Remember how a huge chunk of Kranji woodland was accidentally cleared?
No surprise, but that was a lie. Who accidentally clears so much woodland, and had no idea about the clearance till satellite images came up?
In an update, Minister Chan Chun Sing revealed the real facts about this accidental clearance.
Why The Update?
Remember what happened to people who lie in Parliament? Yeah, Minister Chan definitely does.
Even though he didn’t purposely lie in Parliament, the misinformation he got from the company that he then repeated in Parliament is false lah.
So even though he thought the information was true back then, better safe than sorry and own up to the mistake. Nobody wants a COP hearing about trees.
Reader Bao: OK, but isn’t he the Education minister now? Talk about trees for what?
Minister Chan might be the education minister now, but back when the trees are accidentally cleared, he was Minister for Trade and Industry and was responsible for speaking about this clearing in Parliament.
Now that we know we’re not getting another COP hearing, here’s what really happened.
Investigations Revealed That Two JTC Officers Gave Inaccurate Info to Superiors
On 10 March, Minister Chan told Parliament that police investigations into the unauthorised clearing of Kranji woodland have found that two JTC officers basically lied to their bosses.
The case has been referred to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), which will see if they should impose charges against the officers.
JTC’s board of directors will also have a disciplinary panel to consider appropriate disciplinary actions against the two officers, together with their senior supervisors if they’ve been found to breach their duties.
Basically, the two officers will kena not just from the law, but from their company as well.
The police investigations were concluded earlier in the week, and after discussions with the AGC, Minister Chan was satisfied with the results and could finally update Parliament about this.
Here are the three clarifications Minister Chan made in Parliament.
Clearance Actually Commenced Before December 2020
On 26 February 2021, Minister Chan told Parliament that the 4.5 hectares of woodland had been cleared between the end of December 2020 and 13 January 2021 without NParks’ approval.
However, investigations revealed that the clearance began before December 2020. The two JTC officers gave inaccurate information to their bosses about the time period that the clearing had taken place, which was then repeated in Parliament in February.
Investigations also found that another two plots of land that totalled more than 2.8 hectares had also been cleared without approval.
JTC’s Manager Knew About Clearance Beforehand
In his February reply, Minister Chan said that the unauthorised clearing was discovered by JTC’s project manager on 13 January 2021 during a site visit.
However, it has been revealed that the manager actually knew of the clearance before 13 January 2021. His immediate superior, a deputy director, also knew. They lied to their superiors about not knowing of the clearance.
As for the initial statement in February 2021 that all clearance works were halted immediately and remains halted, that’s also untrue. JTC has clarified that it stopped all tree felling, but proceeded with minor works like vegetation clearing.
Contractors Were Actually Paid for Clearance of Woodland
Minister Chan had also told Parliament that the contractors had not been paid for the over-clearance in December 2020 and January 2021.
This was shown to be false, as some payments had been made for the clearance.
This incorrect information was given by a JTC division that processed the payment without realising it was for the unauthorised clearance.
I mean, it’s pretty concerning that you don’t know what you’re paying your workers for, but okay.
Investigations further revealed that payments were also made for unauthorised clearances before December 2020, for this 4.5 hectares and another plot of land.
MTI and JTC Working Together on Investigations, But No Corruption Found So Far
The Government has ruled out any possible corruption with an investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). This was necessary given the many factual disputes.
So there was no larger power at play here, just a few liars and a few blur sotongs.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is reviewing the investigations with JTC and will decide on appropriate disciplinary action.
MTI has also stated that it takes a “very stern and serious view of this incident” and does not condone misconduct.
JTC’s chairman Tan Chong Meng has also said that JTC views this incident seriously and acknowledges their faults.
JTC will solve their shortcomings and improve on their processes, including tightening the execution of projects and complying with rules. There’ll also be efforts to ensure their officers uphold integrity and governance in doing their duties.
Police’s and Court’s Views May Be Different
Minister Chan emphasized that the facts presented are from the police’s view. This could be contested in court, where they might take a different view of the facts.
He called for everyone to be fair to the persons who may be charged, and that whatever he has said in Parliament should not prejudice their trial.
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