People urged to avoid speculation and await investigation outcome

While a regrettable and deeply concerning lapse has occurred in the management and supervision of the Kranji site, people should avoid pointing fingers until investigations reveal the full picture, government officials said yesterday.

The idea is to learn and improve from the incident, they said.

The incident in question was the erroneous clearance of a vegetated plot in Kranji for the Agri-Food Innovation Park. The 4.5ha area cleared in December was outside of plots approved for clearance.

"It is clear to us that there were gaps in the way that the project was managed and supervised, and that we must do better," said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.

Mr Chan spoke during a virtual press conference also attended by National Development Minister Desmond Lee, as well as site developer JTC Corporation's chief executive Tan Boon Khai, and Dr Leong Chee Chiew, commissioner of parks and recreation at the National Parks Board (NParks).

Large-scale development project such as this will have its fair share of complexities, said Mr Lee.

"There are many parties involved - the project management teams, the qualified person or QP and the various consultants," he said.

There are also many technical agencies involved in weighing in on various aspects during the planning and consultation process, Mr Lee added.

JTC's Mr Tan said that based on its preliminary investigations, the contractor had admitted that there was over-clearing on its part and issued an apology.

A stern warning has been administered.

"But having said that... investigations are ongoing, and we will take a look at the outcome of those investigations to determine the next course of action," he said.

NParks, the custodian of Singapore's native biodiversity, will also be conducting an investigation to determine if there were breaches to the Parks and Trees Act and Wildlife Act.

Dr Leong said NParks' role is to assess requests for tree felling, provide approvals where appropriate, and also look into potential impacts on wildlife.

"Our investigation will be thorough in looking at whether there were breaches to the Parks and Trees Act, and the Wildlife Act," Dr Leong said.

"What JTC has uncovered in its chronological order will be referenced when we carry out our investigation. So, at this point in time, I need to clarify that as far as NParks goes, we do not make any assumptions on who did what and when and so on and so forth. Because our investigation needs to be thorough," he added.

Audrey Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2021, with the headline 'People urged to avoid speculation and await investigation outcome'. Subscribe