A few weeks ago, international news agency, Al Jazeera, was taken off air in Singapore. Al Jazeera was shown on Singtel Mio TV but its contract was not renewed by Singtel.
Although both Singtel and Al Jazeera said that this was by “mutual consent”, speculation on why became focused on a report by Al Jazeera titled "Government Policies Force Some Onto The Streets". In it, Al Jazeera contend that various government policies are forcing some Singaporeans to be homeless as they are unable to get homes.
Housing is a very hot, sensitive topic in Singapore and Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, took the news agency to task in Parliament for not getting its facts straight. However I do not feel he did a good job of it in Parliament.
Take for example the case of the woman in the Al Jazeera report. Mr. Balakrishnan said in Parliament that government made some checks and found that the homeless woman in the Al Jazeera report still owns an HDB flat with her ex-husband.
That’s the point!
It is with her EX-husband. The woman may be the co-owner of the flat but do we expect her to live with her ex-husband? I think it is highly unreasonable to expect a divorced couple to live together after the divorce. She cannot get a rental flat because public rental flats in Singapore cannot be rent out to homeowners. I do not know her domestic situation but if her ex-husband refused to sell the flat, then she cannot sell the flat. (See an old post of mine HDB Headache for an example).
So when Mr. Balakrishnan use the fact that the woman co-own a flat as an example of Al Jazeera not getting its facts straight…that doesn’t really make sense. If she cannot sell, she cannot get money for a new flat. She also cannot get a rental flat due to the fact she co-own the flat which she cannot sell; thus she became homeless. She is almost the perfect example of what Al Jazeera is contending; that various government policies are forcing some Singaporeans to be homeless!
I’m all for the Singapore government defending itself against foreign news agencies (in fact I support it) and I understand this was for domestic consumption in Singapore, but I feel the minister (and the government) need to do better on explaining the government’s position in the media. A poor rebuttal like what happen in Parliament will just make their position worse.