Monday, 8 May 2000

'Ark' owner to blame for animals' displacement

The Straits Times - Forum

I REFER to the report, "Plea to spare Noah's Ark animals" (ST, May 1).

   The "creator" of the so-called "Noah's Ark" ought to know that he did not
have a life-long lease on the land.

   When he started the home for the animals, he should have taken that fact into
consideration and had the appropriate contingency plans at the very onset or
at least a few months before the expiry of the lease.

   There are basically two issues: The right of the owner to lease out the land
to the highest bidder; and who is responsible for the future of the animals.

   The first issue has been dealt with and we all know someone else has bidded
higher than Mr Raymund Wee.

   There is nothing else that needs to be said on this.

   As for the second issue, surely, the responsibility falls on Mr Wee.

   Perhaps it can be said that he had done a noble thing for the "lost animals",
but we must also not forget that he knew his lease was not "forever".

   On this issue, we have to be guided by the laws governing ownership of land
and fixed-term leases.

   Knowing his was only a fixed-term lease, Mr Wee ought to have had an
alternative or contingency plan for the animals when the time came for him to
surrender the land.

   No fault can be attributed to the owner nor is there a personal
responsibility on the part of the new lessee to deal with the welfare of those

   If every time an owner of a piece of land leases it to someone, and that
someone decides to do a "noble or charitable project" on the land without
considering the fact that his or her lease is for a fixed term, any reasonable
person will acknowledge that the problem which surfaces on expiry of the lease
is created by that lessee.

   Only he or she is to blame for the sad state of affairs.

   Having said all that, I do believe the owner of the land and the new lessee
will be more than prepared to sit down with Mr Wee to try and resolve the

   However, Mr Wee must admit that any help or suggestion from the owner and/or
the new lessee will be given purely out of goodwill.

   We must all recognise that the new lessee has the right to do his own lawful
business on the land for the period of lease given to him.

   This was the same right extended to Mr Wee and, surely, he understands that
better than anyone else.

   I take this opportunity to wish the parties a quick resolution on the plight
of the animals.

   Perhaps Mr Wee may wish to transfer the animals to his "shelters" in Malaysia
and Thailand.


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