On the occasion of Singapore National Day today, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has delivered an address to the nation, assuring the country that his government would maintain its high standards of honesty, integrity, and propriety, making a strong promise in a season of political scandals in the nation state.
“Some have asked what these incidents say about the Government [of Singapore]. My answer is this: such issues come up from time to time,” said Prime Minister Lee said in his National Day message, which was published yesterday. “When they do, we deal with them properly and transparently. That is what we have always done, and that’s what we have done this time, too.”
Singapore, known for its corruption-free and stable politics, has been rocked by a recent spate of scandals involving ministers and lawmakers. These cases include allegations of preferential treatment in the rental of state-owned Ridout Road properties by two Indian-origin ministers; a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) probe into Transport Minister S Iswaran; as well as the resignations of former Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and former MP Cheng Li Hui over their affair.
Home and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan rented colonial-built, heritage bungalows in the suburbs of the city-state after the properties had not been rented for a long while.
The opposition in Parliament had questioned the rental process. The Ridout Road case was thoroughly investigated and the ministers have been exonerated. However, the CPIB probe is ongoing.
“In all three cases, for the good of the country, we sought to do the right thing, protect the integrity of our system of government, and carry through everything that needed to be done,” said Lee, 71.
Minister Iswaran is under investigation for reported concern about Formula-1 events, which Singapore continues to host; preparation for one F1 event is underway, to be held next month.
Tan and Cheng have both resigned over the affair from political and public offices.
“Let there be no doubt: my government is determined to keep our system free of corruption and wrongdoing,” Lee stressed. He noted that foreign leaders admire Singapore’s ability to think long-term, set ambitious goals and steadily achieve its aspirations.
“I tell them, this is only possible because the people and the government work closely together. This is what gives Singapore an edge over others. This is what makes us exceptional. We must never let this bond weaken,” said the prime minister.