STAMFORD RAFFLES’ LONDON HOME FOR SALE

STAMFORD RAFFLES’ LONDON HOME FOR SALE

 

Current owner seeks S’pore buyer for $9.5million property

 

A BIG piece of Singapore history is up for sale – in London.

 

By Tay Shi’an

 

 

05 May 2008

 

A BIG piece of Singapore history is up for sale – in London.

 

The last home of Singapore’s

 

founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, has been put on the market for £pounds;3.5 million ($9.5million) .

 

The property, Highwood House, has two storeys, eight bedrooms, and sits on almost an acre (about 4,000 sq m) of land in Highwood Hill, an exclusive suburb in London.

 

Compare that to Singapore, where the average price of a Good Class Bungalow – a class of bungalows in certain exclusive areas such as Nassim Road, with a minimum plot size of 1,400 sq m – is $13.8 million.

 

Sir Raffles, who founded Singapore in 1819 and returned to England in 1824, lived in the house from June 1825 till his death in July 1826.

 

His wife, Lady Sophia Raffles, continued living in the house until she died in 1858.

 

But those hoping to find a manor filled with a treasure trove of antiques will be disappointed.

 

The house has been through several owners and tenants since Sir Raffles.

 

From the 1950s to the early 1980s, it was used first as a Red Cross convalescence home, then as a nursing home.

 

The interior has since been converted into several apartments and rented out to tenants.

 

Singapore businesswoman Esther Zheng, 27, who has lived in the UK for the past 10 years, saw the property on sale and contacted The New Paper on Sunday.

 

She was checking out the price of another house in the area on the Internet when she spotted the listing for the Raffles’ home.

 

‘There was even a plaque on the wall which says that ‘Sir Stamford Raffles, Founder of Singapore, lived here’, she said.

 

Intrigued, Ms Zheng sent the listing to her Singapore friends on social networking site Facebook, and arranged to see the house through a property agent on 1 May.

 

She said: ‘When we arrived… it was obvious that the property was quite run-down and needed a lot of work. The paint was slightly faded and peeling.

 

‘The interior of the property was desolate and derelict, with many of the rooms having water stains and holes in the walls.’

 

But she said the terrace was beautiful, and she could still see the original elegant cornices and high ceilings where the chandeliers would have been.

 

One of the upper rooms also has a great view of the valley below and the surrounding countryside.

 

The highlight of the visit for MsZheng was when her partner pointed out a square brass box fitted to the wall, which had glass circles cut into it and numbers below.

 

She said: ‘This was where small bells would have been hung that were connected with string to the rooms above. When someone in one of the bedrooms rang the bell, the servants could respond immediately. ‘

 

FADED BEAUTY

 

Overall, she said, it was very interesting but sad to see the house’s faded beauty.

 

‘I understand the property has also been turned into investment flats, which seems sacrilegious in a way.

 

‘It’s very strange to see a piece of history that is important to Singaporeans go on sale without much fanfare. Although a lot of British people know Singapore exists, they probably wouldn’t be able to name the person who founded it.

 

‘I hope that someone will buy the place and restore it to the way it had been. Or better yet if someone makes a museum of the place so that Singaporeans and other Asians who remember their founder can make a pilgrimage,’ Ms Zheng said.

 

The property’s current owner, DrDerek Segall, 81, a retired nursing home medical director, said he bought it in 1978 for £pounds;130,000 to expand his business.

 

He told The New Paper on Sunday in a long-distance telephone interview: ‘I had a nursing home in the vicinity, and Highwood House was also a nursing home then.’

 

He used it to house his employees.

 

Dr Segall said that when he bought the property, he had no idea that it was connected to Sir Raffles.

 

HISTORY UNCOVERED

 

It was only when he obtained a copy of the property’s history, for record purposes, that he found out.

 

He then found the blue plaque with the dates that Raffles had stayed at the house, in the front driveway.

 

It had been placed on a wooden stand, which was knocked over and cracked.

 

He had the plaque fixed onto the front wall of the house and, in the early 1980s, converted the interior into several residential apartments to rent out to tenants.

 

Dr Segall, who has two adult children, said he decided to sell the house more than a year ago because he was ‘getting on’ and would like a sum of money in his retirement.

 

Besides Highwood House, he owns four other properties in London and Spain.

 

He said he had about ‘half a dozen’ offers for the house, but they fell through for various reasons.

 

He now hopes to find a Singapore buyer, and plans to come here later this year to speak to some real-estate agents.

 

‘Singaporeans may be attracted to occupying the house that was occupied by the founder of their island.

 

‘From time to time, I’ve been in the house when people have suddenly turned up and walked up the garden. They say, ‘We’re from Singapore, we’re visiting London and we’re here to see Sir Stamford Raffles’ house.’ They’re all fascinated by it.’

 

Dr Segall said the house has been empty since January.

 

‘(The tenants) all left recently at the same time when they discovered the house was for sale,’ he said.

 

But Dr Segall said that he saw it as a blessing in disguise – he plans to move into Highwood House in a month’s time.

 

He said: ‘Tenants can be very disappointing in the way they treat a property, so I’m taking the opportunity to refurbish and redecorate apartments that were occupied.’

 

Mr Jim Falconer, a sales manager with UK’s Winkworth Estate Agents, said: ‘The potential of the house lies in returning it to a single dwelling. It would be a magnificent period home and would be among the very few homes of that period in the area.’

 

He added that given the property’s history and its former use as both a convalescence and nursing home, it ‘will require extensive renovation to return it to its original splendour’.

 

RESTORATION NEEDED

 

Agreeing, Mr James Goldsobel, of Richard James Estate Agents in UK, said: ‘It is not what it was and needsadiscerning purchaser to sympathetically restore it to its former glory.’

 

Would Singapore’s National Heritage Board (NHB) consider buying the house? Its spokesman replied that it already has some of the important memorabilia and artefacts from Sir Raffles, such as letters and portraits, which are on display at the National Museum of Singapore.

 

Mr Walter Lim, director of corporate communications and industry promotion at NHB, said: ‘Raffles’ old home, while significant, cannot be transported back to Singapore for the appreciation and education of the public, or study by our curators.

 

‘The Board also does not participate in the acquisition of historically significant buildings in foreign lands as our key thrust lies in the collection of artefacts, artworks and archival materials of historic significance. ‘

 

 

——————————————————————————–

 

PROPERTY LOCATED IN ONE OF UK’S RICHEST SUBURBS

 

Highwood House facts:

 

·  Freehold

 

·  Early 19th century Georgian mansion

 

·  Set in grounds of almost an acre.

 

·  Gross internal area of about 8,000 sq ft (740 sq m). Presentlyconverted into three apartments plus one unconverted apartment. Total: Eight bedrooms.

 

·  Grade II listing issued by the English Heritage (the equivalent of the National Heritage Board), meaning the building is either ofarchitectural merit or has historical significance.

 

·  Located in Highwood Hill, which was featured last December in The Sunday Telegraph as one of Britain’s top 10richest suburbs. According to UK real-estate agent Jim Falconer, property prices in this area can go above £pounds;10 million ($27m).

 

Source: The NewPaper

Queen Margaret University starts classes in Singapore

Queen Margaret University starts classes in Singapore

 

It is the latest addition to the global schoolhouse initiative

 

By LEE U-WEN

 

THIS morning was a landmark occasion for Scotland’s renowned Queen Margaret University (QMU), as students began classes for the first time at its Asia campus in Singapore – the first full-fledged overseas site by a British institution to open in Singapore.

 

The 133-year-old QMU’s presence, the latest addition to the Republic’s global schoolhouse initiative, is a significant one, and comes three years after another UK university, Warwick, abandoned plans to operate a campus here, citing concerns over academic freedom and possible research restrictions, among other issues.

 

Just last year, QMU was accorded full university status, which resulted in it dropping the word ‘College’ from its name and confirming its status as a university-level institution.

 

Home to QMU’s Asia campus is a serene, 18,000 sq m site nestled in the heartlands at Ah Hood Road, off Balestier Road. QMU’s lease for the land will see it pay $38 million in rent over the next 15 years.

 

The new four-storey campus, the result of a joint venture between the Edinburgh-based QMU and its Singapore partner – the East Asia Institute of Management – is just the latest success story coming out of a seven-year-long working relationship for both parties.

 

Richard Kerley, the pro vice-chancellor of QMU (International) said the realisation of the Asia campus was down to ‘the mutual trust, respect and confidence between the two institutions, built up over years’.

 

On how QMU plans to set itself apart from the other private universities in Singapore, given that competition for the student dollar is already so intense, Prof Kerley told The Business Times: ‘We have, arguably, the most multi-national student population, with about 70 per cent of them coming from China, India, Vietnam and some 15 other countries from the Asia-Pacific region. Students from Singapore, in particular, benefit greatly when they study on our campus, with its rich, multi-cultural environment. ‘

 

QMU, which was recently named one of the top 10 modern universities in the UK’s Sunday Times Good University Guide, eventually hopes to see up to 6,000 students enrolled in the Singapore campus. They can have their pick of a variety of business management degrees, as well as courses in banking and finance.

 

The flagship programme is its hospitality and tourism degree – an ideal one given that the demand for such graduates is soaring thanks to a boom in the tourism and services industry in Singapore and the region.

 

The stand-out offering that Prof Kerley is banking on to seal QMU’s status as a major player is the bilingual degree programme in business and management-related fields.

 

Other courses in the pipeline include a Bachelor of Nursing, and specialist degrees in health science areas such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

 

Source: Business Times

Seletar air park catering to both old, new tenants

Seletar air park catering to both old, new tenants

 

Allocation of land to be done in phases as it becomes available, says JTC

 

By VEN SREENIVASAN

 

(SINGAPORE) The first phase of the development of the Seletar Aerospace Park (SAP) is on track and detailed plans are already in place to cater to the needs of both existing and new tenants.

 

JTC Corp, which is spearheading the redevelopment of the aerospace park together with the Economic Development Board (EDB), revealed this when it took BT on a tour of the facilities last week.

 

Seletar Aerospace Park is a 300 hectare development which will house a cluster of aerospace MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) players, design and manufacturing specialists, training campuses and aviation-related businesses. The existing runway – built by the British air force over half-a-century ago – is also being extended to cater to bigger business jets.

 

Much of the current work centres on the East Camp area, around the houses, hangars and offices around Old Birdcage Walk and areas adjacent to the east side of the runway. This is where companies like Fokker Services Asia, Hawker Pacific, Honeywell, Dassault Falcon, Executive Jets Asia and others are currently located. Soh Eng Chen of JTC Corp’s Industrial Development Department, whose team is responsible for the SAP redevelopment, said most of the work on the first phase would be completed by the first half of 2009.

 

‘The houses have been refurbished to cater to numerous business offices, while new hangars with runway access will be built for those who need them,’ he said. He added that more land with runway access will be allotted in West Camp, where there will also be a multi-storey office complex for tenants. This building is expected to be occupied primarily by business jet operators, air charter companies and other aviation businesses.

 

Meanwhile, current East Camp tenants (who include players like Air Transport College, Execujet Asia and Life Support Equipment) will have to plan their move to new locations within the park. In all, excluding runway land, some 140 ha of industrial land has been set aside for businesses by JTC.

 

But Mr Soh said that while all tenants would have the opportunity to site themselves in new premises, land allocation would be done in phases as it becomes available. The challenge which JTC faces is that the area is not a greenfield development, and as such, it has to address the issue of relocating existing businesses and residents.

 

‘Many of these companies are operating out of decades-old and dilapidated office structures,’ said Mr Soh. The only existing tenants who will not move are ST Aerospace and Jet Aviation, both of whom have huge facilities at Seletar West Camp. Their current land use is deemed optimal. Mr Soh revealed that enquiries have been coming in from potential new tenants.

 

Meanwhile, two of the industry’s most prominent players have already booked themselves in.

 

Earlier this year, Rolls-Royce broke ground on its $320 million Trent aero engine facility at the SAP, while engine maker Pratt & Whitney is building its new US$30 million, 105,000 sq ft facility in the park. Meanwhile, ST Aero is spending $17.3 million to build a two-bay hangar, while Jet Aviation’s existing facility is also being extended.

 

In recent months, some existing tenants had expressed concerns about the availability of new premises and facilities amid the ongoing development. But JTC said it was addressing these concerns by engaging these operators and evaluating their needs.

 

The 10-year project – which is estimated to cost upwards of $60 million – is expected to provide a huge shot in the arm for Singapore’s aviation sector ambitions. The park is also expected to create 10,000 jobs and contribute $3.3 billion annually to the economy when fully operational.

 

Source: Business Times

New $38m campus for UK’s first offshore university

New $38m campus for UK’s first offshore university

 

Monday • May 5, 2008

 

The United Kingdom’s first offshore campus in Singapore has moved into its new $38-million premises. The Queen Margaret University (QMU) Asia Campus has been operating at its Balestier site since May 2.

 

The enhanced facilities of the new, self-contained campus at Ah Hood Road will help the university to “widen and deepen” its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, according to QMU Asia and its local partner, East Asia Institute of Management (EASB).

 

In the pipeline is the design of bilingual tertiary-level programmes, in English and Chinese, in response to the globalisation of Asian business and the internationalisatio n of the marketplace.

 

Proffesor Richard Kerley, pro-vice Chancellor of Queen Margaret University (International) , said: “Our success in building degree-level studies in Hospitality and Tourism will now be added to developments in other degree-level studies. Degrees in events management, health-related disciplines, management and business are now at the advanced planning stage.”

 

Students can also look forward to interesting student-centred learning and recreational activities, according to the university.

 

Facilities at the new campus, which is equipped for up to 6,000 students, include a students’ learning centre, a video-conferencing room, a postgraduate resource centre, a Hospitality Training Centre, a multi-purpose hall, two badminton courts, three basketball courts, two tennis courts, one cricket quad, a running track and a gym.

 

Source: Today Newspaper

En bloc uproar at Bayshore Park, Mandarin Gardens

En bloc uproar at Bayshore Park, Mandarin Gardens

 

Sales committees rein in estate councils, irking owners who want to upkeep homes

 

By Jessica Cheam

 

THE market for en bloc sales may have gone dead quiet, but the issue is still raising a ruckus at two of Singapore’s most iconic condominium developments in the East.

 

Sales committees pushing for the collective sales of Mandarin Gardens and Bayshore Park have been accused of trying to control the management councils running these estates and voting down proposals to upgrade estate facilities.

 

The committees, made up of residents who are pro-en bloc, have denied the charges.

 

Still, things came to a head last Sunday at both condos’ respective annual general meetings (AGM), which lasted up to 10 hours each.

 

Sales committees are ad hoc committees formed by residents to explore the potential of an en bloc sale. They are different from the management council, which is appointed at the AGM by residents to run the estate and look into the upgrading of facilities.

 

Residents against en bloc sales at both condos claim that the sales committees had gone round collecting proxy votes from residents so as to control the outcome of the AGMs.

 

Mandarin Gardens‘ emotional AGM has left the 25-year-old estate with no management council at all. The existing council quit and refused to be re-elected because of some resolutions passed at the AGM. At the centre of the dispute was a controversial proposal by the sales committee, which was formed last year, to reduce the management council’s current limit of $300,000 for expenses on urgent matters to $50,000. This was successful as the sales committee had enough proxy votes to form the majority. Council chairman Neoh Chin Chee said in a letter to residents last week that the resolutions passed made it ‘untenable or difficult to carry on as a council member’. Proposals to upgrade the condo’s rainshields and swimming pool tiles were also not approved.

 

The AGM was eventually adjourned when not enough candidates were nominated.

 

One resident Jeannette Aruldoss, 44, a lawyer, told The Straits Times that the $50,000 limit restricted the role of the council to run the estate. In emergencies, this fund may not be enough to address safety issues, she said.

 

But sales committee chairman Mr Tan Kok Khoon said some residents had felt the $300,000 limit was too high.

 

Over at the 21-year-old Bayshore Park estate, the sales committee proposed and pushed through a resolution to reduce the council members from 14 to nine.

 

Of the nine, four are also on the sales committee, so some residents are upset about the change.

 

Bayshore resident Mr S.K. Cheah, 40, a sales director, feels there could be a conflict of interest since sales committee members are likely to act in the interest of a sale, above that of the estate.

 

He noted that at the AGM, some resolutions for maintenance and upgrading were also voted down.

 

Another Bayshore Park resident, who declined to be named, commented that one common tactic used by many sales committees is to ‘run the estate down’ or keep maintenance to a minimum, so residents have little choice but to vote for a sale later.

 

But Bayshore’s sales committee member Alan Chua told The Straits Times that they had no intention of doing that.

 

‘We’ve lived here for many years and love this place, why would we do that?’ he said.

 

On the en bloc sale potential, Savills Singapore director (marketing and business development) Ku Swee Yong noted that at least $2 billion each would be needed to buy each estate – a tall order even when the market is good. ‘With the current market, the sale is impossible,’ he said.

 

Source: Straits Times

Former Christian college born again as arts complex

Former Christian college born again as arts complex

 

National monument site in Mount Sophia will house creative and artistic ventures

 

By Tessa Wong

 

THE winds of change have breathed new life into the old premises of the Trinity Theological College in Mount Sophia, which will reopen this month as a creative arts complex.

 

The site, designated a national monument in 2001, has been vacant since the college moved out that year.

 

At that time, the Government had acquired the locale for the development of the North East Line. It finally put the leasehold site up for tender in August last year.

 

In February, private school owner Jimmy Tan became the highest bidder for the site, which covers close to 80,000 sq ft.

 

Mr Tan, who has yet to come up with a new name for the complex, intends to bring in tenants from artistic and creative fields such as dance, music and design.

 

He said he saw it not only as a good business opportunity, but also as a way to express his personal interest in the arts.

 

‘There are art schools and galleries in the Middle Road area and the School of the Arts and the Singapore Art Museum nearby. So it fits in with this area, which has been designated an arts and creative hub,’ said Mr Tan.

 

It follows in the footsteps of another school site just next door, which was also turned into an arts centre. The old site of Methodist Girls’ School now houses art galleries and offices for creative businesses and is known as Old School.

 

Six tenants are set to move into the Mount Sophia complex this month, when internal renovations are complete. They include a digital animation studio, a major advertising agency, an artists’ lodge, a photography studio and a video production house.

 

The distinctive Art Deco church sanctuary, which features graceful sweeping arches, will be the new office for Union, an architecture and interior design collective.

 

Mr Mark Wee, one of the three directors of Union, plans to hold monthly design talks and workshops so that the public will have the chance to explore what he calls ‘a beautiful historical building’.

 

The non-denominational college was set up at 7 Mount Sophia in 1948 by the heads of the Methodist, English Presbyterian and Anglican churches, who had been interned together in Changi Prison during the Japanese Occupation. The Lutheran Church joined the fold in 1963.

 

Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian, an alumnus of the Trinity Theological College who became its principal in 2001, said he was heartened that the college was being put to good use again.

 

‘It’s a sacred place. The arts is something that touches the inner soul and stability of man, just like what faith tries to do,’ said Rev Ngoei.

 

Source: Straits Times

Small firms bought bulk of en bloc sale sites

Small firms bought bulk of en bloc sale sites

 

Some may be forced to call off deals because of financing woes, says BNP report

 

By Joyce Teo

 

A REPORT by a major bank has flagged potential financing concerns for small property developers that swooped in on the collective sale boom in the second half of last year.

 

BNP Paribas said that given the current turmoil in the financial market, some of these small operators might face financing problems as they move to finalise deals struck in the property market heyday last year.

 

In fact, some may be forced to cancel the deals and walk away, it warned.

 

The report by the French bank said that most of the collective sales done in the second half of last year were by small private developers, contractor- cum-developers and non-core developers.

 

They included Soilbuild, Hiap Hoe, Lian Beng, KSH Holdings, Koh Brothers, Popular Holdings, Aspial Corporation and Eastern Holdings.

 

‘In the near future, we are concerned that some smaller players that have secured big and expensive en bloc sites may walk away from the deals as securing financing is not easy at this time, especially for non-core developers,’ said the recent report.

 

Already, a small private firm, Bravo Building Construction, said to be backed by a one-time big property player, has bailed out of three collective sale deals.

 

In all three deals, it has had to give up its deposit, which ranged from 1 per cent to 10 per cent of the sale price.

 

The biggest of the three deals was the $516 million purchase of Tulip Garden, for which Bravo had to forfeit its $25.8 million deposit.

 

A property consultant, who declined to be named, said the smaller buyers last year were mostly listed firms and thus unlikely to renege on their deals.

 

‘Some small privately owned firms are looking for joint-venture partners for their development sites or to divest the sites,’ said Credo Real Estate’s executive director, Mr Tan Hong Boon. ‘But they will sell only if they can get a reasonable market price.’

 

Mr Nicholas Mak, the director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank, said: ‘The last time developers defaulted on deals was when there was a prolonged downturn.

 

‘But we have yet to enter a price decline situation. The jury is still out on whether the property market will suffer a downturn.’

 

Source: Straits Times

Worst of Wall Street crisis over, says Buffett

Worst of Wall Street crisis over, says Buffett

 

Credit crunch has eased for bankers but Berkshire chief sees more pain for people with individual mortgages

 

Omaha – MR WARREN Buffett, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Berkshire Hathaway, said the global credit crunch has eased for bankers, and the Federal Reserve probably averted more failures by helping to rescue Bear Stearns.

 

‘The worst of the crisis in Wall Street is over,’ he said last Saturday on Bloomberg Television. ‘In terms of people with individual mortgages, there’s a lot of pain left to come.’

 

The billionaire was interviewed before the annual meeting of the company, which is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

 

Mr Buffett, who is listed as the world’s richest man by Forbes magazine, said the Fed acted properly when it arranged a US$2.4 billion (S$3.3 billion) buyout in March of New York-based Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase.

 

He said he turned down the opportunity to buy the troubled investment bank because he lacked enough capital and time to craft a solution. More failures and wider panic may have resulted if the regulators had not halted the run on Bear Stearns, he added.

 

‘The worry was that there would be contagion; it was a very real worry,’ he said. ‘If Bear Stearns had gone, the next day, somebody else would have gone. It could’ve been a very, very, very chaotic situation.’

 

Mr Buffett said he was contacted in March before JPMorgan, the third-biggest United States bank by assets, agreed to buy Bear Stearns.

 

The person calling him, whom he would not identify, was ‘someone responsible’ and was not from the Fed or the Treasury.

 

‘As I understand it, Bear Stearns had US$65 billion due on Monday and I didn’t have US$65 billion,’ Mr Buffett said. ‘I couldn’t get my mind around that situation in the required time.’ New York-based JPMorgan was the right buyer for Bear Stearns, he added.

 

JPMorgan agreed in mid-March to acquire Bear Stearns, once the fifth-biggest US securities firm, after customers grew concerned about the company’s health and pulled out their money, leaving Bear Stearns short on cash.

 

JPMorgan, which received financial support from the Fed, raised the purchase price a week later to US$10 a share from US$2 to mollify Bear Stearns shareholders who said they were not getting enough.

 

In a question-and- answer session at the shareholder meeting, Mr Buffett said that from a risk perspective, some banks got ‘too big to manage’. Berkshire’s own investment in derivative contracts has recovered US$500 million to US$600 million of lost value since end-March.

 

The company will make ‘significant money’ from the derivatives over the long term, he said at the meeting, which was attended by a record 31,000 shareholders.

 

He and Berkshire vice-chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for five hours, often humorously, on investing, the economy, politics and life. Attendance has soared since Berkshire in 1996 created Class B shares worth 1/30th of a Class A share. These made it easier for ordinary investors to invest with Mr Buffett.

 

On the issue of succession, Mr Buffett, 77, said Berkshire still has three internal candidates to eventually succeed him as CEO, and four candidates to become chief investment officer.

 

To replace him, Berkshire plans to split his job into three parts – chief investment officer, CEO and chairman.

 

Mr Buffett has refused to publicly identify the candidates, but he has said previously that after he dies, his son will take over as chairman to ensure Berkshire’s culture is preserved. Mr Howard Buffett already serves on the board.

 

Source: Straits Times

En-bloc system needs relook, as Bayshore shows

En-bloc system needs relook, as Bayshore shows

 

IF THE Government still thinks the current laws under the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act and the Land Titles (Strata) Act (Amendment) are sufficient to regulate the issues of collective property sales, this tale of two condos may provide food for thought, especially as the Government has invited feedback on these laws.

 

On April 27, Bayshore Park and Mandarin Gardens both held annual general meetings. These two estates, with more than 1,000 units each, sit on 1 million sq ft of land next to the sea.

 

Both have got a collective sale initiative off the ground, with sale committees elected. With the support of pro-sale residents, voting powers are then used to control the rest of the estate, even though the votes represent only a minority of residents. Let me illustrate:

 

In Bayshore Park, the pro-sale group outvoted other residents on crucial issues and in selection of council members. Averaging 60 per cent of votes cast at the AGM, this roughly 20 per cent of residents (as only 30 per cent of owners were represented at the AGM) voted down a proposed increase in maintenance charges in line with current inflation, voted for a lower increase in the sinking fund, voted down crucial replacement of copper pipes in the common corridors and voted down any exploration of corridor upgrading. In addition, they voted for a reduction in council seats to nine, making sure four sale committee members were voted into the council, and ensured that four of the five previous council members retained had exhibited pro-sale inclinations. They made sure two previous council members who did not favour sale were not re-elected. I was one of the two.

 

At Mandarin Gardens, in a similar vein, the pro-sale camp mustered enough proxy forms to control 65 per cent of the votes in the AGM. They defeated a motion to reduce water ponding of walkways and lift lobbies to improve safety, and passed a resolution to reduce management council (MC) expenditure limits from $300,000 to $50,000 making it almost impossible for the MC to function. Consequently, the incumbent council refused to stand for re-election. Even more devastating, the pro-sale camp fielded no candidates for council. Hence, no council was elected.

 

The law was not broken at either AGM. However, many of us affected are sure the law was not designed to produce such outcomes.

 

Augustine Cheah

 

Source: Straits Times