Unsettled over re-settlement Part 2

In News Reports, Politics on April 19, 2013 at 3:12 am

The word “sorry’’ has appeared. Such an easy thing to say in the light of the distress a bungled notice to Pulau Ubin residents caused. The 22 residents served a HDB “clearance’’ notice should rest easier, and so too those who think that Pulau Ubin is going to be Disneyland and are taking up cudgels to defend this last bastion of kampong-ism.

The Singapore Land Authority has decided to come out in the open today to sort out the confusion. Going by what it says, it seemed like a small matter of trying to stick to rules – but it was botched by bad bureaucracy.

Small matter you say?

Seems like the HDB botched it up first by sending a notice with an unfortunate header: “Clearance scheme: Clearance of structures previously acquired for development of Adventure Park on Pulau Ubin”.

From what SLA let fall earlier today, the header is a throwback to a 1993 land acquisition exercise by the State. It wanted the land back from landowners to build what it had then planned for – an Adventure park. So landlords gave the land, took the compensation and left. Trouble is, some of them had tenants who were paying them rent – and some of these tenants are still staying put in their kampungs on what is now State land. Some 22 of them.

As for that Adventure Park, it was never really built – at least not on the scale of popular imagination. Over the next 20 years, the Outward Bound School (maybe this is the Adventure Park?) , bicycle tracks and other recreational spots sprouted up. This “development’’ has been completed and nothing else is going to happen on Ubin apparently.

So those 22 tenants can stay on – or go if they want.

Seems like if the tenants stay, the G thinks they should be paying rent, of about $10 or so a month in the first year, and at most $200 a month in year six when the rents are supposed to be “market rates’’. Doesn’t sound too bad. As tenants, they would have been paying rent to the original landowners pre-1993.

If they go, they get a re-settlement package of about $10,000 or so and get help to secure a place on the mainland. The phrase “re-settlement benefits’’ is pretty unfortunate. It conjures up hundreds of thousands of dollars – which is why $10,000 look paltry. But really, it is more an ex-gratia payment – tenants aren’t entitled to re-settlement benefits, according to SLA. Again, why didn’t someone clarify things earlier?

As for that so-called Ubin Census, it seems that some people moved in after 1993 when it was already State land. They are not descendants of the earliest kampong folk, like the Chias. (link to picture spread) So the money must go to the right people, the SLA reckoned, or it would mean that some people are getting an un-deserved windfall.

The G is working pretty by the book it seems. That book, however, doesn’t seem to say anything about how to communicate with people. Or how G agencies should talk to each other…

Of course, anyone can choose to believe or not believe what the SLA said. Maybe it is backtracking in the face of dissent and the HDB was right in the first place about clearing the land. Or maybe it was a truly innocent lapse in communication. In a time of mistrust of G’s intentions, some people might be inclined to think the former. The proof will come when someone checks on those residents again in a few months.

For now, Pulau Ubin looks safe from the bulldozer.

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