April 2013, stating that there was no plan to evict the residents – “in the foreseeable future.”
As for Madam Samiyah’s case, the information about the lawsuit came from her. While Madam Samiyah may or may not be the owner of the land title deed, she told us that she was a resident on the island and the land she was living on was acquired.
In the case of Mr Lim Cho Tee, we reported that the SLA charged him a monthly rent, or Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) fee, of $473. He told us that the SLA was demanding rent. The SLA says that it is “untrue” that it was demanding rent payment.
But the renewal notice
(click on photo to enlarge letter) sent to the Lim family states: “Please note that it is an offence for anyone to occupy or use State land/property without a valid TOL.” Whether such a notice constitutes a “demand” is for Mr Lim to express and others to judge.
The SLA also says, in its 17 April statement, that
The TOL fee is determined based on the gross area and land area occupied. To assist the residents, the TOL fees will be phased in over five years. This means households will only have to pay the full TOL fee in the sixth year. The estimated fees during the first year will range between $6 per month and $35 per month, with 90 per cent paying less than $20 per month. From the sixth year, the TOL fees will range between $31and $205 per month, with 90 per cent paying less than $120 per month.
The renewal letter that Mr Lim showed us clearly states that the TOL charge is $473. Even if we assume that 2013 is the sixth year of the scheme (which we very much doubt), the amount should only be between $31 and $205 per month. Why the big difference?
Our fear is that the Government is charging high rents to compel the residents to give up their land. Coupled with the contention that the resettlement benefits will be offered on an
ex-gratia basis – meaning that the quantum is left entirely to the Government – the YD is concerned that families in Pulau Ubin will not be properly compensated.
We appreciate the SLA’s clarifications but we stand by our article. The SLA should stick to presenting facts and logical argument, not indulge in name-calling.
We note that the SLA says in its statement the “planning intention is to keep Pulau Ubin in its rustic state” but ominously and ambiguously adds: “for as long as possible.”
The YD’s stand is that Pulau Ubin must retain its rustic ‘kampung’ feel for posterity – not just “for as long as possible.” The island is one of Singapore’s last hold-outs of our historical past.
We have demolished and rebuilt almost everything there is to demolish and rebuild on our tiny island all in the rush to make way for a 6.9 million population. And we continue to do so with places like Bukit Brown. We have also observed the transformation of a once beautiful and tranquil island called Pulau Belakang Mati into a casino.
We should pause and recognise that Pulau Ubin’s charm and history must be retained before it is too late.
For and on behalf of the Young Democrats
Singapore Democratic Party
For the Chinese text, please read:
人口普查还是驱逐信 – 就让人民评判吧！