While social media is abuzz with Ho Ching’s defense of her husband’s salary as Prime Minister of Singapore, PM Lee Hsien Loong is also said to become fierce when confronted about his wife’s salary as head of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek.
In May, former Indonesia bureau chief for Channel NewsAsia Ms Haseenah Koyakutty alleged that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not like being questioned about his wife, Ho Ching’s salary as Temasek’s chief executive officer.
Ms Haseenah recounted an exchange she had with Mr Lee even before he became Prime Minister in Singapore. The veteran journalist, who now works freelance, said that she was “direct about the conflict of interest without beating about the bush.”
Ms Haseenah said that a “kind civil servant present (at Mr Lee’s media huddle in 2004) told (her afterwards) that PM went ballistic after that media question time.”
She added: “I appreciated the civil servant’s initiative to let me know as a friend but had PM addressed my question properly back then without temper tantrum, maybe he wouldn’t be in hot soup today?”
Ms Haseenah said that if it is true that Mr Lee went ballistic after being questioned about his wife’s salary, it is a “princeling” sort of behavior – or behaviour in which an individual acts like a “prince”. She also asked when Mr Lee was going to resign as Prime Minister.
The secrecy surrounding Mdm Ho’s pay package provides much fodder for speculation – perhaps even more so than the high pay her husband earns as head of government.
Several opposition politicians and prominent figures, including PM Lee’s own brother Lee Hsien Yang, have asked why there is so much secrecy around how much Mdm Ho is paid. The Workers’ Party even asked for details on the annual remuneration of key management staff at Temasek and GIC but the Government remained tight-lipped.
This week, Mdm Ho proved that she gets as fierce as her husband when confronted about his high pay.
Yesterday, Mdm Ho shared an article by Seedly.com on her personal Facebook page. The article pointed out that PM Lee is the world’s highest paid political leader, earning an annual sum of $2.2 million a year, and attempted to deconstruct why he is paid so highly.
Sharing the article on her Facebook wall, Mdm Ho commented that although she has “no view one way or other about who deserves what,” she does have a view on comparison charts that compare her husband’s high salary to the pay earned by other world leaders.
Mdm Ho defended that Singapore has a “big difference” from other countries since it employs a “clean wage system” where civil servants and political office-holders do not receive perks of any other kind except their salaries.
Asserting that those in public service or social service must have the right heart, passion, commitment, wisdom, knowledge foresight and capabilities, Mdm Ho declared: “Having these qualities of excellence, we must not take advantage of them to underpay, or require them to wear hair suits for a show of sainthood.”