Singapore Vows “Zero Tolerance” on Wrongdoing by Government Officials

Singapore Vows “Zero Tolerance” on Wrongdoing by Government Officials

Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong has pledged to maintain a policy of “zero tolerance” towards any misconduct by government officials. This comes after a series of political scandals that have recently rocked the country, damaging the pristine image that Singapore prides itself on as a global financial center.

In a parliamentary address, Lee emphasized the importance of protecting and upholding Singapore’s clean and incorruptible system, as well as maintaining high standards of propriety. The scandals involved Transport Minister S. Iswaran, who was arrested alongside property tycoon Ong Beng Seng in connection with a corruption probe conducted by Singapore’s anti-graft agency. This marked the first time in almost four decades that a cabinet official has been implicated in corruption.

Additionally, former House Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin resigned after failing to end an extra-marital affair with Cheng Li Hui, a female member of parliament from the ruling People’s Action Party. Prior to these incidents, two other cabinet ministers were investigated for their rental of state-owned colonial bungalows, but were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.

Lee highlighted two aspects of how his government deals with such situations. Firstly, there is zero tolerance for any suspicion or allegation of wrongdoing, especially in cases of possible corruption. Secondly, when individuals encounter personal issues, the government examines each case carefully and handles the matter with compassion and sensitivity based on established principles.

The prime minister acknowledged criticism over the time it took for him to address the affair involving Tan and Cheng. He admitted that, in hindsight, he should have acted sooner. Lee had initially become aware of the issue after the General Elections in 2020 but refrained from taking action for nearly three years to protect the families involved.

Regarding Iswaran’s alleged misconduct, Lee did not provide any details due to ongoing investigations. He explained that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau discovered information related to Iswaran while investigating a separate matter. The prime minister denied any prior knowledge or public scandal and stated that the agency notified him about the investigation on May 29. Iswaran was formally arrested on July 11.

Lee’s response to the cases involving Tan and Iswaran faced criticism from some members of parliament, who accused the government of being slow or less than forthright in addressing potentially embarrassing issues. In response, Lee revealed that Iswaran’s salary has been reduced to SGD 8,500 ($6,350) until further notice. This represents a significant decrease compared to the starting salary of a Singapore cabinet minister.

Despite the impact on the ruling People’s Action Party due to these scandals, Lee assured Singaporeans that the party remains committed to upholding standards and maintaining trust in the Singapore system.