SINGAPORE: On July 12 (Wednesday), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he had instructed Transport Minister S. Iswaran to take a leave of absence while the latter assisted in investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
The case has made the news around the world, and a Bloomberg piece has called it “the Country’s Most Serious Graft Probe Since 1986.” The piece has also been published in TIME Magazine and Yahoo News UK.
Coverage of the incident has noted what a rarity this type of case is in Singapore, which is widely perceived to have one of the lowest levels of corruption in the world.
“We have always upheld a clean and incorrupt system of government. Our track record over the decades is clear to all,” said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in a Facebook post on July 12, adding, “We maintain a tough, zero tolerance stance against corruption. We will continue to uphold stringent standards of honesty and probity that Singaporeans expect of their political leaders.”
He promised to be “upfront and transparent” and “not sweep anything under the carpet, even if they are potentially embarrassing or damaging to the PAP.”
Singapore’s public sector was ranked by Transparency International in 2020 as being the fourth least corrupt around the globe. Furthermore, it was also ranked as the most transparent in Asia.
Last year, the country was ranked fifth least corrupt in Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) out of 180 countries. It remains the only country in Asia that is in the top 10.
Little wonder, then, that Iswaran’s case has sent shock waves.
The last time that such high profile figure featured in a corruption case was in 1986, when then-Minister for National Development, Teh Cheang Wan, was investigated for having accepted bribes of about $1 million from two private companies he had helped purchase land.
However, before Teh could be formally charged in court, he committed suicide on Dec 14, 1986. /TISG