PAP stance on corruption 'has not changed under my charge, and it won’t under my successor': PM Lee
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the People's Action Party (PAP) government has always dealt with corruption and scandals thoroughly, transparently, and by applying the full force of the law
- He pledged that this will continue under his successor
- He was speaking in parliament on Aug 2 about the recent controversies faced by the PAP
- He added that it is incumbent on this generation of leaders to protect and uphold this system, to keep it incorruptible and clean, and maintain high standards of propriety
SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party (PAP) government has always dealt with corruption and allegations of improper conduct thoroughly, transparently and by applying the full force of the law, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Aug 2), pledging that this will continue when Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong succeeds him.
Mr Lee was speaking in parliament about the recent controversies faced by the PAP, namely the arrest of Transport Minister S Iswaran by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), the resignations of Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Member of Parliament (MP) Cheng Li Hui over an extramarital affair, and allegations over the rental of properties at Ridout Road by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
"The way we have handled these incidents shows how seriously the PAP takes our responsibility of governing Singapore, and being accountable to parliament and to Singaporeans," Mr Lee said.
When allegations over the Ridout rentals arose, the two ministers involved were thoroughly investigated, including by CPIB, and eventually fully exonerated, he said.
"The investigation reports were tabled in parliament, and we had a long session answering MPs’ questions in this House," he added.
Then, when CPIB discovered that it had reason to arrest and interview Mr Iswaran, it opened a formal investigation in July.
"Nobody tipped them off ... There had been no public scandal," said Mr Lee. "CPIB came across something that needed investigating, and proceeded to do their job."
Later in July, when Mr Tan and Ms Cheng "fell short of the standards of propriety and personal conduct expected of them, they were asked to resign", he added.
"We took some time to sort it out, probably longer than we should have, but we did what we needed to do, and put the situation right," he said.
The People's Action Party (PAP) government has always dealt with corruption and allegations of improper conduct thoroughly, transparently and by applying the full force of the law, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Aug 2), pledging that this will continue when Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong succeeds him. Heidi Ng reports.
Mr Lee said that the two CPIB investigations and the response to the affair between Mr Tan and Ms Cheng show two aspects of how this PAP government works.
"One, when there is a suspicion or allegation of wrongdoing in the discharge of official duties, especially possible corruption, there is zero tolerance," he said.
"Two, when people slip in their personal lives, the PAP will look at the facts of each case carefully, and deal with the matter as humanely and sensitively as possible, according to the principles the party has established."
He said that systems are composed of human beings, and that in any system, however comprehensive the safeguards, sometimes "something will still go wrong".
"The PAP government does our utmost to minimise that possibility," said Mr Lee. "We work hard to identify the right people to bring into politics, and appoint to responsible positions ... We vet them carefully, test and stretch them, before entrusting them with heavier responsibilities."
He said that these individuals often measure up, but that sometimes they fall short and occasionally they transgress norms of conduct, or commit wrongdoing.
Mr Lee noted that there have been corruption cases involving political office holders in the past, such as with then-Minister for National Development Tan Kia Gan in 1966, then-Minister of State for the Environment Wee Toon Boon in 1975, then-Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan in 1986 and earlier in 1979, Phey Yew Kok, then President of NTUC and an MP.
Mr Lee said that these cases were all handled by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew "thoroughly, transparently, and applying the full force of the law".
"That is still how the PAP government deals with such cases," he said. "It has not changed under my charge; and it won’t under my successor either."
Mr Lee also assured Singaporeans that the PAP will protect the integrity of Singapore's system of government.
"For the good of our country, we will carry through what needs to be done in accordance with the law, even if it may be politically embarrassing and painful to the party," he said.
"I will not flinch or hesitate to do my duty, to keep our system robust and clean ... This is how the PAP government can continue to deserve the trust that Singaporeans have placed in us."
He added that trust is crucial for a democracy to work well, and that the founding generation built up Singapore and entrusted it to the current generation in good shape.
So, it is incumbent on this generation of leaders to protect and uphold this system, to keep it incorruptible and clean, and maintain high standards of propriety, he said.
"With the investigation into Minister Iswaran, and the resignations of the Speaker and an MP, the PAP has taken a hit but we will show Singaporeans that we will uphold standards and do the right thing, so that trust is maintained, and the Singapore system continues to work well," he said.