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We are glad that the SLA acknowledges the facts and data presented in
our reply. However, the
latest SLA response to my statement insists that there is no intention to evict Pulau Ubin residents. If, indeed, there is no such intention, then why the need to assess their eligibility for resettlement benefits?
We note that the SLA has used the term resettlement “benefits” rather than “entitlements” and these benefits are offered on an ex-gratia basis. Taken together, it is clear that the SLA’s original intention was to evict the residents at Pulau Ubin even though it denies this.
Whatever the original motivation, the SLA appears to have subsequently changed its stance after the residents objected and issued a “clarification”on 17 April 2013 stating that Pulau Ubin residents would not be evicted.
This statement was, however, heavily qualified. Close reading of the statement shows that the SLA had no plans too evict the residents but only in the “foreseeable future” and that the present situation on the island would remain only “for as long as possible.” In other words, the residents are only given temporary relief.
This brings me to the crux of the YD’s case: The residents are anxious and upset that they have not been given assurance that they can build their lives on the island in which they and their ancestors were born and grew up. How can they do this when they are not given concrete assurances but only vague timelines like “foreseeable future” and “as long as possible”?
Such frustration obviously still rankles the residents who expressed their views to us when we visited them a few weeks ago and this was what my colleagues and I reported. But instead of acknowledging that the matter is far from being resolved, the SLA tries to paint the picture that the residents are now happy and that the YD was “mischievous and irresponsible” in our report.
Even though the SLA said that it had visited the residents to explain to them that there were no eviction plans, it is obvious that the residents are still unhappy and anxious.
The SLA says: “We are therefore puzzled as to why Mr Zeng insists on making reference to this letter and causing anxiety for the residents.” The cause for the residents’ anxiety does not stem from our visit to the island but the SLA’s letter which leaves them in limbo.
It is obvious to anyone that if the residents were assured by the SLA that they would be able to continue their lives without such uncertainty, they would not be anxious – regardless of whoever visits them.
This matter can easily be resolved by the Government writing to the residents in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, and assuring them without qualification that they can stay in their homes for as long as they wish and that Pulau Ubin will be designated a national heritage site with no plans for urban development.
As for the matter of rent, the Government may not feel that what it is charging the residents is high. The SLA has stated that it will charge affected residents a TOL fee of up to $205 per month over a period of six years.
This may not seem much to high-income earners but given the financial situation of many of the residents of the island, a rental of even $100 is unaffordable for many.
Based on the above, we, therefore, call on the SLA to:
- write a second letter to the residents unambiguously assuring them continued stay on the island (if the SLA has already written a second letter, then it should make it public),
- declare Pulau Ubin a national heritage site whose present state should be preserved,
- publish the rent charged for each house on the island, including how TOL fees are calculated and the p.s.f. rental,
- retract the childish name-calling of the YD as “mischievous and irresponsible”.
Singapore Democratic Party